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What are the ingredients in baking?

Let’s take a look at the types of dessert. Currently, we can find cakes, breads, pies, tarts, puffs, pies and Chinese pastry.

There are only a few basic ingredients used (not all of them), although they come in many different forms.
The same ingredients can be used in different proportions and in different ways to produce completely different tasting desserts.

If we look at the basic ingredients as different scales, then baking is like composing a tune, and looking at what we have created gives us a sense of accomplishment!

Having said that, let’s take a look at what are the common basic ingredients used in baking
In a nutshell, we have flour, eggs, fat, sugar, salt, milk (milk powder), light cream, water and leavening agents. With these nine basic ingredients, plus a wide range of dairy products, cocoa products, fruits, nuts, spices, etc., hundreds of desserts can be made.
Timexing will introduce you to each of these ingredients in turn, please feel free to correct me if I am wrong.

  • Flour

Flour is one of the staple foods for humans and provides us with the most basic energy. Its main components are starch (about 70%), protein (about 10%) and small amounts of water, minerals, fats and oils. Flours are generally classified by their gluten content: low gluten flour (up to 9.5% protein), medium gluten flour (9.5% to 11.5% protein) and high gluten flour (11.5% protein or more), with different uses for different gluten levels.

Low gluten flour, also known as cake flour, is low in protein and does not easily produce gluten, making it suitable for making fluffy desserts such as cakes, biscuits, puffs and tarts.
Medium gluten flour has a moderate gluten protein content and is suitable for most Chinese desserts, such as moon cakes, buns and dumplings.
High gluten flour, also known as bread flour, has a high protein content which produces a large amount of glutenous tissue through kneading and retains the maximum amount of carbon dioxide produced by the yeast in the dough, making it ideal for making all types of bread.

There is also a French flour classified by its ash content (ash refers to the minerals contained in the flour), commonly known as T45, T55, T65, etc. The label T45 indicates a 0.45% ash content in the flour and the protein content of the same label flour varies from brand to brand.
When we make baguettes, croissants and brioche, the flavour is more authentic when made directly from French flour, but the average bakery will use a mixture of high and low gluten flour to make them, but with a little less flavour.

  • Egg

Eggs are a delicacy in their own right and are the most commonly used ingredient in baking. They provide an attractive flavour and a golden baking colour to desserts (the Merad reaction), and by whipping the egg whites with sugar they create countless small bubbles which then create a fluffy, delicious cake.
The egg whites are heated to solidify and provide the backbone for the dessert. The egg yolks are richly flavoured and contain lecithin, which is a very good natural emulsifier (emulsification is what allows otherwise immiscible oil and water to mix together very evenly).

Like clothes, eggs come in small and large sizes, and in baking it is common to use medium eggs (weighing around 50 to 60 grams / 1.8 to 2.1 oz).
The shell of a whole egg makes up about 10% of the total weight, the white 60% and the yolk about 30%. With this ratio it is easy to approximate the weight of an egg’s white and yolk. The water content of a whole egg night is approximately 75%, which gives us a good way of calculating the liquid when making bread.

  • Grease

The fats we commonly use in baking are butter, shortening, lard and various vegetable oils.

Butter can be divided into salted butter and unsalted butter, and also into non-fermented butter and fermented butter. Unsalted butter is used as an ingredient in baking, while salted butter is generally used to spread bread for direct consumption. Fermented butter has a more distinctive flavour than non-fermented butter, but has a lower melting point and is not suitable for use in shortbreads.

Shortening is synthesised from artificially refined vegetable oils and has the advantages of high plasticity, high melting point and good shortening effect, but it contains a lot of additives and is mainly used in commercial baking and is generally avoided by health-conscious home bakers.

Artificially made shortening

Lard has a very special flavour that some people love and some people hate.
It is mainly used in Chinese confectionery, soufflés and peach cakes, as it has a very good flaking effect and is less expensive than butter. It is not recommended to buy ready-made lard, but to make your own fresh and healthy, and to keep it refrigerated or frozen for a long time.

Vegetable oils are rarely used in dessert making, except for these few regular pairings, such as corn oil for chiffon cake, olive oil for pizza and peanut oil for mooncakes.

  • Sugar

Sugar is perhaps the most beautiful thing in the world, it heals the hearts of countless people.
Sugar is synonymous with sweetness and no one can dislike it. Many baking beginners think that sugar is just a flavouring agent, but in fact in baking sugar not only adds sweetness, it also serves to make desserts appetising, keep them moist, make eggs easier to whip and provide nutrients for the yeast.
So sugar has many important roles to play and it is not advisable for beginners to reduce the sugar from the original recipe, especially for chiffon and sponge cakes.

Sugar is made from sugar cane and can be divided into white sugar, granulated sugar, icing sugar, brown sugar and brown sugar depending on how it is processed.
White sugar is the one we often use. It’s often used in baking and is finer and more easily dissolved than granulated sugar. Icing sugar, also known as icing, is a powdered form of sugar, to which some starch is added to prevent lumping.

The sweetness of sugar is higher than that of granulated sugar, due to the addition of the conversion syrup, and it retains water and colour better in baking.
Brown sugar and black sugar are both roughly processed products of sugar cane, retaining the original sugar cane substance and therefore having a pleasant flavour and, although not very sweet, are rich in nutritional value.

Sweetness of sugar

  • Salt

Salt is as important for bread as it is for the human body. It does four main things –

  1. Improves the flavour of bread (as it does for other desserts)
  2. Strengthening the gluten tissue
  3. To control the rate of yeast fermentation
  4. It inhibits the growth of other bacteria.

The salt we use for baking is fine salt, not coarse salt as it does not dissolve well and is difficult to control when weighing. Baking uses very little salt and it can easily clump and cause inaccurate weighing, so keep it sealed to prevent moisture.

Fine salt

  • Milk & Milk Powder

Although milk and milk powder are almost the same substance, milk powder is more creamy and easier to preserve than milk. Milk powder can be substituted for milk in most cases by mixing it with water, and vice versa. Milk has a water content of about 90%, so we only need 10% milk powder plus 90% water to replace the same weight of milk.
In some cases such as making cookies adding milk powder can make the cookies more flavorful with milk, and the cookies hardly add water, so it is difficult to replace milk powder with milk.

Whether it is milk or milk powder, we should try to choose some well-known brands and at the same time make sure that we buy the genuine product.


Milk Powder

  • Light Cream

First of all, the light cream we are referring to here is animal-based light cream, fat-free light cream (artificial cream) is not in the scope of discussion. Whipping and stability are important reference criteria for choosing a light cream, where the factor that determines how easy it is to whip is the milk fat content, the higher the milk fat content the easier it is to whip.

Generally the milk fat content of commercially available light cream is around 35%, while the water content is around 60%.

  • Water

Water is hardly used in making cakes, cookies and other desserts, but it is very important for bread making. Water is essential for gluten formation and starch pasting, as well as for dissolving sugar salts, activating yeast and enzymes.
Chemically speaking, the PH and hardness of the water will slightly affect the finished product, with a suitable PH between 5 and 7 (weak acidity) and a hardness of 100 mg/L or more.

  • Swelling / fermenting agents

Before we talk about expansion agents, let’s talk about the principle of expansion of desserts.
There are three ways to create expansion in desserts: by beating air into the ingredients, by producing carbon dioxide from the ingredients themselves, and by generating water vapour from heating.

First method is typically represented by the whipping of eggs and butter, where the ingredients are filled with small air bubbles to create volume.
Second method consists of two methods, the chemical method of reaction with sodium bicarbonate (mainly baking soda and baking powder) and the biological method of yeast fermentation.
Third method is the one that occurs in most desserts, as dessert ingredients contain more or less water, with puffs being the classic example of expansion by water vapour.

As you can see above, the main expansion agents in desserts are baking soda, baking powder and yeast. Baking soda is made up of sodium bicarbonate, which is heated in the oven to produce carbon dioxide. Baking powder is composed of sodium bicarbonate in addition to some acid, it starts a part of the reaction when the ingredients are mixed, another part of the reaction is carried out when heated, so the baking powder on the market is generally called double effect baking powder, in addition we should pay attention to the purchase is marked aluminum-free, aluminum-containing ones are harmful to human body.

Yeast is divided into fresh yeast, dry yeast and high active dry yeast, which can be interchanged, but the dosage is different. There are also high and low sugar resistant yeasts, generally low sugar resistant yeast is used for dumplings and high sugar resistant yeast for bread.

  • Summary

In summary, the basic ingredients used in baking are flour, eggs, fat, sugar, salt, milk (milk powder), light cream, water, and expansion agents, each of which plays an irreplaceable role in the baking process.
The variety of recipes and proportions that contribute to the variety and taste of desserts is the same as the different melodies that give us a different sense of wonder when we listen to music. We owe a debt of gratitude to the generations of bakers who have handed down and expanded desserts, creating a rich and varied world of baking for us.

While paying tribute to the masters, we should go and learn the basics, master the principles of baking and stand on the shoulders of giants in order to create our own flavours.

Timexing hopes this post will help you
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