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.
One of the defining features of a bagel is its chewy, shiny skin, which forms when the bagel is briefly boiled before it’s baked. In this post, we’re taking a closer look at the poaching step, its effect on the bagel’s crust, and how it gives a bagel its characteristic appearance and texture.
Castella cake is a light, fluffy cake popular in East Asia, and there are two main methods to make it. Today, we’re taking a closer look at the Taiwanese version (古早味蛋糕, gǔzǎowèi dàngāo). A typical recipe starts with cake flour and cornstarch in hot oil, then adds milk, egg yolks, and an egg white meringue. In this post, we’ll focus on the ingredient that’s less common in cakes: the hot oil. We’ll bake two cakes, one with hot oil and one with oil at room temperature, and we’ll discuss the effects of the hot oil on the flour and cornstarch, the batter, and the final baked cake.
Tangzhong (from the Chinese 湯種, tāngzhǒng) is a breadmaking method derived from the Japanese breadmaking method yukone or yudane. It’s recently gained popularity largely thanks to the Chinese cookbook 65°C Tangzhong Bread by Yvonne Chen. For the tangzhong method, a small portion of the flour and water are cooked together to 65°C (149°F), then added to the rest of the bread ingredients. Tangzhong is known to keep breads softer and moister for longer due to the gelatinized starch in the cooked flour. To taste the effects of tangzhong for ourselves, we made two sets of bread rolls with the same ingredients. Half the rolls were made with tangzhong, and half the rolls were made without.
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 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.
Recipes often caution us to measure flour correctly. “If you must use a measuring cup, spoon and level! Never scoop!” But how much of a difference do two more utensils make? To find out, I made muffins using flour that was measured with a scale, spooned and leveled into a measuring cup, and scooped from the bag.
In an effort to be health-conscious, it’s tempting to just reduce the sugar in a recipe when we bake. Often, the result is still plenty sweet. But sugar is not just a sweetener, and merely using less sugar will lead to drastic changes in a baked good’s texture and structure. In this post, we’ll explore some of these changes in muffins.
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.