6 Ways to Achieve Fluffy Batter and Bakes

6 Ways to Achieve Fluffy Batter and Bakes

Meet the raising agents of the culinary world: from baking soda, baking powder, to the use of yeast, egg whites and steam pressure

1. Baking Powder

Baking powder is a crucial addition to getting a puff right, as in this Deep-Fried Banana Fritter Balls (Cekodok Pisang)

Dreaming of tucking into a rich slice of Gula Melaka Pineapple Upside Down Cake or sticky sweet Nammoura (Lebanese Semolina Cake)? In the wide, colorfully decorated world of baked sweets, many of them require the expansion power that a small amount of baking powder gives. This off-white powder consists or a mix of carbonate or bicarbonate (this difference actually matters in ramen noodle making, but that’s a story for another time) and a weak acid, like cream of tartar. The reaction of baking powder in the dough of your Savoury Bacon and Avocado Muffin is what gives it the coveted volume and lightness we all come to relish in our baked goods. It works the same way in deep-frying batters – want some poofy, crispy Deep-Fried Banana Fritter Balls (Cekodok Pisang)? Toss in some baking powder and let it work its magic!

2. Baking Soda

Baking soda and baking powder is used in this tray of Dimpled Jam Cookies

Help! Does your recipe call for baking powder and all you have left at the back corner of your cupboard is a box of Baking Soda? Fret not, for it’s super easy to make the substitution. Baking soda has 4 times the strength of baking powder, and will require the addition of a weak acid to counter the alkaline base. For every teaspoon of baking powder required, simply use ¼ teaspoon of baking soda, and ½ teaspoon of lemon juice (if using limes, reduce this just a little as limes are generally more acidic). Desserts or batters that already acidic in nature – like lemon or lime based cupcakes or those that have buttermilk in them – may simply just need baking soda by itself. Baking soda combines with these acids to produce carbon dioxide bubbles – which is what makes your treats fluffy!

3. Beer

Beer makes for a longer-lasting crunch, try it in this Korean Seafood Pancake

We’re not kidding – beer makes an excellent aerating agent in your seafood or vegetable frying batter. Adding absolutely ice-cold beer at the last moment to your batter carbonates it with little bubbles, coating your succulent prawns and squids quickly with a foamy mix that transforms into a multi-layered crunching heaven when it hits the hot oil. It makes sense to add the beer last and use your batter immediately, otherwise the bubbles start disappearing along the way. Why does it need to be ice-cold? That’s the secret you get to keep for all your future frying – the coldness prevents gluten bonds from forming in your batter, keeping it light and airy, which is just the way you want it to crunch. If you don’t have beer, ice-cold soda water works as well!

4. Yeast

Naan (pictured) is an incredibly simple flatbread you can make which includes yeast and just four more ingredients 

Yeast and bread are best friends, and there’s a lot of proof for that (most literally)! Yeast is a single-celled microorganisms that loves sugar and starch (actually, doesn’t that sound just like us?), and coverts them into carbon dioxide during fermentation, which is what allows our daily breads, from traditional baguettes to yummy Naans to rise. There’s a few types of yeast available in the commercial market – fresh yeast, dry yeast and instant yeast. Fresh yeast needs to be carefully stored in the refrigerator as its soft and moist, and requires proofing (poofing or expansion of the dough) before baking. Dry yeast also needs to be activated through warm water or milk. The liquid should never too hot or you will kill the yeast. Ideally, you should be able to touch the liquid with your finger without scalding yourself. Instant yeast works best for time-strapped home cooks, as you can add it in directly into the mix without activating it beforehand.

5. Egg Whites

Use two egg whites in a Steamed Ginger Milk Pudding

If you’re still dreaming about that jiggly Japanese cheesecake, you’ll be happy to know that all that wobbly goodness can be obtained with just egg whites! Beating egg whites till soft or stiff peaks form (this depends on what the recipe needs) is also the way to making delicate and luxurious Salted Egg Yolk and Curry Macarons and cloud-like Meringue cookies. You’ll need to add sugar along the way, as it helps to stabilize and retain the structure of your soft or stiff peaks by reacting with the protein molecules in the egg white. Always fold your egg white gently into your batter as well – the last thing you want is to deflate those egg whites that you spent the last several minutes fluffing up. If you're more into some aromatic creamy pudding, whip up a Steamed Ginger Milk Pudding as well. 

6. Steam Pressure

Try out an amazingly Layered Chocolately Steamed Cake 

Steaming cakes and buns like Steamed Brown Cake or Amazingly Layered Cream Cracker Chocolate Coconut Steamed Cake forces the air bubbles that have already been incorporated into your dough to swell, allowing it to acquire that marshmallow texture we all love when we break apart our piping hot steamed cakes. It also works the same way with silky puddings like Steamed Ginger Milk Pudding, giving it a lighter feel with each slurp!

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