Baking Ingredients

Every baked product tends to have the same main ingredients. Differences in products result from the proportions used and different treatment of the ingredients.

Ingredients most commonly used in baking are:

  • Flour
  • Leaveners
  • Sugars
  • Fat
  • Eggs
  • Salt
  • Liquids

Flour

Flour is used to form the framework of the product and to provide gluten. The most common source of flour is wheat but other sources include potato, soya bean, barley, rye, rice, buckwheat and corn.

Kernel of Wheat

Bran – The bran is the outer coating of a kernel. For flour it is removed. It contains vitamin B and minerals. The bran that is removed is sold as animal feed. The consumer can buy bran for home use. Enriched white flour has nutrients added to make it as nutritious as if no nutrients had been lost in the removal of the bran and germ. The flour, however, still lacks the bulk provided by the bran.

Endosperm – The endosperm is the source of white flour. It contains carbohydrates (about 75%) and protein (12-14%) along with some vitamins and minerals. The main protein in flour is gluten. Different kinds of flour have different amounts of gluten in them. Gluten is the rubbery “gum” one gets when chewing a handful of wheat for a while. Gluten becomes elastic when moisture is added and it is worked. This ability is a challenge for the baker. In some baking (bread) the baker wants to work the dough to develop the gluten but in products like muffins stirring the batter can develop the gluten and give a tough product so extreme care must be taken.

Germ – The germ is the part from which a new wheat plant would grow. In order to support this new plant as it begins to grow, the germ must provide it with energy and nutrients. The germ contains fat, protein and vitamins. In making white flour, the germ is also removed. Wheat germ can be purchased in the store. It should be stored in the refrigerator or deep freeze as the fat in it goes rancid (bad taste) very quickly.

Wheat can be classed into durum, hard and soft wheats. Durum wheat is made into macaroni and other pastas. Hard wheat has gluten-producing proteins. This wheat is made into bakery flour, bread flours and all-purpose flours. Some wheats are low in gluten producing proteins. This wheat is made into cake flour. Wheat that has been frozen in the field before it is ripe produces a low quality protein. Flour from frozen wheat makes poor-volume bread.

Turing Wheat into Flour

The wheat is transported from the farm to the flour mill. The wheat is then cleaned: impurities such as other grains, weed seeds, stones, twigs are removed. The wheat is then washed. If different classes of grain are to be used, they are then blended together. The wheat then goes through a series of rolling and sifting until all the bran and germ is removed and the flour is fine textured. Bleaching and enrichment is done and then the flour is bagged and sold.

Kinds of Flour

  • Bread Flours are available to industry and consumers. They are very high in gluten so allow bread to be readily made using machines.
  • All-Purpose Flour is the most commonly used flour. With care, it can be used for most baking.
  • Pastry Flour has less gluten than all-purpose and is designed for pastry making.
  • Cake Flour is made from soft wheat. It contains very little gluten but more starch. It is designed for cake making, especially tender cakes.
  • Whole Wheat Flour – The whole kernel is ground up to make the flour.
  • Self-Rising Flour has a leavener and salt added at the mill. For 1cup of flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt is added and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder.
  • Instant-Blending Flour – This flour mixes instantly with water. It is more granular than regular flour. It is ideal for thickening a liquid.

Flour Terms

  1. Pre-Sifted – All flour is sifted many times before it is bagged and sold. The idea of advertising flour as pre-sifted and not needing sifting before the baker uses the flour at home was thus very effective. However, this flour still packs.
  2. Enriched Flour – Factory-made nutrients are added to white flour to make it as nutritious as it would be if the bran and germ were not removed. The bulk of the bran, however, is not replaced. Enriching flour does not affect the taste or appearance of flour.
  3. Bleached Flour – North Americans prefer white flour, so during the manufacturing process a bleaching agent is added.
  4. Bromated – A bromate is added to improve the protein in flour and give a larger volume.

Leaveners

Leaveners are ingredients that make a product rise. Leaveners were not always as convenient as they are today. At one time flour and potato water were mixed together and allowed to sit in a warm place until it fermented. Cornmeal, water and sugar were also used to ferment. This fermented substance is very acid or sour – thus it is called “sourdough”. There are still recipes available for making starter. (Sourdough Canadian Cookbook (1961), page 547).

Recipe for Sourdough

2 cups (500mL) all purpose flour
1 – 4 tbsp sugar (15 – 60 mL) sugar
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
2 cups (approx.) (500 mL) water

Combine the flour, sugar and salt with the lukewarm water to make a creamy batter. Use water in which rice or macaroni has been boiled if possible.

  1. Put the batter in an empty shortening kettle; Cover closely with a lid in which a number of small holes have been punched.
  2. After about 5 days the dough will be ready. The worse the souring smell the better it is. When baked the smell disappears.

Note – 1 dry yeast cake may be added, in which case the sourdough will be ready in 3 days.

This product is sometimes maintained by daily additions of flour and liquid. People sometimes call it the “monster”. As the product increases in quantity because of the additions, a housewife passes “the stuff” on to a friend with a recipe for Friendship Cake.

Ashes were another leavening agent used. Ashes were soaked in water and the alkaline (base) substance in the ashes dissolved into the water. When the water evaporated, a powder remained. This powder, when mixed with an acid ingredient, gave off gases and leavened the product. Potash was used in the same way. In fact, some special recipes still use potash.

Baking soda was introduced in the 1800’s. It has to be used with an acid ingredient such as cream of tartar, sour milk, fruit juices, molasses. Someone later came up with the idea of combining baking soda and cream of tartar in proper proportions and selling it as baking powder. The only problem with this idea was that moisture in the air made the two react and give off the carbon dioxide even in the can. This meant that when the product was put in a batter it could not give off the carbon dioxide to make the product rise. Starch is now added to the mixture of baking soda and cream of tartar. The starch readily absorbs the moisture and the other two chemicals do not react until in the product. The starch also acts as a filler so companies guarantee that 100 grams of baking powder always yields 14% carbon dioxide. This allows the baker to substitute one kind of baking powder for another and the baker knows that each kind will have the same amount of leavening action.

Classes of Leavening Agents

Chemical – These leaveners release gas into the product. Generally, the gas released (from baking powder) is carbon dioxide. Baking powders come as single or double action baking powder. A single action baking powder gives off all its gas as soon as it is mixed with moisture. A double action baking powder releases only a small amount of gas when mixed with moisture. Most is released during the baking process. Double Action (like Blue Ribbon) baking powder is preferred in quantity cooking.

Baking powder + moisture + heat = CO2 + salt. If baking soda is used alone, an acid ingredient must be added.

Baking Soda + acid ingredient = CO2 + salt + water. Some acid ingredients frequently used in baking are: cream of tartar, sour milk, vinegar, fruit juices, molasses, and brown sugar. If the acid ingredient is not added, a soapy taste often remains. Sometimes an acid ingredient is not added to a chocolate cake. The chocolate cake takes on a reddish tinge and is called Devil’s Food Cake.

When the carbon dioxide is heated it expands in volume and rises, taking the unbaked product with it. When the product cooks, it will keep this “expanded” shape.

Physical – Water and air make a product rise by physical means. Water makes up a big proportion of milk. Other ingredients such as eggs and butter also have water in them. When heated, water turns to steam. When water changes to steam, its volume increases by approximately 1600 times. Steam also rises when it heats. As it rises, the steam takes the product with it.

Air is beaten into eggs and fat. Meringues have a considerable amount of air. Air behaves in the same way as CO2 when heated.

Some products have only air and moisture in them as leavening agents. Cream puffs, Yorkshire pudding, popovers and pie crust all rise because of the air and moisture in them.

Biological – Sourdough is made by bacterial action. Yeast is a plant that is used as a leavener. Just as all plants, yeast requires air, warmth, moisture, and food for growth. Yeast produces an enzyme which splits the sugar molecule up into alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Sugar (with yeast) = alcohol and carbon dioxide.

C6H1206 = 2C2H5OH + 2CO2

In baking with yeast, the carbon dioxide helps the product rise. In the baking, the yeast is killed. The alcohol evaporates so no alcohol is left. If you were making wine, you would concentrate on catching the alcohol and let the CO2 dissipate into the air.

Yeasts are present in the air. There are many kinds of yeasts and each does different things. Bread-making yeast does not make good wine and conversely, wine-making yeast does not make good bread. In fact, various winemaking yeasts help give different flavours to the wine.

Yeasts can be purchased in compressed or dry-active form. The compressed yeast is in a cake. The cake form contains yeast and moisture so therefore (to get the same rising power) a larger volume of compressed yeast is needed than dry active. It must be refrigerated and can be kept for about a month. Dry active yeast is in granules. It can be stored for a short time. Quick rise yeast is now available on the market. This high activity yeast strain makes doughs rise up 50% faster than regular yeast.

In order to grow properly and quickly, yeast needs minerals. Soft water does not have minerals in it so it does not make a good water for making yeast products. Commercial kitchens and bakeries may add a substance called yeast foods to enable the yeast to grow better. The yeast foods contain substances which make yeast grow better.

Sugar

  • Sugar is added to a product to:
  • Tenderize the product
  • Give a golden color
  • Add flavour
  • Work with yeast
  • Improve texture

White refined sugar is the most commonly used sugar in baking. The granules of sugar are available in various sizes. For baking, fine or extra fine granulated is preferred because it mixes or dissolves more readily than a coarse sugar. Berry or Fruit sugar has very small granules. Sugar that has been put through a machine to pulverize it is called Confectioner’s, Icing Sugar or Castor Sugar. Because this pulverized sugar tends to pack, starch is added to prevent this from happening.

Brown sugars can vary greatly in color; they can range from almost white to a color as dark as roasted coffee. Demerra sugar is a dark brown sugar. Brown sugar is partially refined sugar cane. The darker the sugar, the less molasses has been removed in the refining process. The darker the sugar, the higher the molasses and acid content and the softer the sugar.

Molasses is a by-product of sugar refining. Since molasses is an acidic ingredient, baking soda is used with it.

 

Syrup is another sweetener. It is made from cornstarch. Starches are very complicated molecules which when broken down give sugars. To make true syrup, an enzyme or an acid is applied to cornstarch to break the starch molecule up into sugars.

Honey is a type of sugar that draws moisture to it. Products made from honey tend to stay moist longer than products make from regular sugar. Honey is not healthier than sugar – it is still sugar. To substitute honey for sugar, use 1 cup honey for every 11/4-cup sugar and 1/4 liquid.

Fat

The purpose of fat in a baking product is to:

  • Tenderize
  • Add Richness
  • Grease the gluten so it stretches better
  • Hold air

Most of the edible fats come from butter, lard, soybean, canola, cotton seed, peanut or corn. Butter is made by beating cream until it separates into butter and a liquid called buttermilk. Lard is the fat from pork (pigs). The fat is slowly melted down (rendered) and then cooled. Soybeans, peanuts and corn are squashed so their oil can be squeezed out. Oils, which are liquids, can be turned into solid by a process calledhydrogenation. In this process, hydrogen atoms are forced to join with the oil atom. The more hydrogen atoms added, the harder the fat becomes. Some oils that have strong flavors to them go through a process whereby they are deodorized. Canola oil goes through this process.

Shortening is any fat that will tenderize a product. Shortenings may be from animal or vegetable sources. Shortenings hold air very well when beaten. This is why solid fat tends to give a lighter cake than does oil. Shortenings at room temperature hold more air than when cold.

Eggs

In baking, eggs:

  • Add richness
  • Form structure
  • Hold air

Since egg yolks are rich in fat, the yolk adds richness to the product. The egg white protein (albumen is the main protein) solidifies in cooking and forms the structure along with the protein in flour (gluten). Air can be beaten into the whole egg or the egg’s yolk and white can be separated and air beaten into the white. This air then helps to leaven the product. For best results, eggs should be at room temperature and relatively fresh.

Salt

Salt adds flavour to a product and controls the rate of growth of yeast. Since yeast is a plant, its growth is affected by the concentration of salt.

 

Liquids

Liquids are needed to:

  • Give a moist product
  • Dissolve the sugar
  • Allow yeast to work
  • Develop the gluten

Liquids may come from water or milk. Other ingredients such as butter, margarine, and eggs may also have small amounts of liquid in them.