The Science of Baking

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Harris G., Staff Writer

    Baking is often considered an art form, but what makes it unique is that it is also a science. Ingredients have to be in perfect proportions, mixed in the correct way, and baked for the correct amount of time. As Alton Brown said, “Everything in food is science. The only subjective part is when you eat it.”

    Science isn’t just involved in the sense that there is a precise way in which everything in baking should be prepared in exact proportions, but also in the actual process of baking itself. Chemical changes, even some that aren’t even understood by chemists today, are present wherever you look. For example, the process that causes baked goods to brown when they are baked is called a Maillard reaction, where sugar, proteins, and amino acids chemically react and form that beautiful golden-brown color. This is only one of many chemical reactions that occur when baking anything. To name a few more, when baking a cake, baking powder releases air that makes the cake fluffy, fat in the batter lubricates this process, and protein in the egg reacts with the heat to make the cake firm.

   Bakers have to understand these processes, what factors affect them, know that they are replicable, and how to facilitate them in order to make new recipes for baked goods. And yet, on top of all of this, there is an art to the process as well. Mostly in decoration, which is entirely an art form, but also in knowing the science behind baking and using it to add your own personal flavor to a baked good. Hopefully, this article has shown the talent and expertise that good bakers have, and hopefully they can get the credit that they deserve for being such masterful scientists and artists simultaneously.