Baking is a method of cooking food by the application of dry heat, usually by placing it in oven. The degree of dryness of heat is dependent on the amount of moisture that is produced from the food that is being baked. Breads, Cakes, Pastries, Cookies and Farinaceous dishes are some of the most popular baked dishes.
Origin of Baking
Baked Recipes have been in existence since time immemorial. Records as old as 2500 B.C. are proof to the fact that the Egyptians used to prepare bread, although it is said that the Babylonians could have given them the idea of the method of preparing baked dishes. Baking as a cooking process began since the period of ancient history, when man used to soak grass leaves and grains in water, mash them into a thick paste-like mixture and cook a bread-like dish by placing it on top of hot, flat stones. However, baking gained highest popularity around 300 B.C., in the Roman Empire, when the idea of a pastry cook evolved. Rome was the pioneer in popularizing baked recipes and baked dishes to the whole of Europe and thereby to the entire world. Bread is the most common baked recipe, which is present in one form or another in almost every cuisine of the world.
The Process of Baking
Baking is a dry heat method, which implies that no moisture is involved in the cooking process itself, although steam may be generated from the food while cooking. When preparing a baked dish, the moisture present in the foodstuffs expands in the form of air, carbon dioxide or steam. This is often the reason behind the “rising” of baked dishes such as breads and cakes. Baking, which is mostly done in a convection oven, requires the food to be placed in the right position inside the oven, as there are certain cool spots in the oven, where, when placed, the food is not able to receive the required amount of heat. Also, the temperature inside the oven should be exactly as required, for example, cakes are baked on a lower temperature than pastries, which require a hot oven. An oven that produces heat by convection is the basic requirement for preparing baked dishes, along with various types of baking tins, sheets and other utensils depending on the dish being prepared. Baked recipes range from everyday dishes such as basic breads and biscuits to elaborate festive and celebration recipes such as cakes and pastries, and also some main course items such as Gumbo Casserole, Baked Cajun Chicken and Moussaka.
Popular Baked Recipes
Popular types of baked dishes include baked Lasagna, Garbanzo Bean and Vegetable Pie, Lemon Tart, Sponge Cake, Quiche, Pizzas and certain Casserole dishes. Chocolate, Flour, Eggs, Leaveners and certain dairy ingredients such as Cream and Buttermilk are common ingredients in baked recipes. Baking, as a cooking method, is most commonly practiced in the European, American, Italian and most other Western cuisines.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Baking
Baked food has several advantages. Due to the caramelizing process, baked dishes are more flavorful than boiled dishes. Baked recipes call for very little amount of fat as compared to other methods of cooking, such as frying and roasting. Also, baking food in an oven results in lesser emissions of toxic byproducts like smoke.
There are also certain disadvantages of baking. Certain processed such as boiling and steaming require no use of fat, which is healthier as compared to baking, as it requires some amount of fat. Also baking tends to be a slower process as compared to cooking methods such as frying and boiling.
Methods Similar To Baking
Oven roasting is a method that is very similar to baking as the same equipment, i.e. oven, is used for both the methods. However, both these methods should not be confused as oven roasting is done mostly for meats using a fair quantity of fat to baste the meat, which is not so in the case of baked recipes.
300° F to 450° F is the generally maintained oven temperature for cooking most baked dishes.