Do you ever wonder what makes a cookie chewy versus crunchy? How about what makes a pizza dough just the right texture versus something too dense? Or even what makes bread have the texture it does? Well, today we’re learning about the science of baking and what that means for bread. Because it is in fact the science, well, chemistry rather, that makes baking so successful!
Recently we’ve come across a great website, Culinate, that focuses on addressing the practical challenges and joys of food. One of the published articles by Kelly Stewart, really developed the concept of what makes certain ingredients in baking give a certain outcome.
To begin, let’s look at flour. This is an ingredient used very often in the world of baking. According to a baking instructor, Peter Reinhart, that was interviewed about this specific product, he states there are two proteins that play a role in baking: glutenin and gliadin. When water is added, the two proteins bond and create gluten. The more you knead these proteins, the stronger the bond which will over-all effect the texture of the bread.
In something like a pastry, that has a much flakier and delicate crust, meaning the proteins in this delicacy must have a lower protein content.
Here’s how you tell if your flour has a high protein content, or low one: “Measure two cups into a bowl and stir it with a scant cup of water.” If the water is absorbed like crazy and dough forms, it has a high-protein content. Flour that is not as protein-rich won’t come together unless you add more flour.
So for a heartier bread outcome, be sure to use high-protein flour. For a more delicate crust, use a less protein-rich flour. Use this tip as a general guideline, and once you develop an understanding for how your flours work, dare we say it…. you can start to improvise. We here people say all the time that “baking is such an exact science,” but truth is, the science is how the ingredients work together. Once you can get a handle on that…. you can start to use recipes as a guideline and begin improvising.
Be sure to stay tuned for more tips on the science of baking!!