I love baked goods. Even when they have substitutions to make them keto I have difficulty finding a baked good I don’t like. I just wish I could make them myself.
I am pretty good at cooking because it’s more difficult to mess up. If you put too much of an ingredient in while cooking you can easily adjust during or even after it is finished.
Baking involves chemistry which, although I am not bad, I am not the best at. I don’t like having to do the precise measurements involved. I’d rather just toss some stuff in and have a slightly different result every time.
So with this I wanted to look into the common ingredients used in baking to see what they actually do. To see why it matters how much you have of each ingredient instead of just throwing things in.
Eggs provide steam for leavening and moisture for starch. They also contribute to the structure of what you are baking. Egg whites are a binding agent and act as strengtheners to help it stay together. Egg yolks add moisturizing fat and help to emulsify the batter, giving the baked good a smooth and creamy texture.
Baking soda is just Sodium Bicarbonate (NaHCO3). When you add something acidic and a liquid to mixture so it will produce CO2 to help whatever you are making rise.
Baking powder is Sodium Bicarbonate (NaHCO3) with an acid and cornstarch mixed in with it. Then only a liquid needs to be added to produce CO2. The cornstarch is there to keep the reaction from happening before you use it. This is typically used when the recipe doesn’t have an acidic ingredient. It can also be used when you only need a small amount of an acidic ingredient.
Flour is another ingredient that helps to provide structure. Wheat flour has proteins that interact with each other to create chains of gluten. Non-wheat flours can be substituted in different proportions. I couldn’t find any non-wheat flours that create gluten so they should be safe for anyone with Celiac Disease.
Sugar helps yeast begin producing gases. It also helps to slow fermentation. It also retains moisture and causes spread in cookies. When I was trying to find out why different cooking temperatures are used the main factor seemed to be the sugar content. It seemed that when there is a higher sugar content, a lower temperature should be used. I couldn’t find a reason for this though.
Shortening is 100% fat. It helps create the flakiness in pastries. It also helps emulsify so oil and water stay mixed together and you have a consistent texture in dough and batter.
A big use of butter is for flavor but it also has a couple other uses. It can inhibit the formation of gluten strands, making softer baked goods. The water content in butter helps to create steam to help with rising. If you use cold butter if will help with flakiness because it stays separate from the rest of the dough.
Salt is another ingredient that slows fermentation. If salt is reduced or left out, dough may rise too quickly.
Dry Measuring vs Liquid Measuring
This is a big thing at my house. My wife will say she needs a certain amount of water or milk so I’ll go to grab the liquid measuring cup for her. But if she finds a dry measuring cup before I get her the liquid one she uses the dry one.
It really bugs me that she doesn’t care about the difference between the two. Dry measuring cups are meant to be scraped off at the top to make it level and have an accurate measurement. Liquid measuring cups have extra space at the top so you can move it without spilling anything. It also has a pour spout.
Disclaimer: Although I have done a significant amount of research before preparing this post, I am not an expert on this subject. My intent is to help people who may be interested find some more information. If you decide you would like to try this yourself, please do some additional research and use common sense.