Baking With Ingredients: Exactly What Do They Do?

Baking with ingredients …. A definitive guide.

Baking is not only an art but it’s a science as well. There are tons of ingredients available to every baker, but have you ever wondered exactly what do specific ingredients do? How will they react under different circumstances?

Read on to learn more about the most common ingredients.

All-Purpose Flour When making puddings and fillings for pies, flour and cornstarch are often combined in certain recipes. It has a lower capacity for thickening than cornstarch, but the end result is a texture that is more refined than what can be accomplished by using cornstarch on its own.

Almond Extract In baking, almond extract is used more frequently than any other type, second only to vanilla. It is not made from the sweet almonds that we eat and add to baked goods; rather, it is made from bitter almonds. After going through a process that removes the prussic acid that is present in bitter almonds, the oil that is extracted from the almonds is then mixed with alcohol to produce almond extract. In the same way that imitation vanilla is made from synthetic flavors and colors, imitation almond extract is also made from synthetic flavors and colors. Because of this, imitation almond extract should never be used as a replacement for pure almond extract in any baking recipe.

Baking Powder is a chemical leavener that has baking soda, an acid, and cornstarch as its main components. After the liquid has been added to the mixture, the cornstarch prevents the mixture from caking and also functions as a buffer to slow down the reaction between the baking soda and the acid. When using baking powder, the ratio of baking soda to acid is already adequate; therefore, the amount of acid in the recipe does not need to be balanced to the proportion of the leavener in the same way that it does when using baking soda. When it comes into contact with liquid, single-acting baking powder releases its acid component, which is typically cream of tartar, and begins to perform its baking function. In order to fully activate, double-acting baking powder, which is the type of baking powder that can be found in the majority of grocery stores, must be combined with both liquid and heat. Because of this, it is the best option for use as a leavening in cookie doughs that are to be chilled before being baked. Because it works just as well in batters that are going straight into the oven as it does in doughs that are going to be refrigerated before being baked, I use double-acting baking powder for all of my baking because it works effectively in both situations.

Baking Soda, It is a natural alkaline compound that, when combined with a liquid and an acid component, immediately releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This compound is also known as sodium bicarbonate. In baking recipes where baking soda is the only leavener called for, the recipe needs to include a sufficient amount of an acid ingredient in order for the baking soda to work properly. Some examples of acidic ingredients include brown sugar, molasses, chocolate, natural cocoa powder, citrus, buttermilk, or sour cream. Baking soda is used to neutralize the acid, which in turn enables baked goods to achieve a golden brown color during the baking process. If there is not enough acid in the recipe to counteract the alkalinity of the baking soda, the finished baked goods may taste soapy and will not rise as they should. Baking soda should not be used as the primary leavener in any recipe that requires chilling before baking. The leavening process begins as soon as baking soda comes into contact with liquid, so this interaction triggers the process immediately. Baking soda’s effectiveness will decrease if the baking process is delayed after it has been mixed.

Bread Flour Bread flour is made from high-protein wheat, which allows it to absorb more liquid and imparts a chewy consistency to the finished product. When the protein is developed, which typically takes place through the process of kneading, the gluten forms the strands that give yeast bread loaves their structure. Because bread flour has a higher protein concentration than other types of flour, it should not be used for general baking.

Brown Sugar is a refined form of granulated sugar to which molasses has been added. Molasses can be reduced until sugar crystals form by using one of two methods: either the molasses syrup is combined with granulated sugar crystals, which is the more common method, or molasses can be reduced until sugar crystals form by using the first method. Granulated sugar and brown sugar both have the same ability to sweeten food, but brown sugar has a more complex flavor due to the addition of molasses. Molasses also makes brown sugar more moist.

Butter contributes the moisture that is necessary for the baking process. Because butter browns while it bakes, it contributes to the lovely golden color that is characteristic of baked goods.

Buttermilk is a cultured milk that has been curdled by the addition of an acidic ingredient, resulting in a milk that is thick and creamy. When fresh milk is treated with an acid, the milk undergoes a process that causes it to split into liquid and solid components. As a result of its enticing tang, which contributes greatly to the overall flavor of baked goods and gives them a very tender texture, buttermilk is a popular ingredient among many bakers. Additionally, it supplies the acid that is required in certain recipes in order to activate the baking soda. If you want the best results, choose a high-quality buttermilk that has small bits of butter in it and has a flavor that is both good and fresh.

Cake Flour is a flour that has been bleached and has a significantly higher percentage of “soft” or low-protein wheat compared to all-purpose flour. In baked goods such as cakes and cookies, where a fluffy, non-chewy structure is desired, it is frequently used. When making biscuits that are airy and light, it is common practice to use a combination of cake flour and all-purpose flour.

Corn Syrup is a product that starts out as cornstarch, which is then processed into corn sugar before being dissolved into a liquid. It comes in both light and dark variations, depending on your preference. In baking, the most common application for light corn syrup is in the addition of vanilla flavoring after it has been refined. The flavor of caramel is more pronounced in dark corn syrup, and it also has a darker color.

Cheese In baking, you’ll want to stick with regular, full-fat cheeses. They have more flavor than reduced-fat and fat-free cheeses, and the fat contributes to the texture of the baked item in a way that would not be possible with those cheeses. Fat-free cheese is meant to be consumed on its own and is not designed for use in cooking or baking. While reduced-fat cheeses can be used in place of regular cheese, fat-free cheese cannot.

Cocoa Powder is created from the solid particles that remain in the cacao beans after the majority of the cocoa butter has been extracted and the beans have been roasted and crushed. After being ground and screened, the resulting powder is extremely fine in consistency. The amount of cocoa butter that is still present in the cocoa powder varies from brand to brand and can range from almost nothing to nearly 35 percent of the total weight of the cocoa powder.

Chocolate There are many different kinds of chocolate, and each has its own flavor profile that sets it apart from the others. In the past, baking recipes generally called for unsweetened chocolate as the standard ingredient. However, the majority of professional bakers as well as home bakers prefer to use bittersweet chocolate rather than chocolate that has not been sweetened for all of their baking needs. I would put myself in this category. Baking with chocolate that has not been sweetened is not one of my favorite things to do because it does not have a pleasant flavor when consumed on its own. It takes an excessive amount of work and additional components to achieve the desired flavor in the finished product, which is caused by the recipe. The primary baking chocolate in each of my recipes is either bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, depending on the recipe’s specific requirements. Grinding roasted cacao beans is the first step in making chocolate. When the beans are ground, they are subjected to high temperatures, which causes the release of cocoa butter. Chocolate liquor is the name given to the mixture of ground cocoa beans and cocoa butter; it serves as the foundation for the production of all types of chocolate. The flavor is amplified to a greater degree when there is a greater percentage of chocolate liquor present in the chocolate. In order to get a smooth texture in the chocolate, emulsifiers are mixed in with the cocoa powder. After that, various kinds of cocoa butter, granulated sugar, cream or milk solids, and vanilla are combined with the chocolate mixture in order to produce chocolate with its own distinctive flavor. When comparing chocolate of different brands, you may notice a significant difference in flavor. Some of them have a higher concentration of chocolate liquor and additional cocoa butter, whereas others have a higher concentration of sugar. The very best chocolates make use of genuine vanilla extract as opposed to vanillin flavoring that is manufactured in a lab. When it comes to baking, using whichever brand of chocolate one prefers is largely a matter of personal preference. Try a few different kinds, and then use the one that you think has the best flavor in your baked goods. When compared to bar chocolate, chocolate chips have a lower cocoa butter content, which helps the chips maintain their shape when they are baked. This results in chocolate chip cookies. excellent for use in the preparation of chocolate chip cookies but not recommended for melting. Bar chocolate has a more even melting temperature, a smoother texture, and better combines with the other ingredients in the batter or dough than other types of chocolate. It is possible to purchase chocolate chips in any of the available chocolate flavors; semisweet chocolate chips even come in a fun miniature size. It is my recommendation to avoid using chocolate with an artificial flavor.

Coconut is a wonderful ingredient that can be added to a wide variety of baked goods in order to impart a tropical flavor to the finished product. This cookbook features a number of recipes that center on the sweet flavor of coconut in various capacities. The recipes call for sweetened shredded coconut to be used. This is the typical type of coconut that can be found in the section of grocery stores designated for baking. The sweetness and moisture of the coconut have been taken into consideration when developing these recipes. If you use unsweetened or desiccated coconut instead of sweetened flaked coconut, you may find that the recipe calls for a different quantity of sugar or liquid than what was originally written.


Cream Cheese Cream cheese is a type of cheese that is soft and fresh that is made from cream. Baked goods can benefit from both its wonderful flavor and its very tender texture. A luxurious frosting can also be made from cream cheese and used on cakes and cookies. When baked, the texture and flavor of cream cheese products with reduced fat or no fat contain thickeners, which can change the way the products behave. Because the fat in cream cheese is such an essential component of the dish, attempting to make the recipe with reduced-fat or fat-free varieties of the ingredient can have a significant impact on the final product’s level of deliciousness.

Cream of Tartar When combined with a liquid, baking soda is able to react and kickstart the leavening process with the assistance of tartaric acid, which is more commonly known as cream of tartar. In baking recipes that only call for baking soda as a leavener and do not include any other acid ingredients, cream of tartar is used as a catalyst to turn the baking soda into its active form. It can be found in the section of the grocery store devoted to spices.

DAIRY The moisture present in the dairy ingredients helps to activate the leavening agents of baking powder and baking soda, as well as moisten the dry ingredients and bind them all together. Baking causes the milk sugars that are present in liquid dairy ingredients to caramelize and turn golden brown, which adds an additional dimension of flavor to the products that are produced. Thickeners are found in a variety of dairy products, including sour cream, cream cheese, and cheese, and because of this, the texture of baked goods can be affected when these products are used. In most cases, reduced-fat products can be substituted for regular dairy ingredients with little to no discernible difference in the end result. On the other hand, nonfat products are not designed to be baked with, and their texture can drastically shift when heated.

Dried Fruit baked goods get incredible flavor boosts from dried fruits like apricots, cranberries, raisins, and cherries, among other dried fruits. Pick dried fruit that is full-bodied, supple, and yielding in texture. Keep dried fruit in airtight containers so that it does not lose any of its remaining moisture, which can cause the fruit to become tough and stringy if it is exposed to air.

EGGS Eggs, which provide baked goods with proteins, fat, and moisture, also contribute significantly to the baked good’s structure and texture. They function similarly to flour in that they help to bind the other components together and lend sturdiness to batters and doughs. While the eggs are being beaten, the proteins in them form a structure that acts as a sponge, soaking up excess liquid and air while also contributing to the overall texture of baked goods. When baked, the breads and cakes that have these air bubbles trapped inside them expand, causing them to rise. Baked goods get a boost in richness, tenderness, and color from the addition of eggs. Baked goods benefit from the addition of egg yolks, which also promote a golden brown color. They also perform the function of an emulsifier, which means that they help blend the liquid ingredients with the fat. Egg whites cause baked goods to become more dry and crisp when they are added. Never replace the whole eggs in a recipe with egg whites only because the resulting baked good will be extremely dry and crumbly if you do so. Before beating the eggs or adding them to the other ingredients, the temperature of the eggs should be brought to room temperature. Eggs at room temperature can be beaten to a higher volume, and they incorporate into doughs and batters more quickly and effectively than eggs that have been chilled. This will result in the baked goods having a lighter texture. If the eggs are not at the proper temperature, the butter and sugar mixture that has been creamed may separate or appear curdled as a result. The book only contains recipes that call for large eggs because that is the industry standard for baked goods. In the event that you do not have access to large eggs, give your eggs a quick whisk and replace the quantity of large eggs specified in the recipe with 1/4 cup of beaten eggs.

EXTRACTS AND FLAVORINGS Baking is one of the many applications for the many extracts and flavorings that are available. Use pure extracts whenever possible because they are created from the essence of the ingredient and have the best flavor possible with no traces of impurities. They will lend a delicious flavor to whatever you bake with them. Imitation flavorings simply cannot compete with the genuine article and often have an aftertaste that is reminiscent of something artificial. In comparison to their liquid counterparts, the flavors imparted by baking ingredients such as maple, rum, and brandy are much more pronounced. One teaspoon of maple flavoring is equivalent to one-fourth cup of maple syrup in terms of the amount of maple flavor it imparts, but it does not contain any additional liquid. You can make baked goods with an intense flavor using this method without having to add an excessive amount of moisture to the batter or dough.

Half-and-Half Whole milk and cream are the two components that go into making cream. It gives baked goods a rich flavor and texture, and it gives icings, glazes, and frostings a velvety smoothness and creamy consistency. The use of whole milk as a substitute is possible, but because it contains fewer milk fats, the baked good or icing will taste different and have a different consistency.

Lard is a type of natural fat that is produced by rendering the fat from pigs. In the same vein as shortening, it lacks any discernible flavor. Because it results in pie crusts that are extremely flaky, it is a common option for making pastries. It can also be used to make biscuits that are tender, light, and fluffy, and it can be used in place of shortening or butter in any recipe that calls for pastry or biscuits.

LEAVENERS Both baking soda and baking powder are types of chemical leaveners that are used to make baked goods lighter in texture. Both of these leaveners have distinct chemical compositions and interact with the various components of the recipe in distinctive ways. Baking soda has a leavening power that is four times as strong as baking powder, and the two leavening agents cannot be substituted for one another. If the recipe calls for baking soda but all you have in the cupboard is baking powder, you will need to make a trip to the store to purchase some baking soda.

Margarine I never use margarine in any of my baked goods, and I strongly discourage anyone else from subbing it for butter in any recipe that calls for baking. You simply won’t have the same level of success. Both the taste and the consistency of baked goods will be affected when vegetable oil is used to make margarine because it is made from vegetables and contains a significant amount of water. Baked goods made with margarines that have a high water content produce more brittle results and will dry out much more quickly than those made with butter. Salt is an ingredient found in virtually all margarines, and this can throw off the flavor profile of baked goods if there is too much of it. If you need to replace butter with margarine for dietary reasons, the only form of margarine available to purchase is in stick form, and you should verify that it contains at least 80 percent vegetable oil. In baking, you should never use any product that is labeled as a “spread.” Your baked goods will take on a different texture as a result of these, as they contain a higher proportion of air and water.

Milk contains both fat and proteins, both of which help to build and support the structure and texture of baked goods and give them a tender crumb. These benefits come from the combination of the two. The flavor of the baked good will be improved by the milk in proportion to the amount of fat that is contained in the milk. The recipes contained in this book require whole milk to be used. It is possible to use low-fat milk with a 2 percent fat content instead, but the flavor and consistency will be slightly altered. The finished product will have a flavor and texture that are noticeably different if you use nonfat milk in the recipe instead of whole milk.

Nuts baked goods get a delightful flavor boost as well as a satisfying crunch from these additions. Every variety of nut has its own distinct qualities, as well as a flavor all its own. In a great number of recipes, the variety of nuts employed can be altered to better suit your tastes. The natural oils in nuts are evaporated when they are toasted or roasted, which results in an improvement in both the nuts’ flavor and their crisp texture. You can buy a wide variety of nuts that have already been toasted or roasted and are prepared to be used in baking. Salted nuts are delicious when eaten out of hand, but they should never be used in baking because they have the potential to make the finished product taste overly salty. While others simply do not enjoy the flavor, some people are allergic to nuts, which can be life-threatening. Unless they are an essential component of the dish, nuts are very simple to leave out of baked goods without causing a discernible shift in the consistency of the final product. Many recipes that do not already include nuts can also benefit from the addition of nuts. It’s possible for nut oils to go rancid very quickly. Always give the nuts you plan to use in your baked goods a taste to determine whether or not they are still fresh. If you are not going to use the nuts right away, place the resealable package inside a freezer bag with a zipper and freeze them until you are ready to use them. Nuts that have been frozen will thaw very quickly. Before adding them to doughs and batters, they need to be brought to room temperature first.

Oil Like butter, oil provides fat and moisture and makes baked goods tender. However, it does not contribute to the process of leavening because, when beaten with sugar, it does not incorporate a significant amount of air into the mixture. When I bake, I frequently reach for canola oil. It has no discernible flavor and does not change the flavor of baked goods in any way. Baking with vegetable oil is a smart decision because it is made up of a variety of oils that have a flavorless profile. Always give the oil a whiff before you use it in the recipe to make sure that it has not become rancid.

SALT performs the function of enhancing the flavor of baked goods. The flavor of the other ingredients in the dough or batter is balanced and enhanced by the addition of this ingredient. Because salt possesses a flavor all its own, using an excessive amount of it in a recipe has the potential to throw off the recipe’s carefully calibrated flavor profile and obscure the flavors of the other components. In order to balance out the sweetness of the confectioner’s sugar, it is common practice to add a trace amount of salt to frostings. When it comes to baking, my go-to seasoning of choice is regular table salt because the fine grains mix in seamlessly with the other dry ingredients. Baking with Kosher salt can result in pockets of saltiness due to the coarser grains of the Kosher salt, which do not dissolve evenly during the baking process. In general, sea salt possesses a more robust flavor than table salt does. If you bake with sea salt, the grains should be extremely finely ground, and the amount of salt should be adjusted according to how pronounced the sea salt flavor is.

Sweetened Condensed Milk is a canned milk product that is thick, sweet, and made by removing half of the water from whole milk and then combining up to forty percent sugar with the thickened milk that is left over. In recipes for baked goods, regular, reduced-fat, or nonfat sweetened condensed milk can be used instead of full-fat sweetened condensed milk without causing any discernible change in the final product. Evaporated Milk Evaporated milk is a type of canned milk product that has had approximately sixty percent of the water removed from it. In any recipe that calls for whole milk, do not substitute evaporated milk because the end product will be very different.

THICKENERS The most common starch thickeners used to thicken fillings for pies, puddings, and sauces are cornstarch, flour, and tapioca. Other starch thickeners include arrowroot powder and rice flour. They each have their own distinct advantages and disadvantages, and every baker has a preferred thickener of their own. If the starch thickeners are not added to the fruit or liquids in the correct manner, the filling may become lumpy. They don’t contribute much flavor to the dish, but if they are undercooked, they can give it a starchy taste.

Vanilla Extract Vanilla is the agricultural crop that requires the most labor intensive production worldwide. It is the only fruit of the orchid plant that is edible. In order for a vanilla vine to produce its first bloom three years after it has been planted, the fruit must first be allowed to mature for nine months. Only then can the fruit be harvested. After harvesting the beans, they are dried in the sun for a period of several weeks or even months, after which they are treated with hot water or heat. After that, the dried beans are put into storage for a few months so that their flavor can mature to its full potential.

Whipping Cream Whipping In baking, flavor and texture are both enhanced by the addition of cream. As a result of the reduction in fat, the finished product’s structure will be different if you use whole milk or half-and-half instead of whipping cream unless the recipe specifically instructs you to do so. The majority of supermarkets and convenience stores across the United States stock both “light” and “heavy” varieties of whipping cream. The amount of milk fat present in light whipping cream is 30 percent, while the amount of milk fat present in heavy whipping cream ranges from 36 to 49 percent. In cases where whipped cream is required, either light or heavy whipping cream may be substituted in its place. If it calls for heavy whipping cream, then regular heavy cream is the one that needs to be used in order to get the desired consistency. When the cream is going to be whipped, like it is going to be for the topping of a cream pie, the correct type of cream to use is heavy whipping cream.

YEAST is a living organism that has been put into a state of hibernation and is currently waiting to be brought back to life. Yeast will begin to grow and ferment once it has been given food, moisture, oxygen, and a warm environment to thrive in. Because carbon dioxide bubbles are produced during the fermentation process, bread dough is able to expand and rise as a result. There are various packaging options for yeast, including packets measuring 0.4 ounces, jars, and bulk packages. Approximately 21 and a half teaspoons of yeast are contained in each 14-ounce packet of yeast. Before you begin baking, you need to double check the date it was manufactured. Outdated yeast might not become fully active, which would cause the bread loaves and rolls to become flatter than normal. Keeping your yeast in the freezer in a container that is hermetically sealed will allow you to get more use out of it. Before using the measured amount of yeast in the baking process, let it come to room temperature first.

I hope this guide helps.

What is your favorite ingredient and why?

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