In the introduction to sugar, we discussed the chemistry that makes sugar form crystals and attract water. That attraction gives sugar its roles in the texture and structure of baked goods. In this post, we’ll explore how sugar’s interactions with water make it such a versatile ingredient.
Sugar is a ubiquitous ingredient in baking, and we often think of it as a sweetener. But while sugar undoubtedly provides flavor, it also plays important roles in the texture and structure of baked goods and of candies such as caramel and fudge. In this post, we’ll introduce the chemistry of all sugars, which will help us understand their roles 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 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.
Gluten in the Kitchen highlighted some of the most common ways we control gluten development in baking. In this bonus post, I’ll cover a couple more that didn’t make it in but are important nonetheless! Accurately measuring flour This point is belabored everywhere, but it bears repeating: accurate measurement of all ingredients is crucial toContinue reading “Gluten in the Kitchen: Bonus Edition”
Shortbread is a delicious cookie. Buttery and rich, it’s a treat whose decadence belies its simplicity. A basic shortbread contains only butter, sugar, and flour, but these ingredients create a crumbly dough that can be difficult to work with. To give our dough more structure, we can add a touch of water to the flour to develop gluten before it’s combined with the butter. In this post, we’ll explore how the extra water affects the cookie, from mixing bowl to oven into our mouths.
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.
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”
Gluten is one of the most important molecules in baking. Anything that contains wheat flour, be it a cake, cookie, or bread, relies on gluten for structure. Gluten is also responsible for the difference in texture between a light, fluffy cake and a dense, chewy pizza crust. Thus, understanding what gluten is and how toContinue reading “Gluten: An Introduction”