Monday, 12 December 2011

THE SCIENCE AND ART OF BAKING

 
Baking is one of those process I love to explore when it comes to cooking.  I don’t like frying. I don’t like to get caught with those hot and blistering oil that gets excited and goes haywire when heated.  But I love to eat fried food though I just don't like frying if you know what I mean J.

Ironically, the first cooking process I learned is frying, scrambled egg I believe, then steaming rice.  As a person who grew up in the rural areas, I have to learn some basic house chores, while my sisters are more into dish washing, doing the laundry, and house cleaning, I prefer cooking.  Before I learned to cook my first dish, aside from scrambled egg, I have known to bake using whatever I can from our kitchen.   We don’t have any gas nor electric oven nor a brick oven (it’s called pugon in the Philippines).  I used my Mama’s big kaldero (big iron pot) and when she bought a pressure cooker, I used that too.  I only bake cake, butter cakes at that.  I tried chocolate cakes too.  Those were the times when I was not aware about the science and art of baking. But at least I understand that baking involves cooking using dry heat not like frying nor steaming.  During those times, I just want to bake a cake because it intrigues and interests me and it tastes good.  Frosting a cake is still impossible for because I never had the slightest idea how to do it and my Mama has zero knowledge on baking. So I just baked plain cakes that’s it and my parents and siblings loved it.


Puratos gave me the opportunity to explore my dormant baking skills and it is through them that I have come to love the science and art of baking.  I should have taken food science as an undergrad major L but I hope soon I’d be able to go back to school and take up Food science J.

Since then, my interest in baking, specially in bread baking had grown enormously.  I am not of a bread eater but I love developing recipes and baking them. When it comes to baking, I can say that bread baking is my strong suit.  BUT I am no expert… yet. Still learning.

My husband Frederick is also in the process of learning how to bake.   Unlike me, my husband never had the chance to get trained in baking.  He only saw bits and pieces of the baking process by watching baker’s do their thing from a bakery’s glass window, or me baking, or from the youtube.  He wants to learn so he can compete with me (evil grin) That’s the reason why we came up with this blog, to document our learning process not only in baking but in other cooking process.  Oh by the way, he already baked his first bread – his Cinnamon – Sultanas loafbread.  We’ll post it later J

So let’s get going with learning the baking process.  Let’s start with the Science and art of baking.

As defined by http://www.wikipedia.org/,  Baking is the technique of prolonged cooking of food by dry heat acting by convection, and not by radiation, normally in an oven, but also in hot ashes, or on hot stones. It is primarily used for the preparation of bread, cakes, pastries and pies, tarts, quiches, cookies and crackers. Such items are sometimes referred to as "baked goods," and are sold at a bakery. A person who prepares baked goods as a profession is called a baker.

Sarah Labensky in her book On Baking:  A Textbook of Baking and Pastry Fundamentals defined baking as a dry-heat cooking method in which foods are surrounded by hot dry air in a closed environment;  It is usually applied to breads, pastries, vegetables, and fish

Like in any food preparation and cooking, there is also science in baking.  The heating of food, the changes in color, in properties, in the texture of the ingredients, etc. is basically science.  The mixing of the different flavors in a recipe to come up with a dish’s distinct  taste is also science. The chemical and physical changes, the growth of bacteria and fungus and how to prevent or delay their growth,  are all sciences. 

Baking is a science that relies on a good understanding of the basic principles of the baking and cooking process. Once a baker understands that the actions that take place when a mixture of flour, fat, and water becomes a finished product are a function of scientific principals, he/she will be able to select ingredients and work with formulas with greater ease.  One doesn't need a degree in chemistry or physics in order to be able to bake, he/she only needs a good understanding of the everyday science of the kitchen makes for a well-rounded professional. (source : On Baking:  A Textbook of Baking and Pastry Fundamentals by Sarah Labensky)

The thing in baking is that it is an exact science.  Because it can be quantified for one.  Unlike in the other cooking process, one can just add or reduce or even take out one ingredient or more ingredients and still arrive at the same dish.  In baking,  the ingredients MUST be exact otherwise you will be getting different results.  You can not just add, remove, reduce, or increase flour, or sugar, or any of the baking ingredients nor even change the baking temperature or not meeting the required dough temperature and then expect the result to have the same taste, texture, volume, color, etc.  This is not the case in baking breads, cakes, pastries, etc.  Ingredients MUST be weighed, including the liquid ingredients.  If you measure ingredients using spoons and cups  you will be getting different results. Since 1 cup for example of brand A flour may weigh either lower or higher than brand B flour.  If you use the same ingredients (including brands), use the same weight of the ingredients, maintain the same dough temperature (in bread), use the same methods (creaming the butter for example in cakes instead of just mixing it directly with the rest of the ingredients) and baked it under the same temperature, you will get the same result no matter how many times you do it and no matter where you bake it.

And in order to better understand the science of baking we have understand what is going on inside a bread, a cake, a biscuit, or any baked goods.  We need to know the process in baking as well as the ingredients and their functions in baking.  We will be posting some articles on these topics later on.  Like you, we are also learning and as we learn we will be sharing whatever information we can gather.

Baking as an art.  If you were mesmerized by a certain cake decoration or how a bread had been formed and presented, that is the art it is referring to.  It is how a bread, cake, pastries, etc. had been formed, shaped, presented in an artistic way.  Well, we will get there.  Right now, we have to know how to bake first and as we do, we will get to learn how to be artistic J

- fresha-licious (11December2011)

© 2011  Fresha-licious All Rights Reserve

For further readings please check our sources / references below. 
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Sources / References:

1. On Baking:  A Textbook of Baking and Pastry Fundamentals by Sarah R. Labensky
2. My Bread by Jim Lahey
3. The Professional Pastry chef :  Fundamentals of Baking and Pastry (4th Ed) by Bo Friberg.
4.  The Essential Baker by Carole Bloom
5. Baking Ingredient Science bLinda Larsen, About.com Guide (http://busycooks.about.com/od/howtobake/a/bakingingredien.htm )

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