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The Science Behind Baking

Updated: Mar 5

Author: Dalin Try

Editor: Kaitlyn Ma

Artist: Tiffany Gao

Through this pandemic, we have explored many different activities to keep ourselves occupied; however, one of the most notable quarantine activities has been baking. In the first few weeks of the pandemic, there were many shortages that occurred ranging from toilet paper shortages to baking supplies where groceries found their entire baking shelves empty. We have made treats ranging from dalgona coffee to banana bread, through this, there are multiple different recipes with different preferences with some prefer using brown sugar or white sugar for baking their banana bread but no matter what the recipe usually calls for the basic ingredients which are sugar, flour, extracts, and eggs. However, not many know why we use these ingredients and how combining them together leads to creating delicious baked goods for you and your family.

Firstly, starting with flour gives the base and structure of the dessert because there are two types of proteins called glutenin and gliadin as water is added to the flour, the proteins come together and form a new protein called gluten. As the mixture is heated in the oven, the proteins and starches in the flour turn into a sturdy structure. Secondly, baking soda or powder makes baked goods rise, because when they are mixed into the batter it makes carbon dioxide bubbles that help the cake to rise. As the baked goods are baked the bubbles get trapped in the batter which makes it light and fluffy. Thirdly eggs are used to help bind the ingredients together because they contain both hydrophilic and hydrophobic properties which are great when mixing oil-based and water-based ingredients together. Lastly mixing together ingredients —especially oil-based and water-based liquids —requires egg yolks to create an emulsion because egg yolks are both hydrophilic and hydrophobic. Hydrophilic means they like water, while hydrophobic means they do not like water in the hydrogen bonds in egg yolks.

Although sugar does not necessarily play a big role in baking as its use is only to moisten and give it some more sweetness, it helps tenderize the cake by preventing gluten from forming. Sugar also holds moisture in the finished product as the sugar crystals cut through solid fats like butter which helps form the structure of the cake by making small holes filled with carbon dioxide as the leavening agents react. Leavening agents are baking soda and baking powder which form the carbon dioxide, as too much of them can make the carbon dioxide bubbles too big.

Overall, these baking ingredients all have an important role in forming the finished products. However, through baking, we also see a different side to the science behind how the ingredients work together. Without this understanding, we would not be able to produce delicious baked goods and understand how sometimes our recipes don't work.



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