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.

Leavening in the Kitchen: Baking Soda and Baking Powder

Baking soda and baking powder are used in all sorts of baked goods including cookies, cakes, and muffins. They can be used independently or in conjunction. And although they both contain the word “baking” and produce carbon dioxide to help leaven our bakes, there are differences that are crucial to understanding how they work in a recipe.

Leavening: An Introduction to Gases

What’s the difference between a light, fluffy cake and a short, dense one? A flaky pie crust and a tough cracker? The answer lies in leavening. Leavening agents lift and expand batters and doughs to make fluffy cakes, flaky pastry, and light bread. There are several leaveners: air, baking soda, yeast, and steam are a few of the most common in the home kitchen. In this post, we’ll explore how all leaveners work. Then, we’ll dive deeper into specific leaveners in the next few posts.

Red Bean Dessert Soup (紅豆湯)

Red bean soup (紅豆湯,) is a popular dessert throughout China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. It’s made from red beans (紅豆, also called adzuki beans) which are incorporated into many East Asian desserts. Red bean soup itself is versatile. It can be eaten hot or cold, plain or with toppings, liquid or frozen. When my mom first dictated her version to me, she cautioned, “糖最後加,不然紅豆煮不爛!Don’t add the sugar until the end, else the beans will never soften!” Today, I’m sharing my mom’s recipe, adapted for a typical Western kitchen and pantry, then discussing the science behind her words.

Sugar in the Kitchen: Candies

In the past few posts, we focused on sugar’s roles in baked goods and its interactions with other ingredients. But sugar is also crucial to candies like caramel, fudge, and fondant, for which careful control of sugar crystallization is paramount for texture. In this post, we’ll explore the chemistry of crystal formation in the candy making process.

Sugar in the Kitchen: Special Applications

Over the last few posts, we discussed a lot of sugar’s roles in baked goods. It’s important for flavor, texture, structure, and color in cookies, cakes, and muffins. But sugar’s roles in baking extend further. Sugar is important in meringues as a stabilizer, in yeast breads as a source of energy for the microorganisms, and in fruit desserts to preserve the structure and texture of the fruit. In this post, we’ll explore sugar’s myriad roles in these sweets.

Maple Walnut Snapdoodles

Over the last few posts, we discussed the effects of sugar on cookie spread and texture. For this recipe, I played around with maple syrup, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. I also experimented with oven temperature. The result is these Maple Walnut Snapdoodles, one cookie dough that can be crunchy or chewy depending on the oven temperature. In addition to the recipe, I’ll share some of the test batches. We’ll talk about the changes I made, the results of each batch, and the science behind it all.

Sugar in the Kitchen: Partners with Water

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.

Proteins 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.

Gluten in the Kitchen: Bonus Edition

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”