Five weird things you didn’t know about baking

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If you choose a career you really enjoy, success is sweeter, and there’s not much sweeter than baked goods, like doughnuts, cakes and pies. Are you into baking? Well, you can make a career out of it, and Centennial College can help make that career happen. In our Pastry Arts program, you can spend time learning to make baked goods in the kitchen labs in our new Culinary Arts Centre, learning fundamental baking skills. If you take the Pastry Arts Management program, too, you can become the one planning and executing the dishes in a bakery, as the program teaches you the business side of baking, along with the baking itself. Here’s some of the more interesting things that you’ll be learning in these programs.

1. Baking soda is kind of magic

While it’s a key ingredient in baking, it turns out that baking soda is a substance with a lot of uses. This article from Mental Floss goes into its non-baking uses, which include:

  • Tenderizing meat, by placing it in a mixture of water and baking soda.
  • Polishing silver, by pouring baking soda into a basin lined with aluminum foil, adding boiling water, and letting your silver soak.
  • Removing splinters by, again, applying water and baking soda to the skin, putting a bandage over it, and letting it sit for a couple of days, to make the skin softer and the splinter easier to remove.
  • Helping soothe bug bites, by applying that same baking soda/water mixture to the skin around a bite.

2. Betty Crocker doesn’t exist

As Delish explains, Betty Crocker was a fictional person, originally created by the Washburn Crosby company to give a personalized response to customer’s questions, before becoming the face of her own brand. She was given a friendly first name, and the last name of a retired employee.

3. Chocolate chip cookies were a mistake

A lucky mistake, but still, a mistake, according to Craftsy. They started as an attempt by a baker to make pure chocolate cookies by adding chopped chocolate, under the assumption that they’d melt afterwards. It didn’t quite work, but the bits of chocolate that didn’t melt turned out to be delicious. In fact, chocolate chips themselves didn’t exist until after this baking misadventure, and were created because the cookie was popular.

4. Baking is pure chemistry

There’s more to baking than just mixing and heating the ingredients. In fact, cakes, cookies and bread are produced by complicated chemical reactions. This story from Dispatch explains it in more detail, but to sum it up, here’s how it works.

Flour gives a baked good its structure, while baking powder or soda give it airiness. Eggs are like the binding glue, oil and butter tenderize, sugar sweetens, and water gives moisture. When the dry and wet ingredients are combined, gluten is created by proteins from the flour bonding, while the baking powder or soda release carbon dioxide, which makes the whole thing expand. After that, each ingredient competes to get water for itself, which is why putting them in in the right order is important.

Putting the ingredients in the oven is when the reactions get started. The starch in the dish creates a webbed structure that traps water and keeps a dish moist. That carbon dioxide makes the whole thing expand through bubbles that the gluten keeps in place.

That’s why baking is more precise than other kinds of cooking. Even a slight difference in ingredients or methods makes that chemistry happen differently. For example, if there’s too much baking powder or soda, those bubbles won’t be contained, and will float to the top, making the cake sink.

5. Putting baked goods in the fridge actually makes them go stale faster

When it comes to leftover cake or cookies, keep them on the counter instead of refrigerating them! That same science article explains that cake goes hard from starch crystallizing, and that it’s sugar and fat that keeps a cake from going hard, but chilling it causes the opposite effect. So, unlike most other food, leaving it out in the open will keep it fresher.

By Anthony Geremia

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