myFresha-licious: Baking Ingredients: Water & Other Liquids

Baking Ingredients: Water & Other Liquids

WATER & OTHER LIQUIDS  are the second largest ingredient in bread process and are an indispensable component in baking.  Hydration of flour and other ingredients is the start of the baking process.  This activates the chemical process among ingredients to produce the key elements to baking a good bread, biscuit, cakes, etc.   During hydration, the water is absorbed by the flour thereby setting off the development of the needed gluten network and promotes the gelatinization of the starch which results in the basic structure  as well as texture of the baked goods (bread, biscuit, cakes, and others) as well as stability, and extensibility of the dough in bread making.  In bread making for example, the glutenin and gliadin absorb the water or any liquid used during the hydration process which will later on leads to the development of the gluten network responsible for trapping gas making the dough to rise thereby giving the bread its volume.  Some of the liquids also combines with the starch in the flour in a process called gelatinization, this wetted or gelatinized starch attached itself to the gluten network during the mixing process resulting to a uniform, pliable, plastic like substance called the dough, which when heated up forms the crumbs of the bread.

Please check  Baking Ingredients: Flour  and  BREAD BAKING: Understanding the Main Ingredients and Their Functions in Bread Baking   for a more detailed explanation on this topic.

Liquids also dissolve the sugar and salt thereby contributing to the moisture of the baked goods.  It also activates  the leavening ingredients (baking powder, baking soda, and yeast) to react to form carbon dioxides which will later on be trapped within the gluten network of the dough or batter making up the volume of the baked breads. For further explanation on this process, please refer to Baking Ingredients: Yeast   and Baking Ingredients : Baking Powder and Baking Soda     

In cakes, liquid creates steam when the cake is heated making it rise and reach its full volume.  It also promotes coloring, add flavor and richness.  Liquids required in every cake, bread, or pastry formula may come in the form of water, liquid milk, juices, eggs or any ingredients that contain water.

Too Much or Not Enough Liquid

Liquids also contributes moistness to the texture as well as to the mouth feel of the baked goods.   The right amount of water  or liquids should be added to the bread or cake formula.  In Bread baking, too much liquid results in a denser, stickier, flatter loaf with less regular holes in it. not enough liquid  on the other hand restricts the expansion of the dough and results in a tight, dry, hard loaf. 

In cake baking, not enough liquid will render the cake tough, dry, and crumbly.  Too much liquid on the other hand will result in soggy crust, shrinkage or caving in (on either sides or top of the cakes)  It also affects the stability of the oil-in-liquid emulsion of the batter (mixing of all the ingredients of the cake including the liquids and oil forms a cake batter which is the result of an oil-in-liquid emulsion in which all of the ingredients are evenly dispersed).  In certain instances, such as addition of too much liquid or adding it too rapidly, a loss of the oil-in-water emulsion can occur. This, then, produces a “curdled” batter”, in which lumps of fat become separated from the aqueous portion. Because the batter is no longer uniformly mixed, the quality of the finished cake is adversely affected. Characteristics observed in a cake produced from curdled batter include low volume, coarse crumb, sugary top crust, and tender structure. (source: Cake Flour – Bakery Science ( )


I. MILK / DAIRY is usually more preferred as the main liquid ingredients in cake baking.  It has the same major function as water.  It’s major advantage over plain water aside from adding flavor to the cake and promoting browning, is that milk contains proteins (caseins) that set or coagulate from the heat of the oven and which form the structure of the cake, as do flour and eggs. 
Milk provides moisture and as a low cost ingredient can influence the cost of the batter, according to its ratio in the total liquids.  Milk can be increased at the expense of egg and this produces a lower batter cost.  However, unlike egg, milk is a non-aerating ingredient and has the effect of closing the crumb.
The combination of water and milk powder  can also be used. However the substitution of an equal weight of water for milk often results in sad streaks at the base of the cake.  This is because water has a higher moistening property as compared to milk.  If water is used to replace milk, then the quantity should be reduced by 10%
When making yeast dough, milk should be scalded and cooled before adding to other ingredients. This is done to improve the quality of the dough and the volume of the bread.

Here are the Main Functions of Milk in  Baking
1. Increasing crust color : The combination of proteins and lactose, a fast-browning sugar, in dairy products provides the right mix for Maillard browning (see meaning under cooking term M) When baked goods are prepared with milk instead of water, baking times and temperatures may need to be lowered to reduce excessive browning (source: How Baking Works:  Exploring the Fundamentals of Baking Science by Paula Figoni)

2. Delay Staling :   Several components in dairy products, including proteins, lactose, and milk fat, delay staling caused by starch retrogradation in the crumb of baked goods.  This is particularly noticeable in lean yeast breads, which are typically low in stale-retarding ingredients like sugar and fat.  By preventing staling, dairy products extend the shelf life in baked goods  (source: How Baking Works:  Exploring the Fundamentals of Baking Science by Paula Figoni)

3. Increase Crust Softness:  Baked products like bread and cream puffs that are made with milk instead of water have softer crusts than those made with.  Softening likely occurs because milk proteins and sugar bond to water, delaying its evaporation from the crusts  (source: How Baking Works:  Exploring the Fundamentals of Baking Science by Paula Figoni)

4. Blending Flavors and Providing Richness in Flavor:  Milk modifies the flavor of baked goods.  In cakes and breads, for example, milk blends flavors and reduces saltiness.  In baked custards, vanilla custard sauces, and pastry cream, milk products are essential in providing rich, full flavor, specially when they are high in milk fat.    (source: How Baking Works:  Exploring the Fundamentals of Baking Science by Paula Figoni)

5. Providing a Fine, Even Crumbs to Baked Goods : Some baked goods – yeast breads in particular- have a finer, more even crumb when prepared with milk or dry milk solids.  It is likely a combination of milk proteins, emulsifiers, and calcium salts in milk that helps stabilize small air bubbles.  The smaller the air bubbles, the finer the crumbs.   (source: How Baking Works:  Exploring the Fundamentals of Baking Science by Paula Figoni)

6. absorbing Moisture : Protein in milk act as driers, absorbing moisture and increasing the water absorption rate of yeast doughs.  The amount of extra water needed in yeast doughs is ounce for ounce about the same amount of DMS added.  This means yeast doughs made with milk require more liquid than doughs made with water.  This ability to absorb water contributes to the ability of milk proteins to delay bread staling   (source: How Baking Works:  Exploring the Fundamentals of Baking Science by Paula Figoni)

7.  Aiding in the coagulation of Egg Protein : Custards made with water instead of milk do not firm up properly, because milk aids egg coagulation.  Milk also has been shown to firm up crumbs in cakes, making them spongier and more resilient.  It appears that both milk proteins and the calcium salts in milk strengthens egg structure, much as the calcium salts in hard water strengthen gluten structure  (source: How Baking Works:  Exploring the Fundamentals of Baking Science by Paula Figoni)

8.  Provide Moisture:  Because fluid milk is about 88% water, anytime it is used in baked goods, it contributes moisture for dissolving sugar and salts, for developing gluten, and for gelatinizing starch granules   (source: How Baking Works:  Exploring the Fundamentals of Baking Science by Paula Figoni)

9.  Adding Nutritional Value : Milk contains high quality protein, vitamins (riboflavin, vitamin A, and vitamin D) and minerals, specially calcium.  (source: How Baking Works:  Exploring the Fundamentals of Baking Science by Paula Figoni)

Here are some of the Milk  / Dairies used in baking specially in baking cakes and cookies:
1.Milk generally when called for in a recipe refer to cow’s milk and is available in many forms like whole milk, low-fat milk, and skim (fat-free), powdered, and condensed milk
Whole Milk Whole milk is milk from which almost no fat has been removed.
Low Fat Milk milk with most of the fat removed in which case only 1-2% milk fat is left.  It can be used to substitute whole milk or fat-free milk.
Fat-Free Milk Fat–free milk is also called skim milk or nonfat milk. This is milk with most or all of its fat content removed.
Skim Milk is a fat-free variety of milk that contains no more than 0.5% of milkfat.  It can be used to replace whole milk, low-fat milk, or fat-free milk without any noticeable effect on the baked products. However, it gives less flavor and richness as compared to using whole milk
Powdered Milk Powdered milk is milk that has had all moisture removed, producing a powder. When reconstituted with water, it can be used in place of regular milk.
Sweetened Condensed Milk Sweetened condensed milk is whole milk that has been thickened by removing some of the water by evaporation, then sugar is added producing a thick, sweet product.  It is very sweet and sticky, and adds richness to the food.  It is usually used to make candy bars, pies, puddings, fudgy cakes. Do not use sweetened condensed milk as a substitution for evaporated milk or any other milk products.

2. Evaporated Milk Evaporated milk is milk that has been thickened by removing some of the water by evaporation. Do not use evaporated milk as a substitution for sweetened condensed milk.  Evaporated milk can be reconstituted by adding water and it can be added to recipes calling for milk.
3. Half and Half Half and half is made with equal parts of cream and whole milk. 
4. Whipping Cream Whipping cream is also called heavy cream. This is a cream with a high fat content, it contains at least 36% of butterfat, that can be whipped to make it thicker.
5. Light Cream a dairy product containing 18 to 30% milkfat, also referred to as table cream.  It is also used in baked goods, but if used in replacement of heavy cream, the texture of the food will not be as creamy.  It curdles easily as compared to heavy cream so when it is needed to be heated, heat it under low heat and heat it slowly.  Do not let it boil.
6. Cultured Dairy Products –  are fermented by the addition of live bacteria (lactic acid bacteria) Lactic acid bacteria ferment lactose to lactic acid and other flavorful products.  The lactic acid lowers the pH of cultured dairy products and provides a pleasant sour flavor.  Formulas requiring cultured dairy products must also contain baking soda.  When baking soda reacts with the acid from the cultured dairy products it produces carbon dioxide which is the source of leavening for some baked goods such as quick breads, cakes, cookies.  If there is more acid in the dairy product than is needed to react with the baking soda, the excess acid will lower the pH of the mix, tenderizing and whitening the baked products.
– Cultured Buttermilk or Buttermilk – Buttermilk is the sour-tasting liquid that is left over after milk or cream has been churned to make butter. It is also made by adding lactic acid bacteria to fat-free or reduced fat or low fat milk (1% milk fat)  It is thicker than regular milk because of the effect of the acid on the casein protein.  
You can substitute buttermilk with sourmilk. 
– Sourmilk  can be made by adding 15 ml (1 tbsp) of vinegar to 225 grams (8 ounces) of fluid milk.  Sourmilk, however, doesn’t have the thick consistency of cultured buttermilk and it has a sharper sourness, but it does provide the same acidity for tenderizing, whitening, and leavening.  (note:  sourmilk is not the same as soured milk as the latter refer to spoiled milk)
– Kefir cultured milk and acidophilus cultured milk are cultured milk that are similar with buttermilk in terms of functions in baked products.  They are only cultured using different bacteria, giving them distinct flavors.
– Yogurt is a cultured dairy product making use of two differenct bacteris lactobacillus bulgaries and streptococcus thermophilus and addint it to fluid milk.  This gives yogurt a stronger and more acidic flavor and firmer consistency compared to buttermilk.  It can be used as low fat substitute for sour cream.
– Sour creamis a dairy product produced from sweet pasteurized cream. It has a thick consistency and a flavor that is slightly tangy. It is fairly acidic, which activates the leavening action of baking soda.  It adds richness to baked goods, making them moist and almost springy.  It is also  used as a topping and for making dips. It is also used as an ingredient in both sweet and savory dishes. Sour cream is also available in low-fat and nonfat varieties.

= = = = = Baking Ingredients:  Water & Other Liquids – TO BE CONTINUED . . . . . . . . . .

 © Fresha-licious (29December 2011)

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Sources / References :

1. Previous training notes provided by Puratos Philippines( )
2. Water:  A Treatise on Baking
3. How Baking Works:  Exploring the Fundamentals of Baking Science by Paula Figoni
4. On Baking:  A Textbook of Baking and Pastry Fundamentals by Sarah R. Labensky
5. The Professional Pastry chef :  Fundamentals of Baking and Pastry (4th Ed) by Bo Friberg.
6. The Essential Baker by Carole Bloom
7. My Bread by Jim Lahey
8. by Willie Prejean
12. How baking Works – baking911 –
14.  Real Bread-making –
15. Baking Ingredients and their functions –
16. Water Functions in Baking by Didier Rosada –
17. Baking Ingredient Science By Linda Larsen, Guide ( )
18. Cake Flour – Bakery Science ( )

19. Cake Faults – ( )