In a pinch, a baking mix can be a baker's best friend. The mixes are made up of the ingredients you need to begin many recipes such as quick breads like biscuits, pancakes and waffles for example, as well as batter for chops or chicken, pastries, dumplings, scones. Although baking mixes are created by a variety of different food companies, they all have the same basic ingredients in common -- flour, baking powder, salt and shortening. Each ingredient has its own role in the mix.
The most active ingredient in baking mix is the baking powder. Made of sodium bicarbonate, cream of tartar, sodium aluminum sulfate and cornstarch, baking powder activates when it gets wet. Liquid causes the base, which is made of sodium bicarbonate, to react with the one of the acids such as cream of tartar or sodium aluminum sulfate, to create carbon dioxide. Baking soda is usually double acting, so one acid reacts when the batter is made and the other acid reacts during baking. The carbon dioxide expands the batter without compromising the flavor of the final product.
The natural complement to any food is salt. Salt works to enhance the flavor of other ingredients that you add to the baking mix to create the final recipe. Salt enhances flavor or spices and extracts. It is also a preservative that enables the food to avoid spoilage long enough to have leftovers. Salt gives the food flavor and staying power.
The tender, chewy texture of your baked goods made with a baking mix is due to the shortening. It is the fat in the baking mix that also makes quick breads crumble just enough to break open. Think of the texture of biscuits. They are easy to break open, yet the insides are tender and slightly chewy. Without the oil, biscuits and other baked goods would be hard, rock-like and inedible lumps.
The "glue" that binds your baked goods is the flour. It contains gluten, which is created when the batter is beat, kneaded and rolled. Gluten makes the dough elastic, allowing it to inflate with carbon dioxide from the baking powder without bursting. Instead, pockets form throughout the baked goods, helping them hold their shape without being too tough.
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