Want To Learn The Science Of Baking

Decorating By sappy42 Updated 7 Aug 2010 , 12:25am by itsacake

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sappy42 Posted 6 Aug 2010 , 1:18pm
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Hello! Newbie here. Does anyone have any suggestions (other than to go to pastry school, which I've considered) on how to learn the science of baking? I'm trying recipes but want to understand what everything does and why. I grew up on cake mixes and while I like them I really want to learn to do scratch recipes.

I'd love input from the pros/experts or even beginners who are a little further along in it than me! TIA!


9 replies
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bobwonderbuns Posted 6 Aug 2010 , 1:26pm
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Alton Brown has a couple of great books out, one on the science of cooking and the other on the science of baking. They are "I'm here for the food" and "I'm here for more food," or something like that. If you go on Amazon and look them up, several other science of baking books come up too. Oh and welcome to CC!! icon_biggrin.gif

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deMuralist Posted 6 Aug 2010 , 1:32pm
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I like Shirley O. Corriher's "Cookwise". Great information on cooking and baking and what each ingredient does, but don't care for her recipes. I often give this book as a wedding gift.

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kmstreepey Posted 6 Aug 2010 , 1:33pm
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I am reading/studying an amazing book on this very topic. It is Bakewise by Shirley O'Corriher. It is really wonderful - great explanations of all the science that goes into baking. It explains the ratios, the effects of each ingredient, and how the ingredients relate to each other. A huge section at the beginning deals with cakes, but she also has great info on pastry and breads. I also have both of Alton Brown's books, but find Bakewise much more helpful with regard to cakes and baking because that is her focus in the book. Alton Brown in those books deals a lot with other cooking methods and not as much with baking. I highly recommend Bakewise! (I know, I'm going overboard, but can you tell I'm really excited about this book?!) I hope that helps!

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bobwonderbuns Posted 6 Aug 2010 , 1:50pm
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There's another book that I've had on my Amazon wishlist for a while called "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen" by Harold McGee. He explains not only the science, but a lot of the history of food which I find fascinating.

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kansaslaura Posted 6 Aug 2010 , 2:35pm
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I have and love the book "How Baking Works"

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PiccoloChellie Posted 6 Aug 2010 , 2:36pm
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I second Shirley's "Bakewise" and "Cookwise" as well as Harold McGee's "On Food and Cooking." All three are amazing, as mentioned, and cover the science behind it all.
Also second Alton Brown's various books and shows.

Other books you may find helpful:

Something else that you may find helpful ... Amazon has about 68 billion OLD SCHOOL cookbooks (and by old school I mean from the 1600s to the early 1900s) available for free for the Kindle. You don't have to have the Kindle device to take advantage of these books; they have a free software download that will allow you to download the books to your computer and read them right on the screen.
While they don't *technically* cover hard science behind cooking & baking, they do illustrate how to bake by intuition. In 1843 most ovens were measured by "quick" or "slow" rather than by degrees - you didn't preheat your oven to 375, you baked your cake in a quick oven, for example.
Many ingredients used are obsolete or .... shall we say, unpalatable to our current preferences, and the measurements used (if there are any) are generally completely foreign to the modern baker (two wineglasses of rosewater is HOW MUCH now??) but at the very least they're an interesting historical read. With a little patience you may find some of the recipes usable; I'm in the process of integrating some I've found into my current repertoire. icon_wink.gif

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sappy42 Posted 6 Aug 2010 , 7:37pm
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Thank you all for your suggestions! I requested Bakewise from my local library and think I'm gonna check out Amazon.

Thanks again!

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anxietyattack Posted 6 Aug 2010 , 9:03pm
post #9 of 10

I have Bakwise and it's my saving grace! I couldn't make cut and bake cookies before I got this cookbook. Now I can bake!!!!
The author is actually a chemist from Vanderbilt. I'm very happy with this book.

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itsacake Posted 7 Aug 2010 , 12:25am
post #10 of 10

I have Shirley Corriher's Cookwise and Harold McGee's book too, but the one I pull off the shelf first when I need info is Paula Figoni's How Baking Works. No matter what question we asked the chef in pastry school it seems his answer always included " it's in How Baking Works... "

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