Reflection About the Basic Principles of Baking

This week’s learning is related to the basic baking theory. I have an overwhelming sense of so much knowledge which I’m not familiar with. Before this course started, I thought I would learn how to shape baking things, and how to decorate them, etc. What I needed to do was just to follow instructions. However, after one-week’s learning in the kitchen lab, I know I was wrong. What I’m going to learn is more than these skills. To be a good baker, you need to know not only how to mix the ingredients, or how to handle the equipment, but also why. A good baker should know the scientific reasons. For example, why you should knead bread dough a little longer, and why you put so much fats and sugars in cakes. Only when you truly understand the basic principles, you are able to control your products. If you like your bread look browner, you need to put more sugar in it. If you expect a more chewy baked good, you will choose the bread flour instead of cake flour.

Like I said, I learned a lot this week. I want to discuss three of them here. The first concept is gluten. There isn’t any gluten in flour. The appearance of gluten depends on certain conditions. It is a combination of proteins and water. Flour has two types of proteins. One is glutenin which is like broken elastic bands. The other is gliadin which is like coiled elastic bands. When they mix with water, the gliadin uncoil. Then glutenin and gliadin stretch into each other, and they form some long elastic strings. That’s why the whole dough becomes more elastic and stretchable. The next thing I want to talk about the right way to store breads. I always put breads into the refrigerator without knowing that starch retrogrades more quickly at refrigerator temperature, even the breads are wrapped very well. From this week’s learning, I know I may either wrap breads and put them at room temperature or freeze them. Choosing which way depends on long-term storage or short-term storage. I will never leave breads in the refrigerator. Another interesting thing is how to distinguish bread, pastry and cake flours. We can use our sense organs to tell their difference. Among the three types of flour, cake flour has a pure white and it’s easy to be made a clump by hand. About bread flour, it feels slightly coarse if you use your fingers to rub it. If you squeeze it, the flour clump will fall apart when your hand is opened. Bakers like to use bread flour to dust their benches, because it spreads easily. As to pastry flour, I think its characters are in the middle of cake flour and bread flour. Therefore, I won’t use cake flour to make breads, if someone put the cake flour in bread flour’s container.

In this week, I also learned some chemical and physical theories. I have to admit that some knowledge is not new for me, but I almost forgot it. In the future, I’d better connect the baking theory with my prior knowledge. It will be easy for me to understand what I’m studying.

I also want to talk about the importance of clarification. I made a huge mistake because of misunderstanding today. If I clarified with my instructor, I wouldn’t leave school early. I thought I could go home to finish my journal after handing in the tests paper, but I was wrong. This incident is an alarm for me. In the coming days, if I don’t double check the instructions with others, maybe I will get in big trouble. Such as over-mixing the dough, or burn the cakes by setting wrong temperature. I should remember and learn this lesson. It won’t happen again.

We made biscuits twice this week. I’m looking forward to make more baking goods next week. I really enjoy the process that the dough turns into the biscuits.   

Let me show you the biscuits we baked. They are very beautiful, right?

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