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.
Many cake recipes instruct, “Alternate adding flour and milk, starting and ending with the flour.” Why start and end with flour? What happens if we change the order? At the end of the day, you’ll get cupcakes, but adding the flour first gives you lighter, fluffier cakes.
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.
In the introduction to leavening, we discussed how gases in our batters and doughs expand to add volume and tenderness to our baked goods. Over the next few posts, we’ll explore how those gases get there in the first place. Today, we’re talking about air, which is the foundation of all leavening. It’s easy to see air’s role in meringues and sponge cakes, where it’s beaten in for volume and fluffiness. But air is crucial to the success of other leaveners like baking soda, steam, and yeast. In this post, we’ll explore what air is, how we use it, and how it behaves 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.
Muffin recipes often instruct, “Mix until just combined.” Some even caution, “Do not overmix. Batter will be lumpy.” Bakers characterize overmixed muffins as dense, chewy, tough, or stringy due to excessive gluten development, but we wanted to see if we could taste the difference ourselves.
In the introduction to gluten, we described gluten as a protein that contributes to the structure and texture of baked goods. The ideal amount of gluten depends on what we’re making, and there are several ways we can influence the extent of gluten development. We can first choose a flour based on its protein content,Continue reading “Gluten in the Kitchen”