The Importance of Accuracy in Baking

It is often said that Baking (unlike Cooking) is a Science in itself and I for one support this theorem wholeheartedly.

Across the board, most bakery items are made up of the same basic ingredients:- flour, fat, sugar, water, eggs and some form of leavening agents. The main difference lies either in the proportion of a certain ingredient in relation to the others or simply in the different methods of preparation.


Proportion :

In baking, be it baking a loaf of bread or a piece of cake, the recipe is based on a certain formula. The balance between each and every ingredient plays a crucial role in the kind of bread/cake we produced. A change in the percentage of sugar to that of eggs or in the percentage of butter and sugar to that of flour all play a determining role in changing the structure of the crumb of the cake/bread. Too much fat but too little eggs will give a collapsed cake as sufficient amount of eggs is necessary to give the cake structure and volume.

Function :

Certain ingredients can be replaced; others simply CANNOT be. For example, there is no way you can expect to change baking powder to baking bicarbonate (simply because that is what you have in your cupboard at that moment) and still expect a nicely risen cake. Every ingredient has a specific role to play and the amount used is CRUCIAL to the end result of the product. Too little salt in your bread dough will definitely not give you a good crusty loaf. However, a little less salt in your soup will still give you a relatively good soup; switching celery to carrots in your soup will not change the texture of the soup; just their relative taste but the cook will still get a good pot of soup. Its just a matter of preference of celery over carrots or vice versa.

Preparation Methods :

In a cake, beating the sugar and butter first, then adding the eggs and later the flour versus beating the flour and butter first, then beating the eggs and sugar separately in a different bowl and then mixing the two batter together will definitely give you two very different kinds of cake despite having used the same cake formula/recipe. Similarly, in a bread, if you left out the salt while beating the dough; sprinkling it (the salt) onto the bread just as a soon the bread comes out from the oven ; hoping that it will dissolve into the bread will be totally useless. However, in cooking that pot of soup, putting in the salt at the beginning or at the end of the cooking process will make very little different to the taste of that final pot of soup.

Thus in conclusion, the cook has the privilege of making adjustments along the way in his cooking process; bakers and pastry chefs CANNOT make such adjustments. Ingredients must be measured with total accuracy in the bakeshop. That is why a chemist can easily switch to the baking because of the understanding for the need for accuracy.

While creativity and skills are important success tools for any pastry chef; but first and foremost , understanding of the need for accuracy in the bakeshop is essential. Simply said, when the recipe calls for 350g of flour, it doesn’t mean 350g more or less; it simply means 350g.

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