We all know the basics of baking- flour, eggs, sugar, butter, baking powder etc. But do you know why they are used ? We decided to make things easier and compiled this list ( with a little help from Joy of Baking) for you to read and refer to. Here goes.
Baking powder and Baking soda : Both baking powder and baking soda are chemical leavening agents that cause batter to rise when baked. The leavener enlarges the bubbles which are already present in the batter produced through creaming of ingredients. When a recipe contains baking powder and baking soda, the baking powder does most of the leavening. The baking soda is added to neutralize the acids in the recipe plus to add tenderness and some leavening.
When using baking powder or baking soda in a recipe, make sure to sift or whisk with the other dry ingredients before adding to the batter to ensure uniformity. Otherwise the baked good can have large holes.
Butter: Butter adds flavour and texture to your baking and helps to keep it fresh. The temperature of the butter is very important in baking. When room temperature butter is used in your recipe this means your butter should be between 65 degrees F (18 degrees C) and 70 degrees F (21 degrees C). This temperature allows the maximum amount of air to be beaten into your batter. This creaming or beating of your butter or butter and sugar creates air bubbles that your leavener (baking powder or baking soda) will enlarge during baking. Most experts recommend 4 to 5 minutes of creaming the butter for maximum aeration.
Flour: When used in baking flour contributes body and structure, texture and flavor to baked goods. When used in baking it binds the ingredients together and supports the batter. It can also be used to thicken sauces, creams and pie fillings. Recipes calling for dusting cake pans or counters with flour help prevent batters and bread dough from sticking to surfaces. Flour can also be used to coat fruits and nuts before adding to batters, thus preventing them from sinking to the bottom of the pan when baked.
Sugar: When a recipe calls for creaming together the fat and sugar this is not simply a way of mixing these two ingredients together. The purpose of doing this step is to get air into the batter. This mixing causes the sugar granules to rub against the fat producing air bubbles in the fat. Later when the leavener is added, the leavening gases enlarge these air bubbles and cause the batter to rise when place in the oven. The length of time you cream the butter with the sugar determines the amount of air incorporated into the batter.
Vanilla: In custards, milk, creams, syrups, and other liquids Vanilla impart a wonderful flavor and their small dark seeds add dimension to your dessert.
Source: Joy of Baking