Baking Pantry Basics: 7 Essential Ingredients
There is a lot of chemistry that goes on in baking: each ingredient has a role in making those cookies chewy, those cakes fluffy, and those pies flaky! Understand the roles of each main ingredient and become a better baker in the process.
Gluten gives shape and form to dough. All-purpose flour is generally a great choice for baked goods, but different kinds of flours have a different amount of protein in them. Bread flour, for example, has a high amount of protein to give bread its sturdy body and rise. Cake flour has a low amount of protein, which explains the soft, tender, and light crumb of well-made cakes.
Beat your butter and sugar like crazy! This will help incorporate air in your batter, which will rise beautifully in the oven. Butter is the reason for flaky, creamy, and tender baked treats. Choose to bake with butter with a high fat content so that extra liquid won't weigh down your batter and dough. Start also with unsalted butter instead of salted butter. This way, you can control the amount of salt that goes into your products.
Eggs act as a binding ingredient in baking. Egg yolks can be used as a thickening agent in pastry creams and puddings, while egg whites can be whipped into fluffy pillows to aerate cakes or baked into crunchy meringues.
In baking, sugar is considered a wet ingredient. Keep this in mind when you feel like lessening the amount of sugar in your cakes and cookies, they could turn out to be dry.
Baking soda, baking powder, and yeast
Leavening agents are what make your baked products rise. When exposed to heat, they release gases that aerate you batters and doughs. Click here to know more about these leavening agents!
Vanilla extract or vanilla beans help highlight the sweet flavors of your baked goods. Stay on the lookout for good-quality Tahitian or Madagascar beans or extract, they make all the difference in helping your flavors shine.
This ingredient should never be taken for granted: salt brings out lots of flavor in your treats, so remember to throw in a pinch or two. Salt will also help balance the single-layered sweetness of you cookies and cakes. Use fine sea salt or kosher salt to avoid the strange aftertaste of iodized table salt!