Important Ingredients for Baking

By: Nick Kakolowski

Baking requires a wide variety of ingredients and asks the chef to use them in many ways. Despite this variety, there are a number of ingredients that will show up consistently from recipe to recipe. A few of these staples of baking are flour, eggs, sugar and yeast. Beyond these regular ingredients, apples, cranberries, lemons, pure vanilla, and chocolate are other ingredients that are used frequently. Each of these foods has specific guidelines for use which make it easier for chefs to use them to their greatest potential.
Flour, baking powder, soda, cream, sugar, eggs and yeast make up the backbone of baking recipes. Flour provides the form of your baked good. The type of flour used will define taste, texture and structure of your final product. The reason this all works is because flour contains protein. When the protein mixes with water and heat it responds chemically and gives your baking project its strength. Baking powder and baking soda works similarly to yeast by providing a leavening force for your dish. The primary difference is that baking powder and soda create a chemical reaction that makes the dough rise, while yeast is a living organism that feeds on the dough which creates the same effect as baking powder and soda. Cream is technically the fat that rises to the top of whole milk. It is often whipped and is used in a variety of ways. In baking, sugar does more then just act as flavoring. It also adds tenderness and texture, among other things, to your final product. Like flour, eggs act as a structural element in baking. Eggs can provide leavening, texture, richness and other various characteristics to your baked good and are often used in the batter. Butter also fits beside these other regular ingredients. Aside from these basic items, a wide variety of fruits and nuts are used regularly while baking.
Apples are used frequently in recipes, but be sure to choose a type of apple that fits the flavor you want in your dish, and make sure that it is properly ripened. Good baking apples are firm, smooth, and will give off a fresh smell. Blueberries are another fruit that is used a lot. Look for blueberries that are firm and plump. It is also important to look for berries that are dark with a white dusting. This dusting is important and naturally generated. This dust is a sure sign of freshness. Be sure to avoid berries that are soft, moldy, or crushed. Cranberries are also a popular choice, but almost never raw. When raw they are extremely tart. These berries should be firm, smooth skinned and a shiny red color. Lemons also consistently used. When choosing lemons, they should be bright yellow without any green spots or blemishes. An important task when using lemons is to wash the outer skin. Insecticides are often used on lemons, and do not go well in your baked good. Be sure to wash the rind thoroughly. Peaches, raspberries, pumpkins, strawberries and rhubarb also find their way into many recipes. These fruits follow similar rules of freshness to the already mentioned ingredients, and should be purchased carefully. Nuts can be found in a wide variety of ways, and are generally pre-packaged in the store. Be sure to look closely at what your recipe is asking for before you begin to search for a product.

Two final popular ingredients are vanilla and chocolate. Pure vanilla is a very expensive spice, but it is worth the money when it comes to making a high quality desert. This spice comes in a few forms, primarily extract, beans or powdered. It can also come mixed with sugar. Chocolate is used in a few forms as well. Most recipes will call for semi-sweet or unsweetened varieties. These two ingredients are used often and should be kept readily in your spice rack.

Many ingredients are used regularly in baking, and having a grasp of how these items are used is important. It is also crucial to recognize the freshness and quality of the products you will use. Having a good grasp of these basic ingredients will ensure a high quality snack for your enjoyment.




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