Egg Coagulation in the Kitchen: Custards

One of the most important functions of eggs is to provide structure and determine texture. We saw this with breads, cakes, cookies, and muffins, with brownies, and also with meringue. But there’s one more category of baked good that depends on eggs: custards and creams. Eggs set and thicken crème brûlée, quiche, cheesecake, pastry cream, and crème anglaise. In this post, we’ll first review how an egg cooks, then explore how different ingredients and techniques affect this process to create smooth custards and creams.

Food Science Reading

Since I’m sometimes asked, I figured it would be easiest to compile a list of food science books that I can update as I continue to read and learn. These books vary in their scope of baking or cooking, their focus on recipes versus science, and how engaging they are to read, so I’ve included little blurbs about each to help you evaluate which might fit your interests best.

Egg Foams in the Kitchen: Meringue

In the last post, we covered eggs’ many roles in cakes, cookies, muffins, and breads. But eggs are even more versatile when we consider what they can do with air. Think about it: egg whites on their own are dense and chewy. But with air (and sugar), they become light, crisp, melt-in-your-mouth meringue cookies. Add a few more ingredients, and we can make macarons, pavlovas, cake frostings, soufflés, and sponge cakes. In this post, we’ll explore how meringue forms and how we adjust its texture for different bakes.

Eggs in the Kitchen: Water, Protein, and Fats

In the last post, we explored how eggs are made to support growing chicks. Now, we’ll see how those same eggs can contribute leavening, structure, and flavor in the kitchen. This post will focus on the functions of eggs in bakes such as cakes, muffins, breads, brownies, and cookies, but we will turn to meringues and custards in future posts.

Fats in the Kitchen: Flavor

Over the last few posts, we’ve discussed some different textures fats can create, such as tenderness and flakiness. But we haven’t yet explored one of the most important functions of fat. As my grandmother told me, “有油才會香!” You need fat for flavor! Fats like butter and olive oil have a unique taste, but more importantly, all fats carry flavor in our food. They’re also responsible for textures such as creaminess and moistness. And of course, we can’t forget the distinctive taste of fried foods. Today, we’re going to break down the many flavors of fat.

Fats in the Kitchen: Spread and Consistency

Over the last few posts, we explored how fats create tenderness and flakiness in our bakes. These functions mainly result from fats’ tendency to repel water, but other applications of fats come from their greasiness. By lubricating the ingredients in our mixing bowls, fats can affect bread rise, cookie spread, and fudge texture. They’re also essential for making sure our bakes come out of the pan. In this post, we’ll focus on the roles of fats that stem from their greasiness.

Fats in the Kitchen: Flakiness

We’ve seen that fats add tenderness to many of our baked goods, both by preventing tough structural molecules from forming and by contributing to leavening. But in bakes like pie crust, biscuits, croissants, scallion pancakes, and baklava, fat has another function: flakiness. In this post, we’re exploring how fats add flake to gain a better understanding of how to work with them.

Fats in the Kitchen: Tender Textures

In the last couple posts, we explored the chemical structure of fats, learned why fats repel water, and discussed how they melt. Moving forward, we’ll focus on how these properties affect our baked goods. As we’ll see, fats are crucial for the texture, flavor, and sensory properties of our food. Let’s start with a closer look at the molecular interactions that create tender textures in our bakes.

Fats and Water Don’t Mix: An Introduction to Polarity

In the last post, we reviewed the basic chemical structure of fats and oils. They’re chains of carbon atoms called fatty acids bundled into triglycerides. Our ingredients contain unique ratios of fatty acids with varying lengths and saturations, and as a result, they have different melting points, stabilities, and effects on our health. However, inContinue reading “Fats and Water Don’t Mix: An Introduction to Polarity”