Apr 13, 2012

Top Five Basic Baking Ingredients

When it comes to baking, there are some basic ingredients that come into play in just about every recipe. This includes foods like flour, sugar and eggs. These are ingredients that every baker, professional or novice, must be familiar with. This guide provides some fundamental information about these key baking ingredients.

Flour: Flour is used across the board in the culinary world, providing structure and body for baked goods, a thickening agent in sauces, and a non-stick coating for batters and breads. Flour is a very important part of baking, as it provides a base texture and structure for many baked goods, from pancakes to pie crusts. Flour contains protein and contributes structure and mass to baked goods.  Depending on the flour used, it can even contribute flavor.

Sugar:  Sugar is perhas the most recognized sweetener in the baking world. Sugar is available in different varieties; white, brown, powdered and even more exotic types, but all of these add sweetness to a recipe. Beyond being a sweetener, sugar actually maintains a complex role in baked goods. Sugar can contribute texture, including creaminess in frostings, crunchiness in cookies, and tender moistness in cakes. Sugar carmelizes when exposed to high heat, perfect for creating the hardened topping on a crème brulee. Refined sugar is 99 percent pure sucrose, which is made up of equal parts glucose and fructose. This molecular structure provides an essential function when it comes to baked goods, and so using a sugar alternative in recipes calling for sugar will often result in a different end-product. 

EggsAs with flour, eggs provide a structural ingredient in baked foods. They are often considered leaveners, much like yeast or baking powder, and they assist in binding ingredients in a recipe together and providing a structure for baked goods as they rise. Eggs also add color to baked goods, such as brioche, a golden egg-based bread. Eggs are important thickeners in custards and other creamy foods, and they are even used as glazes for pastries and breads. Egg whites are the prime ingredient in meringues.

ButterButter is an ingredient of prime importance when it comes to baking. Butter is the result of churning cream until the fat—butter—separates from the liquid—buttermilk. Butter adds flavor and texture to baked goods, and can help keep foods fresher longer. Recipes call for melted, softened, room temperature and even cold butter, depending on the end product. Choose salted or unsalted, or even a replacement if it’s suitable for your application. 

Leaveners:  A leavener is something that helps a baked item to rise, or “leaven.” There are a few different types of leaveners used in baking, the most common of which include baking soda, baking powder and yeast. Baking soda and baking powder are considered chemical leaveners; both of these ingredients react with liquid and heat to produce gas bubbles that promote rising. These ingredients are vital in muffins, biscuits and pancakes. Yeast is not a chemical leavener but a naturally occurring bacteria, a critical component to most breads, and absent from flatbreads. Eggs also have leavening properties, and are essential in recipes like meringues and angel food cakes where a light, fluffy or airy texture is desired.

(via: http://www.foodservicewarehouse.com)

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