An Introduction to the Chemistry of Cooking By Argiris Malapanis

April 2, 2013

Many people are aware of the basic ingredients used in baking and cooking, but not everyone understands the general science behind why they are used. Each of the following substances has a specific function:

Flour – creates structure as its proteins, combined with water, bond to one another to form gluten.

Fats, oils, and emulsifiers – moisturize and tenderize by coating the flour’s proteins. This helps prevent them from bonding and forming gluten.

Leavening agents – cause baked goods to rise (making them light and airy) by incorporating gas bubbles into the dough. Baking powder and baking soda release carbon dioxide, which expands the existing bubbles.

Sugar – not only adds sweetness, but also increases moisture by drawing water to itself.

Eggs – act as binding agents. Similar to the leavening process, the proteins in egg whites coat air pockets and help keep them intact while baking. Egg yolks, which contain lipids and emulsifiers, tenderize and add moisture.

About the Author:

Argiris Malapanis holds a Master of Science in Physics from the University of Minnesota. His favorite hobbies include cooking and photography.

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