The Basic Principles of Baking
1.03: Intro to Baking
Flour, sugar, eggs, milk, butter, and flavorings. These are the simple ingredients you need to produce a seemingly endless variety of products from bread to pastries. To consistently produce quality goods you must pay careful heed to the character and quantity of each ingredient, the method the ingredients are combined, and the various cooking methods used. Unlike a steak where it can be cut, grilled, roasted, sauteed, or braised and still be the same steak, baking depends on your ability to be accurate, careful, and precise. No amount of baking lessons or cooking lessons can make you understand that principle because it’s a fundamental truth. Learning how to bake is a mindset, just like anything else.
Baking and learning how to bake can often be referred to as the chemistry of cooking. All ingredients must be accurately measured and measurement is critical in the kitchen. Recipes for baking are not called recipes – they are referred to as formulas. Professional formulas in baking will use percentages in addition to amounts. This helps preserve the ratios and help when scaling up the formulas.
1.04: Ingredients and Their Functions
If you were to substitute carrots for turnips in a stew, would you see a radical change in flavor? Not really. The effect would be very little or none at all. When it comes to baked goods, changing an ingredient produces a large effect on the finished product and can radically change it. There are many different flours, fats, liquids, and sweeteners that all perform in a different manner. Bread flour and cake flour are not the same, nor are shortening and butter. Substitute one ingredient for another, and the results will be completely different.
Baking powder makes products rise by causing air or gas to be trapped in the mixture.
Fats and oils make products rich and tender. They also add flavor and help to brown the crust.
Sweeteners, like sugar, give flavor and help the crust to brown.
Eggs make baked products tender, add flavor and richness, and can help bind mixtures together.
Beaten egg whites may be used as a leavening agent.
Flavorings - chocolate, spices, herbs, and extracts such as vanilla and almond.
If you have a good understanding of ingredients, how they function and what they do for your baking experiences, you will be much more successful and consistent.
1.05: Different Types of Flour
There are many different types of flours out there. For the purpose of keeping this short and to the point, we will focus on the most popular flours available. As you learn how to bake, you will need to learn more but right now the basics are fine.
Wheat flour is the most popular flour that is used in baking. It comes in a variety of different types. Wheat flour is the only flour that is capable of producing gluten. Gluten is the tough, rubbery substance created when wheat flour is mixed with water. Gluten forms strands and is both plastic (changing shape under pressure), and elastic (returning to original shape when pressure is removed). Gluten is what is responsible for the texture, appearance, and volume of your finished baking goods. It helps provide structure and helps contain gasses within the dough given off by leavening agents. If there was no gluten, you would not have raised bread.
The higher the protein count inside a flour determines how much gluten will form when mixed into the dough. Flour is categorized by “hard” flour and “soft” flour depending on the flours hardness. The higher the protein content, the harder the flour kernel used to produce the flour. These different flours are combined to produce what you see in the stores today, such as pastry flour, all-purpose flour, and bread flour.
All-purpose flour is approximately 2/3 hard and 1/3 soft flour and is widely used in at home applications. It can be substituted in some recipes, but professional bakeries and shops rarely use all-purpose. Instead, they opt to use flours more suited to their needs.
1.06: Leavening Agents
A leavening agent is a process or reaction that creates air, giving rise to a baked good. When you inspect bread, you’ll notice the number of air pockets contained within it. The air pockets are created by leavening agents and are essential to providing fluffy, light products. Leavening agents are fundamental in baking. The improper selection of leavening agents can completely ruin the taste and texture of the product.
Two types of chemical leavening agents:
Baking soda forms carbon dioxide gas when it’s combined with an acid.
Baking powder is the combination of baking soda and dry acid; and it forms carbon dioxide when mixed with any liquid.
1.07: Mixing Methods
There are certain mixing methods that are used to produce different batters and doughs. Knowing these methods are important and many recipes will assume you know the differences between them. If you know that a certain method is required and the recipe is mistakenly calling for a different method, apply the method you know as correct to ensure proper product. Many of these erroneous recipes are fundamentally flawed and should be avoided as they usually make up for the problems by overcompensating in other areas.
There are several mixing methods to know, and we will cover the basics now:
Beating (Vigorously mixing foods to incorporate air and develop gluten.)
Blending (Mixing two or more ingredients to evenly distribute.)
Creaming (Combining softened fat and sugar while incorporating air.)
Cutting (Incorporating solid fat into dry ingredients until lumps of the desired size occur.)
Folding (Very gently incorporating ingredients such as whipped cream or eggs with dry ingredients or batter. Use Spatula)
Kneading (Working a dough to produce gluten by repeatedly folding the dough onto itself. Use hands or Dough Hook)
Stirring (Gently mixing ingredients by hand until blended. Use whisk, spoon or spatula)
Sifting (Using a fine mesh to pass dry ingredients though to remove lumps and aerate. Use sifter)
Whipping (Beating vigorously to incorporate air. Use whisk or Whisk attachment)
1.08: Review/Critical Thinking
Please complete the following questions. It is important that you use full sentences and present the questions and answers when you submit your work.
Go to the Assessment area in the course to complete the assignment Review and Critical Thinking and submit the work as a file attachment.
The answers to the Review and Critical Thinking Questions are worth 10 points.
1.09: Cooking Assignment #1
You will be utilizing The Muffin Method to make one of the following:
This should not be a 'boxed' or 'pre' mix. This is your opportunity to incorporate all of the ingredients from one of the recipes listed above and actually have the hands-on experience - which is the best way to learn!
This assignment will NOT be graded on presentation so please do not worry if your final product does not turn out perfectly. The goal for you on this assignment is to TRY YOUR BEST! You will need to take photos of the process as you go along as well as of the final product. Please submit your work in the Assessments area.
The Muffin Method
1.10: Module 1 Quiz
Before you take the quiz for this unit take a moment to review what you have learned.
When you feel that you are ready to complete the Module 1 Quiz, The Basic Principles of Baking Quiz, click HERE.