Know Your Baking Ingredients

Did you know that there are seven types of sugars and five types of flour commonly used in baking? Whether you love sweet treats or savoury delights, it is helpful to know what just went into making them so yummy. And if you love baking, this handy glossary will sort out your ingredient queries!

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AGAR AGAR A thickener made from seaweed that is used to make custards, puddings, jelly and kuih. It is also used in some commercial flavoured yoghurts, drinks and candy like marshmallows, to add texture and bulk. Tasteless and semi-translucent, agar agar is sold in powder or flake form, and dissolved in hot water. It is suitable for vegetarian and vegan recipes. In South East Asia, it is used to make desserts and can be flavoured with juice, pandan leaves, or pieces of cut fruit.

ALMOND EXTRACT OR ESSENCE Almond essence may be made from artificial flavouring and is a cheaper alternative to almond extract. The essence is used to flavour the popular almond tofu jelly while the extract is best used as a flavour enhancer for cakes and pastries. See essence/extract.

ALMOND POWDER OR ALMOND MEAL Almond nuts ground or pounded to a coarse, flour-like texture.

BAKING POWDER Used in Western baking to make cakes or breads rise. It is usually two parts cream of tartar plus one part bicarbonate of soda (also called baking soda).

* In cakes and bread the mix of acid + alkaline gives off carbon dioxide gas. This makes bubbles in a bread, cake or batter so it becomes more fluffy or crispy.

* In Gluten-Free diets: Baking powder contains starch. Usually it is made from potato or tapioca, but check the label as some may contain wheat starch. “Double-action baking powder” gives the best results for gluten-free baking.

BAKING SODA/BICARBONATE OF SODA An edible alkaline used to make cakes, breads and batters rise.

How to Use:

* Baking soda is often used in savoury or sweet baking recipes with acidic ingredients, such as buttermilk, vinegar or citrus.

* In Asian cooking, baking soda is mixed with tapioca starch as a pre-cooking marinade to make meat or chicken more tender or prawns more crunchy. The food must be well washed before it is cooked, or the marinade leaves a soapy taste.

BUTTER In baking, you can use salted or unsalted (slightly sweet) butter. For quick measurement, 125 g is equal to one stick (4 oz) of butter.

BUTTERMILK is low in fat, despite the name. It was originally the slightly sour liquid left after milk was churned into solid butter. Today, it is commercially made in a similar way to yogurt and sold alongside fresh milk in supermarkets.

How to use:

* In Western baking, buttermilk is used to add a pleasant tang and fluffy texture to “quickbreads” such as pancakes, waffles, cornbread, scones.

* In Arab, Indian and Mediterranean recipes, buttermilk can be used to marinate goat or chicken meat before cooking, to make it more tender.

* Southern Fried Chicken recipes from the southern states of America marinate chicken in buttermilk before deep-frying, to tenderize the meat.