The Science of Baking
- Science of Baking
Have you ever wondered why some desserts are soft and chewy, some are thin and crunchy, and others are fat and fluffy? Understanding how ingredients work and interact with one another will help you predict the outcome of texture. Most baked goods have some sort of combination of flour, liquid, leavening agents, fats, sugars, and flavors. Here is a list of several ingredients and the functions they perform:
1) Flour provides the structure for the product. The gluten, or protein, in flour, combines to form a web that traps air bubbles and sets.
2) Fat coats gluten molecules so they can't combine as easily, contributing to the finished product's tenderness. In many cakes, fat also contributes to the fluffiness of the final product.
3) Sugar adds sweetness, as well as contributing to the product's browning. Sugar tenderizes a cake by preventing the gluten from forming. Sugar also holds moisture in the finished product.
4) Eggs are a leavening agent and the yolks add fat for a tender and light texture. The yolks also act as an emulsifer for smooth and even texture in the finsihed product.
5) Liquid helps carry flavorings throughout the product, forms gluten bonds, and reacts with the starch in the protein for a strong but light structure. Liquids also act as steam during baking, acting as a leavening agent and contributing to the tenderness of the product.
6) Salt strengthens gluten and adds flavor. In yeast breads, salt helps moderate the effect of the yeast so the bread doesn't rise too quickly.
7) Leavning agents like baking soda and baking powder form CO2, that is held by fat pockets, gluten and starch, which makes the baked product rise. Baking soda and powder are not interchangeable; be sure that you have the product the recipe calls for.
After all the chemical and physical reactions (and all of your hard work) your dessert is now ready to enjoy!