Wednesday, December 9, 2015

How to Achieve Professional Baking at Home

I used to wonder how bakeries created such delectable treats while my home baked goods were edible but no comparison.  Come on, we can all imagine the sensation of biting into a crumbly muffin or a chewy donut.  Is there a secret to baking at home with professional results?

After years of baking at home, I believe that it comes down to a few simple tips.  The most important aspect of baking starts with the flour.  There are many varieties of flour available and each has a specific application.  Of course, the home baker can use all-purpose flour; however, this is too general for professional quality.  Protein content defines the final structure and texture of baked goods.

High protein flour (bread flour) = More gluten development = chewy and/or elastic texture
Low protein flour (cake flour) = Less gluten development = crumbly and/or course texture

Think about the texture of the baked good to determine when it's best to use these different flours.  For example, pizza dough is elastic and yeast breads are chewy; this is where bread flour works best, along with kneading to further develop the gluten strands.  Foods such as muffins, quick breads, pancakes, etc benefit from using cake flour and gently mixing ingredients just until combined.

I have actually used bread flour when baking simple chocolate chip cookies because it results in a more chewy cookie.  For cupcakes, cake flour is used and results in a delicate texture.  When baking bread, I will also use whole wheat flour; however, bread flour and cake flour are mostly stocked in my pantry.

One additional tip to making professional home baked goods includes choosing high quality ingredients.  The quality of the butter, vanilla, and chocolate can influence the final texture and flavor.  Since I enjoy baked goods in moderation, I find that when it tastes as good as a bakery, a small amount can satisfy a craving.

Happy Baking
Joyce Rode, MA


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Kaplan Center for Health and Wellness
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