Referred to by many as the scientific element of traditional cuisine, Baking & Pastry requires one to understand, and ultimately control, the behavior of certain key ingredients.
Here is a primer on the most important elements:
WHAT IS GLUTEN?
Gluten is the protein in flour. When combined with water, it produces what I like to visualize as a stretchable balloon that traps gas produced by leavening agents. It is this process of trapping gas that provides structure to certain baked products like bread. Therefore, when baking bread, we seek to develop the gluten (stretch the balloon so that it can hold more gas). We do this by kneading the dough. However, when baking items like pies that don’t require that structure, we try to minimize gluten development and therefore minimize kneading.
FACTORS IN DEVELOPING GLUTEN
- Selection of flour – some are higher in gluten than others (see below)
- Shortening – fat shortens gluten strands
- Liquid – gluten must absorb water to develop
- Mixing method – mixing/kneading develops gluten
WHAT ARE LEAVENERS?
Leaveners are substances that produce gas and ultimately make a dough/batter rise. The following are examples of leavening agents:
- ammonium bicarbonate
- baking powder
- baking soda
- beaten eggs
WHAT ARE THE FUNCTIONS OF FAT?
- Tenderizes– shortens gluten
- Delays staling
- Adds flavor
- Assists in leavening
WHAT ARE THE FUNCTIONS OF SUGAR?
- Adds flavor
- Weakens gluten structure
- Delays staling
- Acts as creaming agent with fat
- Simple syrup is equal weights of sugar and water boiled
- Dessert syrup is flavored simple syrup
- When caramelizing sugar, acid or invert sugar such as corn syrup is added to avoid crystallization
STAGES OF SUGAR COOKING
WHAT ARE THE FUNCTIONS OF EGG?
- Helps structure because proteins coagulate
- Its fats emulsify and the smoothness adds to volume & texture
- Leavening occurs because beaten eggs incorporate air that expand with heat
- Shortening action from the fat in the egg
- Nutritional value
EGG COAGULATION TEMPERATURES:
Whole eggs, beaten – 156*
Whites – 140* – 149*
Yolks – 144* – 158*
Custard (whole eggs + liquid) – 175* – 185*
WHAT ARE THE FUNCTIONS OF SALT?
- Strengthens gluten
- Inhibits yeast growth
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN FLOURS?
Different flours contain different amounts of protein. A high-protein flour will make a dough with strong gluten (good for bread). Low-protein flours will make more tender dough (good for pie).
Here is a breakdown:
|FLOUR TYPES||GLUTEN LEVEL|
Now that you understand the key ingredients, it’s important to familiarize yourself with how they interact in the Stages of Baking:
STAGES OF BAKING
1) Melting of fats
- Most melt between 90* and 130*
2) Formation and expansion of gases
- Gases already present in dough expand and leaven
- Some are formed with heat – yeast and baking powder form gases rapidly with heat
- As product rises, gases stretch the product and ultimately tenderize
3) Killing of yeast and other microorganisms
- Yeast dies at 140*and gases stop developing
4) Coagulation of proteins
- Provides structure
- Critical to use right temperature to allow expansion of gases before coagulation