Sunday, 25 October 2020

Baking...and some of my learnings from it

I have always loved baking. Baking used to be a weekly affair for me during my uni days, especially when I was studying in the UK. Whenever I'm stressed out, I'd jog along the quaint canal from my university all the way to Tesco, which is about 3km away, and buy butter (because butter is so affordable there!) and all sort of baking goodies, whip out some baked goods and share it with my friends (because it's wayyy too fattening to have it all on my own too!). And also, my rental fee is inclusive of utilities bill so I wasn't worried about racking up my electricity bill :p 

After I've graduated, I found myself baking lesser and lesser until about February this year, I've decided to reclaim part of myself, to do more things I truly enjoy doing and picked up baking again. I try baking at least something once a week. 

And definitely, there were many many failures. Many food wastage, because sometimes my end product is so awful, I have no other choice but to chuck it away. Flat cookie. Sunken cake. Cake-y cookies. Burnt cakes. Etc. Etc.

And no, I don't have photos of them, sadly D: I have a tendency to only document my better bakes. 

*Mental note to take photos of my failed baked products* 

And hence, I'd like to share two of the most important takeaway/lessons/things to note about baking, which I hope will help you get started on baking and minimize any...mistakes/wastage that comes with baking! (Okay it's two MAIN takeaway and many sub-categories, please bear with me)

1. Baking is essentially SCIENCE

Over the weekend, I made this pineapple coconut cake. It looks great,  smells great.
But after one bite I could tell that something was terribly wrong with the cake. It was bitter.


It turns out that pineapple reacts with dairy products to produce a bitter-tasting enzyme, resulting in an utterly bitter cake. This is caused by...

The chemical reaction between your ingredients 

Sometimes, certain food compounds will react with another food compound to produce...undesirable effects. Like pineapple and dairy products. And hence, the order in which you mix your ingredients matter. The type of ingredients you use matter. Do not interchange baking powder with baking soda. These are different ingredients that might mess with the chemical reactions! 

Also, remember how we were taught to avoid wearing black clothes on a hot day because the colour black absorbs more heat? Well, this is applicable for baking too!

Watch this amazing Ted-Ed video for more explanation! 

And this - one of the best Scientific baking video about the Science behind chocolate chips cookie!
Also, have you ever followed a recipe's direction exactly, but when you followed the recommended timing of baking, you'd find your baked goods looking under-baked/over-baked? This might be caused by the

Colour or material of your baking tray/pan

Are you baking with a black or white baking tray?
Are you using metal or ceramic, or perhaps glass, baking tray? 

Some baking tray/pan tend to absorb more heat faster, which results in the exterior of the baked goods being cooked faster! 

For example, if you use a dark coloured baking tray to bake cookies, you will notice that your cookies tend to cook/brown faster compared to when you use a silver coloured one!
One of my favourite baked goods - the chocolate coconut blondies! 

A little tip - try to see what colour and material the recipe you are following is using! :D And adjust accordingly from there


Yes, my biggest takeaway is that baking is Science, don't mess around, bake as though you are in a science lab and...

2. Accuracy is the key

While cooking is more of "agak-agak" (approximation), following your heart/your instincts, and eye-balling. Baking relies a lot on ACCURACY. Accuracy in terms of:

a. Weight of ingredients

If the recipe calls for 200 grams of sugar, make sure you use 200 grams of sugar, exactly! It's always helpful to get a digital scale.

Why is this important? As mentioned above, baking is essentially science, more specifically, chemistry - if you took chemistry in school, you'd know how important accuracy is. Like for the neutralisation process - too much acid will cause your solution to be acidic rather than neutral - it's the same for baking too. 

Reducing the sugar amount because you want it less sweet? It might result in a drier cake! This post details really clearer what happens when you reduce the sugar amount in your baking!

Adding in more butter because well, butter is yummy? It might cause your cookie to spread too much! 

b. Baking temperature

Why is this important? Too hot, your cake might rise too fast and collapse. Too cold, your cake might sink in the middle. 

Hence, it is important that you pre-heat your oven so that you bake your goods at an accurate temperature. 

c. Types of ingredients

If the recipe calls for white granulated sugar, I wouldn't recommend that you substitute it entirely with brown sugar. That's because different ingredients 

Brown sugar tends to retain more moisture than white granulated sugar. It also has a more "nutty" and deep taste compared to white granulated sugar. Hence, if you want a chewy cookie, stick to using brown sugar! The brown sugar will help retain moisture and hence producing that "chewiness". 

d. Temperature of ingredients when mixing them

When I first started getting into baking, I noticed that many recipes call for "room-temperature/softened butter". 

So if I have a block of butter right out of the refrigerator, I can blitz it in the microwave till it melts right? No please don't do that. Here's a helpful video explaining why, and also some tips on how to quickly bring your butter to room temperature!

Of course, there are still lots of learnings I have gotten from baking, and a lot that I still don't know. I have been picking up various cook books to learn about the science behind baking 
Ending the post with one of my personal favourite cake - the pistachio lime cake!

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