Lessons on baking

These days, besides looking at cookbooks to provide me with ideas to prepare for meals, I have been reading up on cooking and baking. No, I’m not talking merely about recipes.

Take for examples, the book Baking Boot Camp gave me insights on the use of various types of flour, bleached and unbleached, leaveners, stabilizers, blah blah and how they react with one another to give you different products. Baking, in a nutshell, is simple science- chemistry and physics – subjects that I absolutely have no liking to. =p

Chef Hinnerk as mentioned in the book, considered cooking a more artistic activity than baking because we can play around with things and change them frely up until the very last minute. Baking is more scientific. One must stick to a certain fundamental proportions in order for the product to turn out right. And once the baked good is in the oven, that’s it – we can’t tinker with it.

True, isn’t it? How many of us actually wait anxiously around the oven, pacing up and down the kitchen, checking to see if our baked stuff is all right? The timing is a guide but we need to use our senses, smell and sight and touch to make sure it turns out well.

Going on, Chef Hinnerk continued to comment that while cooking can involve a seemingly limitless number of ingredients, the basic ingredients for baking are very few (agree!). Even so, each has a distinct purpose. The 3 categories of functional ingredients in baked goods are the stabilizers (flour and egg), the liquefiers (fat, sugar and a range of liquids) and the leaveners (either natural or chemicals). Just a few basic ingredients can result in a wide variety of baked goods, depending on how they are used. Each time we substitute an ingredient, change the proportions or handle the ingredients in a new way, we will get a different result. That’s where both the science and the artistry come in.

Such information is just, but a few % of the content in the book. There is the information on conversion of measurement (I’m glad CIA advocated using scales!) which I would fail in if I were to have a class on it. I mean, there are different formulas when you convert different things (i.e. dry ingredients and liquids).

I’m just through to chapter 4 of the book and I’m overwhelmed. That, with the ‘textbook’ that I am reading – Essentials of baking – made me respect baking more. We sure can follow recipes and do up a good pastry but to understand how certain things work in a particular way, you definitely need more knowledge.

Oh yes, the following is what I have to cover for baking.
– Cookies, bars and brownies
– Quick breads
– Cakes
– Pies and tarts
– Custards & souffles
– Chocolate
– Pastries
– Breads
– Sauces, toppings and fillings
For each category, there are a few items to bake. Happy baking!

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