Bakery Workbench with Klaus Tenbergen, March 2013
Q: How can we test baking powder and baking soda for functionality?
Holly, via email
A: Active baking soda bubbles when a few drops of vinegar are added and baking powder does the same when mixed with a few drops of water. If either of these chemical leaveners has no reaction, replace it.
Q: Our bread has an “off” odor. What is causing this?
T.R., Charlotte, N.C.
A: If the the cause isn’t rope, then it is most likely associated with the yeast. Yeast does not survive the baking process, but bread can become contaminated with yeast during the cooling and slicing process due to dirty equipment or high-sugar foods, which are the perfect substrate for osmophilic yeasts. Occasionally, over-fermented sponges or doughs also will have an off odor.
Q: How much weight is lost during baking?
D.C., via email
A: The average weight loss is about 10 percent. To achieve a 35-oz. (1 kg) finished product weight, scale the dough at 39 ozs. (1.1 kg). However, that does depend on the shape, surface, resting, proofing and baking time of the bread.
Q: We are producing a 100% whole wheat bread, which is very soft. We’ve tried using flour to prevent it from sticking during the makeup but that doesn’t seem to help. What can we do to prevent the dough from sticking to the workbench?
W.S., Florence, Ky.
A: I use water for a similar bread dough to prevent it from sticking, which works well.
Q: How thick should bread crust be?
Alex, via email
A: Formation of a satisfactory crust is one of the most important aspects of bread baking; the crust provides most of the strength of the finished loaf and the greater part of the flavor. The rate at which crust develops is linear, so a loaf baked for 30 minutes may have a 3-mm (0.12-in.) crust, whereas a loaf baked for 50 minutes will have a 5-mm (0.2-in.) crust.
Q: Do you have an easy formula for a soft icing?
C.G., Stillwater, Okla.
A: Combine two parts fondant with one part royal
icing. This icing sets quickly, creating a soft icing with good appearance.
Q: We make sponge cakes with frozen eggs, but when we increase the amount of baking soda, it produces an unpleasant flavor.
O.F., Bridgewater, N.J.
A: I make my sponges with frozen eggs but use the delayed baking soda method. Dissolve the baking soda in a small amount of water or milk held back from the formula. Stir the soda solution into the sponge after it has attained full volume. Be careful to ensure that the baking soda is thoroughly mixed into the sponge batter. With this method you don’t have to increase the baking soda amount to achieve superior results.
Q: What is the difference between babas and savarins?
Tim, via email
A: The only difference between a baba and a savarin is that the baba contains dried fruit and the savarin is plain dough but is served with fruit after baking.
Q: Can coconut be used in nut-free products?
Erin, via email
A: Many people tolerate coconut without a problem, yet coconut has been determined to be a tree nut by the FDA for purposes of labeling. Food that includes coconut should have a label stating that the product contains tree nuts.
Q: Due to the high ingredient cost of almonds we want to explore an alternative ingredient. What would give us the same functionality and flavor of almonds in baking?
Prasad, via email
A: A good substitute for almonds is ground apricot kernels or kernel paste, which also is known as persipan in Europe. The ratio of nuts to sugar plays an important role in the quality of kernel paste. Made from 65 percent apricot kernels and prepared in the same manner as almond paste, kernel paste has a slightly more bitter flavor than almonds or macaroon paste, but can be used as a great substitute for almond paste.
Q: When we use granulated sweeteners in yeast dough, the dough does not rise. How can we activate the yeast?
Parker, via email
A: Granulated sweeteners will not activate yeast. Use at least 1 oz. of sugar in a formula that calls for yeast and replace the remaining sugar with an equal amount of granulated sweetener.
Dr. Klaus Tenbergen is certified as a Master Baker in Germany, South Africa and the United States. He is currently an assistant professor at California State University in Fresno, directing the Culinology® program, which blends culinary arts and the science of food. For more information about Culinology®, or to submit a question, contact Dr. Tenbergen at firstname.lastname@example.org.