Basic Baking Tutorial 001: Introduction to leavening gases

Although there are like millions of cake recipes in cookbooks and all over internet, the cakes that we usually see can be divided into two basic groups. One of the groups use substantial amount of fat, whereas the other group use no fat or a very little amount of fat. The most interesting thing is there are just  six basic methods that let us make these two types of cakes. All the innumerable recipes that we see are some improvised versions of these six basic cake mixing methods. In this first tutorial series, we are simply going to discuss about the methods and their way of mixing, we will also show examples from each method and if possible video tutorial of that recipe. However, as an addition to the mixing methods we are also going to discuss a little about the raising or leavening of the cakes and how in each methods the leaving is done differently so that you get to understand the chemistry behind cake baking too. Since it will take us quite some time to write down all that we know, we are going to divide the tutorial into even smaller groups.

Lets start with cake raising or leavening today as it is necessary to understand this before going into the details of mixing methods However, we will keep it short. Leavening basically refers to making light or raising. If you cut inside a cake, most of them will have very visible sponge like texture ( lots and lots of holes inside). Some cakes have random spongy texture with lots of un-uniform holes, some have uniform ones and some cakes might not have any visible ones. This texture is a result of the leavening gases getting expanded in the oven heat. ( Well this is kind of basic science that gas gets expanded in warmer temperature). There are basically four types of leavening gases.

  • The first one is air and an example of this is the use of  egg white foams in cake batter where air is whipped into the cake batter and during baking, the air bubbles trapped inside the batter gets expanded and help the cake raise.
  • The second one is  water vapor or steam. Pastries like Choux pastry or some quickbread crusts traps water vapor generated from the heating of the ingredients and helps to raise.
  • The third one is carbon dioxide that is generated from the using of chemical leaving agents like baking soda and baking powder. We use them in so many different recipes.
  • The fourth one is the gas created from yeast fermentation. This is also called the biological method of leavening. Most of the breads and some pastries like danish and croissant use this method.

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