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.

Proofing Time in Bread

The past couple posts have focused on the importance of getting the right amount of air into cupcakes, but aeration is important for other baked goods, too. In bread, the amount of air in the dough when it enters the oven also affects rise and texture. This is most directly controlled by the proofing step that happens after shaping and before baking. For this experiment, we under- and over-proofed bread to see how it baked up.

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.

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.

Chemical Leaveners in Muffins

In the last post, we explored the roles of baking powder in muffins by taking it out of a recipe and then by adding in extra. Today, we’re going to continue experimenting with leaveners in muffins, but now we’re going to add baking soda into the mix. We discussed the differences between baking soda and baking powder in a previous post, but now we’ll see how these differences play out in a baked good.

Baking Powder in Muffins

Baking powder is used in such small amounts it’s often overlooked in ingredient lists. But this unassuming powder is crucial for volume and tenderness in baked goods such as muffins, biscuits, cookies, and cakes. In this experiment, we varied the amount of baking powder in muffins to see how the muffins would change in appearance, taste, and texture.

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.