Doughs, batters, leaveners

From Helpful
Revision as of 00:44, 21 April 2024 by Helpful (talk | contribs)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Leavening agents

Leavening and raising/rising refers to getting food to be airy via gas.

Often refers specifically to doughs, and food made with them. Examples include muffins, some cakes, and such.

Contrasted with getting airy producs via layers, see e.g. puff and phyllo pastry)

Rising with yeast

This article/section is a stub — some half-sorted notes, not necessarily checked, not necessarily correct. Feel free to ignore, or tell me about it.

Most yeast you can buy is a fairly direct product of growing the organism - often Saccharomyces Cerevisiae.

Yeast will ferment sugars to alcohol and CO2. (it can also ferment starches, if there are also enzymes around to break them down into sugar)

In baking you mostly care about the CO2, as it forms the bubbles that make the dough rise and be light rather than brick-like. Both these products will be gone by the end of baking.

Rising with yeast needs

in part to activate the yeast (for most yeast sources, anyway)
also because wetter doughs are more flexible so can rise a little more
time and heat - temperature relates a lot to rising speed
Apparently yeast starts to work when it is not frozen
fridge rising is meant to be slow (and more flavourful (how?)
a one-or-two-hour rise is easier at room temperature ~25C (78F) or a little higher
in part to avoid the release of glutathione, since that makes for sticky doughs, so you may wish to aim around ~35C (~100F)
yeast dies above ~55C (130F)
closing the container (includes use of bread machines for dough mixing) helps too (why?(verify))

salt isn't necessary, but it is functional.

it helps the rising being more even (due to it slowing down the fermentation) and firm (in part because it coagualates gluten(verify))
adding the salt late changes the consistency - e.g used in sourdough; see delayed salt method
too much salt will impede rising (due to reverse osmosis (verify))
too much sugar also impedes rising (both are hygroscopic), salt is just better at this you want to avoid yeast getting all your sugar/salt at once, so you mix them separately (in bread machines: add to different corners typically works well enough)

Other things that impede rising include fat, eggs, dairy.

Baker's yeast refers to any used in baking, including:

Active dry yeast (granular, looks larger than instant) needs to be activated, which refers to mixing it with a little room-temperature or perhaps lukewarm water (hotter will kill it) before adding it to your dough. (You don't need sugar to activate it - it'll get it soon enough in the dough.)
Instant yeast (granular, finer, like tiny sticks) doesn't need the water step, it will activate fast enough when it is mixed into the dough.
Rapid-rise yeast is instant yeast plus some additives to make rising happen faster.
Compressed yeast, a dense clay-like stuff with most liquid removed, is easy to use but has a shorter shelf life than the others, so is mainly interesting for professional bakers.
Cream yeast refers to that tapped from actively grown, useful in industrial baking but not to smaller cases.

Other yeasts include

Nutritional yeast[1] - deactivated yeast, a useful source of protein and vitamins. It has a strongish taste, so beyond uses as a healthy ingredient in vegetarian food, it is also sometimes used as a condiment.
Brewer's yeast [2] often a different species (but same strain), more useful at lower temperatures(verify), but there's a lot of variation.

Baking soda, baking powder, and self-rising flour

Baking soda and baking powder are leaveners - they both produce CO2, which effectively inflates your dough.

They are useful where you don't like to use yeast(+sugar), e.g. to avoid a yeasty fermented taste, or because yeast doesn't store as well, or for some doughs that you cook quickly, and/or are denser.

Baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonte (NaHCO3).

Above 80C it decomposes into sodium carbonate (Na2CO3), water, and CO2.

Typically it is combined with something acidic (e.g. milk, yoghurt, honey, lemon juice, chocolate because cocoa, though note that Dutched cocoa is not acidic), because because that produces additional CO2, so a stronger leavening effect. This reaction starts fairly quickly and does not last as long as some other leaveners, so you get more effect baking sooner. [3]

Baking powder is basically baking soda plus such an acidifying (cream of tartar) and a drying agent (usually starch).

Single-acting baking powder are activated by moisture, so you need to bake soonish after mixing.

Double-acting baking powder is slower, activated a little by moisture but mostly by heat - so can sit a little longer before baking.

In many situations you can use any of these, but one may be more convenient. For example, when there is nothing acidic in there, the recipe will have called for baking powder rather than baking soda.

Assume that baking powder slowly loses effectiveness before its best-by date.

Self-rising flour is baking powder added to plain flour.

Depending on where you live, this can be common or not, and in some areas and/or stores stores may typically also contain additives like salt, lemon, vanilla, or or such tastes because it is meant as a quick basis for cookies and such.

Self-rising flour can be convenient for certain doughs, particularly faster bakes like cookies and cakes.

People used to planning their rises, e.g. as in baking bread, won't have much use for self-rising flour, as this primarily happens in the first minutes of cooking, activated by moisture + heat.

Also, mixing yeast and baking powder (/self rising flour) will inhibit the yeast's rise due to the baking powder's non-neutral pH(verify).

Mechanical leavening

The above refer to chemical leavening, to counting on a chemical reaction that produces a gas, often CO2

Mechanical leavening mostly refers to leavening that happens due to water turning into steam. For which it has to be caught in the first place. See e.g. puff pastry.


Sources and contents

Flour is a general term, which can refer to any powder from cereal grains, seeds, or roots.

Cereals are members of a family of grasses that are cultivated for the edible components of its grain. The category is very wide, including (in no particular order) wheat, rice, millet, maize, spelt, durum, barley, rye, and many more.

Gluten is a specific protein composite found in a good number of cereals, including wheat and various related grains (barley, rye, others).

Cereals generally consist of (from the outside inwards, and ignoring the chaff as humans do not digest it)

  • bran - the outer protective layer.
    • Nutritionally: contains carbohydrates, high in protein, some fat, fiber, vitamins
  • endosperm - the food for you or the germ
    • most of a grain, by volume and mass
    • Nutritionally: mostly carbohydrates (starch), plus some protein. Little of the things the germ and bran have.
  • germ - the embryo, the part that can grow into a plant, a nutrient-rich but small core
    • Nutritionally: contains carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber, vitamins

Whole grain means most things are still in there, so has more taste, and is a better source of protein, fats, oils, and some vitamins and minerals. Whole grains can generally be sprouted.

Refined means mostly just the endosperm, so is primarily carbohydrates, making it smoother but less nutritious. The bran and germ have been mechanically separated. Further steps may include bleaching, brominating. For example, general-purpose flour is typically fairly refined.

Enriched grains refers to taking refined grains and adding (back) some nutrition, making it more nutritious than refined but often still less than the original whole grain.

Refined and enriched grains have a longer shelf life, but less taste and nutrition.

There are further differences and details, some of which can matter to specific diets.

Product variants

When going by baking purpose, it is the protein content that is usually most interesting. Also starch.

Which relates to whole/refined, and also the type of cereal.

Your basic supermarket flour will be refined/enriched.

The simple/cheap bread (depending a little on where you live) is typically also made from refined/enriched wheat. White bread is the most obvious example, being bleached. Much of the browner bread is also mostly the refined sort - with more ingredients (browning is often done with sugar), but rarely made from whole wheat or having the nutrition of whole wheat bread(verify).

Higher-protein flour makes for things you have to chew on, so is often used for pasta, bread, pizza dough, and such.

Lower-protein flour, also cake flour, makes for crumblier results so is used for cakes, cookies, pie crust, and such.

  • Note that self-rising flour is typically low-protein.
    • straight flour - wheat flour from primarily its endosperm (the inside of wheat), so containing fewer branny bits, and impurities
      • patent flour - ground finer than general wheat flour. Short, medium, and long patent refers to the amount of straight flour used
      • clear flour - basically everything except the patent flour product: the bran and the bit of endosperm stills stuck to it. Typically looks dark.

Pastry flour serves a goal somewhere inbetween -- too much protein and it can be too tough, too little and it can be too brittle.

Specific-purpose variations (such as pastry flour) are often wheat-based, but not only.

Noodle flour can refer can refer to various blends, often involving wheat or rice.

Pasta can also be made from various types, but it too typically involves wheat.

A bunch of flour types:

  • Wheat flour, as in flour from Wheat (tarwebloem) is usually the default thing that 'flour' refers to in Europe, North America, Middle East and North Africa, simply because it's the most common flour.
    • Note that there is still variation in wheat itself, e.g. in gluten content
  • Corn / Maize - somewhat confusing as naming varies
    • UK: polenta / US: corn meal: essentially larger bits of corn than corn flour / corn starch
    • Cornstarch - the refined variant
    • cornflour is sometimes the refined cornstarch, sometimes a less refined variant
...I suggest you figure out yourself which is which in your area, by size and texture
  • Buckwheat flour - used in american pancakes, japanese soba noodles,
  • Potato starch flour -
  • Tapioca flour -
  • Almond flour - one useful option for those with gluten allerties, though somewhat hard to digest
  • Chickpea flour, a.k.a. gram flour , besan -
  • Atta flour -
  • Bean flour -
  • Rice flour -
  • Brown rice flour -
  • Glutinous rice flour -
  • Peasemeal / pea flour -
  • Peanut flour -
  • Mesquite flour -
  • Maida flour -
  • Amaranth flour -
  • Cassava flour -
  • Chestnut flour -
  • Chuño flour -
  • Pecan flour

See also:


Dough tends to refer to flour ready for use - you added water, and it's starting to rise/leaven/ferment (if applicable).

Each particular use (bread-like food, pancakes, noodles, and such) comes with its fine-tuning instructions and hints.

Bread dough

Flour, water (or sometimes milk), salt, yeast, and a little sugar for the yeast.

  • Dutch: Brooddeeg

Pizza dough

This article/section is a stub — some half-sorted notes, not necessarily checked, not necessarily correct. Feel free to ignore, or tell me about it.

Most pizza doughs resemble bread doughs, though often tweaked - e.g. for tenderness, less rising, shorter baking time, and lower baking temperature.


  • often relatively white-bread doughs, to avoid it being more filling than what's on top
...though some may use a higher-gluten flour, for more chewiness
  • some are relatively lean doughs, e.g. omitting sugar and/or oil (so flour+water+salt+yeast)
these will have long (and often cold) ferment/rise times, due to the yeast working more on starches
  • some have the same ingredients as bread doughs, but e.g. have
more oil than sugar/salt - tends to be more tender (and need more time to rise) (verify)
more sugar - tends to be more browned (at lower temperatures) (verify)
more water - less crispy, more forgiving (verify)

Choux pastry

Associated with pastries, such as eclairs and profiterole and harder-to-spell things, it's a fairly simple mix: flour, butter, water, and eggs.

Does not rise (in the produces-CO2 way), but most variants do expand as the water content becomes steam while baking.

Shortcrust pastry

A sweet dough often used for pies and tarts (sweet or savory).

Savory pies and quiche is often made with something between basic/bread dough and pastry crust.

Does not puff up.

Sugar, butter, flour.

Mixing in a more sensible order can make your life a lot simpler. In particular, add liquids only after the basic three ingredients are well mixed.

Too much kneading will make the product too tough for many purposes (because of the gluten).

After mixing and kneading it helps to store the dough in the fridge to stiffen the butter.

Proportions vary. One variant is 1:2:3 (respectively)

More butter makes for more delicate

More sugar (sweetcrust) is sweeter, and more brittle.

In various languages:

  • Dutch: Zanddeeg / boterdeeg

See also:

Puff pastry

Layered and light, made by folding and rolling, with some fat between layers.

Related to phyllo, which uses less fat (recipes often call for adding fat).

The airy layers originate from mechanical leavening by the water turning into steam.

Must be kept relatively cold while making, to avoid the shortening becoming runny. It also needs rest between folds to allow gluten to

In various languages:

  • Dutch: Bladerdeeg, Korstdeeg

See also:


'Phyllo, a.k.a. Filo and Fillo is thin layered dough.

No leavening agent is used, and while there is some mechanical leavening, it's much less than e.g. puff pastry.

Phyllo is named for being leafy

In various languages:

  • English: Phyllo, philo
  • Dutch: Filodeeg

See also:

Biscuit dough

In various languages:

  • Dutch: Biscuitdeeg

Cookie dough


(Semi-)liquid mixture of flours, water (or other liquid(s)), milk or eggs, and possibly a leavening agent.

Various pancakes, crêpes, waffles, tempura, fritters, as well as some cakes and donuts are made largely from batter.

In various languages:

  • Dutch: Beslag

See also