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.

Aging Cookie Dough

In the last couple posts, we’ve seen that the temperature of cookie dough affects its spread and texture, which explains why many recipes chill the dough for a couple hours. But what about chill times that range from one to three days? That’s more than enough time for the dough to cool. These long periods of refrigeration, which are also called “aging” or “ripening,” are meant to improve the flavor and texture of our cookies. In this experiment, we’ll explore how significant these changes really are.

Pumpkin Spice Custard Buns

These buns are a twist on the classic Chinese egg custard buns (奶黃包, nǎihuángbāo). They still have the creamy custard and the fluffy steamed bun, but I added pumpkin and fall spices to both the filling and the dough to create a pumpkin spice version. Notes on ingredient substitutions and the science behind the custard filling, dough, and steaming process follow the recipe!

Fats: An Introduction

Fats are one of the most important ingredients in our bakes. They make light and airy cakes, moist muffins, flaky puff pastry, and fluffy bread. In this series of posts, we’ll dive deep into the roles of fat, including texture, flavor, cookie spread, and aeration. But before we explore fats’ interactions with other ingredients, we should first understand fats themselves.

Starch in the Kitchen: Stabilizers and Thickeners

In the last post, we focused exclusively on flour and the role of its starch in baked goods. Today, we’ll explore how starch’s chemical properties make it useful in desserts such as buttercream, meringue, and custard. We’ll also consider how other ingredients affect starch in these recipes. Starch is a drier. As we discussed inContinue reading “Starch in the Kitchen: Stabilizers and Thickeners”

Leavening in the Kitchen: Yeast

In the last few posts, we’ve been talking about leavening gases, which give our baked goods volume and tenderness. Last time, we focused on baking soda and baking powder, which quickly produce carbon dioxide through chemical reactions. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at yeast. We’ll describe what yeast are, how they leaven, and what to consider when working with them.

Sugar in the Kitchen: Special Applications

Over the last few posts, we discussed a lot of sugar’s roles in baked goods. It’s important for flavor, texture, structure, and color in cookies, cakes, and muffins. But sugar’s roles in baking extend further. Sugar is important in meringues as a stabilizer, in yeast breads as a source of energy for the microorganisms, and in fruit desserts to preserve the structure and texture of the fruit. In this post, we’ll explore sugar’s myriad roles in these sweets.

Proteins in the Kitchen

In the last post, we described proteins as strings of amino acid beads that we reshape when we bake. In this post, we’ll discuss how we manipulate some of the most important factors in protein shape such as water availability, acidity, and temperature, and we’ll explore the chemical effects of these changes.

Proteins: An Introduction

Proteins are one of the most important molecules in baking. They form the scaffolds of our treats and break down other molecules in our batters and doughs. Proteins are the reason our baked goods solidify in the oven, the reason we boil custards, and the reason we add acid to meringues. In the next few posts, we’ll explore what proteins are, what they do, and how we bake with them.