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.

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.

Butter Temperature in Cupcakes

In the last post, we explored the importance of creaming time for volume and texture in cupcakes. This step forms the foundation for the cupcake’s rise when it bakes. Another important factor for creaming is the temperature of the butter. Just like creaming time, butter temperature affects the amount of air in the batter. Today, we’ll explore how butter temperature affects cupcake rise and texture.

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.

Adjusting Oven Temperature for Cookie Dough Temperature

In the last couple posts, we’ve seen how both oven temperature and dough temperature affect a cookie’s spread and texture. Cookie recipes usually give clear instructions for both. But when we don’t have time to refrigerate the dough, or if we forget to thaw it, can we adjust the oven temperature to compensate?

Chilling Cookie Dough

Many cookie recipes ask us to chill the dough before baking. Sometimes this makes the dough easier to handle and shape. But in other cases, chilling just seems like more time to wait before we can get to our cookies. How much of a difference does it actually make? In this post, we’re exploring how the temperature of cookie dough affects its bake.

Oven Temperature for Cookies

In my Maple Walnut Snapdoodle recipe, I suggest two oven temperatures for two different cookie textures. A low 325°F produces a crisp, gingersnap-like cookie, while a moderate 350°F makes a thicker, chewier snickerdoodle-style cookie. In this experiment, we’re baking chocolate chip cookies at three different temperatures to explore the effects of oven temperature on cookie shape and texture.

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.

Liquid Fat in Muffins

Many muffin and quick bread recipes use oil for a moist, tender crumb. But butter has a superior flavor, and it can melt into an easy substitute for oil. Although both butter and oil are fats, they differ at the molecular level, so a direct substitution won’t create the same exact bake. To learn more about the effects of substituting oil with melted butter, we compared the texture and taste of muffins made with both types of fat.