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 discussed the molecular details of starch: what it is, where it comes from, and how it changes with water and heat. Today, we’ll apply those concepts to baked goods with a focus on the starch in wheat flour. Although flour is often noted for its gluten, it actually contains 68–75% starch. So when we consider the chemistry of any baked good that contains flour, be it cake, bread, or cookies, starch always plays a role. And in foods cooked in steam or boiling water, starch helps create textures as diverse as soft skins on steamed buns, chewy crusts on bagels, and crisp shells of choux pastry.
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.
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.
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.