CAKE BAKING BASICS:
Cake baking is based on scientific principles and requires the interaction of very specific ingredients in exact proportions. Before you begin, make sure you have the ingredients called for in the cake recipe.
Baking a cake gives the same results when the same ingredients and amounts are used, under the same conditions, following the same steps.
THE BAKING PROCESS:
The changes to a dough or batter as it bakes are basically the same in all baked products, from breads to cookies and cakes. You should know what these changes are so you can learn how to control them.
The stages in the baking process are as follows:
1. Formation and expansion of gases – the gases primarily responsible for leavening baked goods are carbon dioxide, which is released by the action of yeast and by baking powder and baking soda; air, which is incorporated into doughs and batters during mixing; and steam, which is formed during baking.
Some gases — such as carbon dioxide in proofed bread dough and air in sponge cake batters — are already present in the dough. As they are heated, the gases expand and leaven the product. Some gases are not formed until heat is applied. Yeast and baking powder form gases rapidly when first placed in the oven. Steam is also formed as the moisture of the dough is heated.
2. Trapping of the gases in air cells – as the gases are formed and expand,they are trapped in a stretchable network formed by the proteins in the dough.
These proteins are primarily gluten and sometimes egg protein.Without gluten or egg protein, most of the gases would escape, and the product would be poorly leavened.Breads without enough gluten are heavy.
3. Gelatinization of starches The starches absorb moisture,expand,and become firmer. This contributes to structure. Gelatinization of starches
begins at about 140°F (60°C).
4. Coagulation of proteins Like all proteins, gluten and egg proteins coagulate or solidify when they reach high enough temperatures. This process gives most of the structure to baked goods. Coagulation begins when the temperature of the dough reaches about 165°F (74°C). Correct baking temperature is important.
If the temperature is too high, coagulation starts too soon, before the expansion of gases reaches its peak. The resulting product has poor volume or a split crust. If the temperature is too low, the proteins do not coagulate soon enough, and the product may collapse.
5. Evaporation of some of the water – this takes place throughout the baking process. If a baked product of a specific weight is required, allowance must be made for moisture loss when scaling the dough. For example, to get a 1-lb loaf of baked bread, it is necessary to scale about 18 oz dough.
The percentage of weight loss varies greatly, depending on such factors as proportion of surface area to volume, baking time, and whether the item is baked in a pan or directly on the oven hearth.
6. Melting of shortenings Different shortenings melt and release trapped gases at different temperatures, so the proper shortening should be selected for each product.
7. Crust formation and browning A crust is formed as water evaporates from the surface and leaves it dry. Browning occurs when sugars caramelize and starches and sugars undergo certain chemical changes caused by heat. This contributes to flavor. Milk, sugar, and egg increase browning.