The basic goal of baking is to transform basic dry ingredient like flour and sugar into fluffy, delicious sponges and doughs. This would however not be possible without adding a few wet ingredients to the mix. Let’s have a look at the most commonly used wet ingredient, and just what role each plays in ensuring a perfect bake for your tea table.
Milk and milk varieties
The proteins in milk and the different versions thereof, like buttermilk, cream, condensed milk, yoghurt, and cream cheese, play a multipurpose role in baking. These lactic proteins ensure a pleasant taste as it softens, contributes moisture, and adds unique flavour to baked goods. In addition, the binding capabilities of milk give doughs or batters strength and structure as it bakes.
As with all perishable products, a dedicated baker knows fresh milk is best, but a trip to the shop isn’t always possible. Luckily most dairy freezes well in its simplest form, as long as it is left to defrost naturally at room temperature. Any heat applied to speed up defrosting can cook the delicate milk proteins prematurely, reducing its efficacy in baking.
Even more so than with milk, the uses for eggs in baking are surprisingly versatile, the most essential being that they are an excellent binder and leavening agent, meaning eggs add lots of fluffy volume.
Besides this, an egg in its entirety can be used to add flavour and glaze surfaces before baking.
Separated into its yellow and white components, the uses for an egg become even more. Egg white is an excellent drying agent that can also act as a basic edible glue for fondant and pasty. The yellow parts, or yolks, are famous for adding silken texture and rich flavour to a variety of luxury bakes.
Although the common chicken egg is marketed in a variety of sizes, recipes generally call for large eggs stored at room temperature, unless otherwise specified.
Duck eggs are a popular substitute for chicken eggs as they have a unique taste and do not contain a protein often associated with egg-related allergies. Do note that duck eggs are generally slightly larger, so recipes must be adjusted accordingly by using two duck eggs to replace every three chicken eggs.
Butter and shortening
Natural salted or unsalted butter, depending on preference, is better suited to baking than any other fat product on the market today. This is due to butter’s pleasant flavour and versatility, but also stems from its melting point falling just above body temperature, which allows cookies and other baked goods made with butter to achieve the sought after “melt in your mouth” effect.
Shortening and margarine are both fats manufactured from vegetable oils, with the only crucial difference being that margarine also contains about 20% milk and water. Neither are as flavourful as butter, but depending on the recipe, vegetable-based fat can offer softer and lighter results in baking.
Although all fats last best in the fridge, always soften and bring them to room temperature for baking. If a recipe calls for melted butter, be careful never to let it reach a bubbling heat.
Although not all recipes call for water, it is an excellent and essential ingredient in the baking industry, especially in producing bread. Common bread dough is roughly 40 % water as this basic ingredient is responsible for forming the gluten strands that define bread and gives most doughs the required consistency and elasticity for forming the multiple variations of bread we love.
During the baking process water also acts as a popular solvent or medium for substances like sugar and enzymes that are indispensable for the fermentation of yeast cells.
Baking is life’s most delicious science and wouldn’t be the same without a bit of acid. Lemon juice is a popular citric acid used for adding flavour and tartness to dairy-based bakes as it effectively sets off a controlled curdling process.
Vinegar, another acidic component, is a surprisingly common ingredient in baked goods, considering its sharp flavour. Vinegar is often included in cake and cookie batters to react with baking soda as a dual raising agent and start the chemical reaction needed to produce carbon dioxide and give those batters a lift as they bake.
Although there are many different types of vinegar on the market, white spirit vinegar is best suited for baking. Despite a sharp, even harsh, flavour if tasted alone, the simple flavour of white spirit vinegar fades when used in a complex batter. Feel free to stock up as the shelf life of vinegar is more than adequate to keep a bottle on hand at all times.
Now that you’re all clued up on the common and essential wet ingredients for baking, you can put a few of them to use in this tried and tested recipe, perfect to feature at any tea party.
Sweet Celebrations Lemon Tart
What you’ll need:
1 x 470 g pack of CAB Foods Tart Dough
2 x 385 g tins of condensed milk
4 x large eggs
200ml CAB Lemon Juice
120 g white chocolate disks
Rainbow Hundreds and Thousands for decoration
A 24 cm loose bottom quiche pan
Preheat your oven to 1800C and line your quiche pan with greased baking paper.
Follow the baking instructions supplied with CAB Foods Tart Dough to prepare a crunchy golden crust for your tart.
Sperate your eggs and put the whites aside for future use.
Whisk the 4 yolks thoroughly with all the condensed milk and a pinch of salt.
Slowly add CAB Lemon juice to your mixture while stirring. You can adjust the amount of lemon juice according to taste, so start by adding half and testing your mixture before adding more.
Once you are happy with your filling, pour it into your crust and smooth with a palette knife.
Bake for 15 minutes at 1800C and allow to cool completely.
Melt your white chocolate disks in the microwave at 30-second burst on high, stirring in between until smooth. Drizzle the melted chocolate over your tart with a fork and sprinkle generously with hundreds and thousands to decorate.
Place your tart in the fridge for 20 minutes before carefully removing it from your pan and serve.
For a lemon meringue variation of this recipe, whisk the egg whites you have left over in an electric mixer with one cup of castor sugar, 1 teaspoon of vinegar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence and a pinch of salt. You can stop whisking once you have a soft point.
Once your lemon filling has baked and cooled, generously scoop the meringue batter on top of your tart, but do not smooth down.
Bake at 1600C until only the tips of your meringue start to brown.
At CAB Foods we pride ourselves on providing beginner and advanced bakers the best selection of ingredient they require to achieve the most delicious treats. Visit any of our five stores or shop online to browse our range of products, utensils, and premixes ideal to deck out your tea table.