Ingredient Breakdown | What Every Baker Needs To Know!

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Most baked goods are made with a combination of the same ingredients in different proportions, depending on their own unique properties. quantities of which can be altered to get specific results.

I believe it is important to understand the role/function of each ingredient in a recipe and how one ingredient interacts with the other ingredients within the recipe, to be able to get the best desired result. This breakdown of basic baking ingredients should help you understand that.

ALWAYS use the best ingredients you can find. The taste of your bake depends on the quality of ingredients you use. They make a major major difference. (Out of experience)

Here I have mentioned a few basic common ingredients that are used in most of the baked goods.


close up of wheat
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Most commonly used flour in recipes is Wheat flour. Flour is the main structural component in a recipe that helps the baked goods to maintain their shape. The wet ingredients are absorbed by the flour and once the moisture is evaporated in the baking process, it creates stability for the baked good. Wheat flour most commonly used is All purpose flour (Maida).

Wheat flour contains gluten, a protein, that gets activated with water and mixing or kneading. Gluten then develops into long elastic strands that stretches to contain the rising leavening gases and gives the baked good strength to hold its shape. Depending on the product we are making we may or may not want to develop gluten in a recipe.

When a recipe calls for resting the dough, DONOT skip it. The benefit of resting dough is allowing gluten to rest. When gluten is activated the elastic properties begin to develop. An overworked dough leads to a tough texture in the end product. Resting the dough allows the gluten to relax and even out the hydration, resulting in a softer bake. In products such as cookies and shortbreads, resting the dough allows the gluten proteins to relax, resulting in a more tender bake.

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Gluten free flours are usually grain and nut flours, made with a combination of other starches including Corn and rice flour. Baked goods made with just Gluten free flours can tend to be quite heavy and dense, as the flours are very fine texture and don’t have the same absorption and structural ability as wheat flours. Gluten free flours can be used in combination with wheat flour to produce a softer crumb in the end product, with reduced protein.

There are a variety of Gluten-free flours, each with a different taste and texture. Here are some gluten-free flours –

  • Almond Flour
  • Brown Rice flour
  • Oat Flour
  • Corn Flour
  • Chickpea flour
  • Coconut Flour
  • Tapioca Flour


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Butter is used in baking mainly for the delicious flavour it gives, the soft tender texture it creates and ability to create flaky pastry. It considered as a ‘drying’ ingredient as it generally contains less than 20% water, this helps to make baked products short like biscuits, but can also create a dry texture to some cakes without the addition of further moisture.

It is available as both salted and unsalted. However, it is always recommended to use unsalted butter as one can control the amount of salt added into a recipe, which helps in maintaining the balance of salt and sweet in recipes.

3. OIL

Monounsaturated Fats

Adding oil to a recipe is a great way to increase moisture and create a soft and tender end product.

What oil basically lacks is the amazing flavour of butter. It’s a great idea to use oil and butter in a recipe to get the flavour of butter and the moisture of oil. For baking, any flavourless oil works fine.


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Sugar is what makes a baked good taste sweet. It also has various other functions.

Sugar promotes the browning of baked goods as it caramelises when heated. It also helps hold in the moisture and tenderises baked goods. Since, it holds onto moisture it leaves less moisture available for gluten development making the end product tender. It also keeps the baked good tender for a long period of time. Sugar also provides structure for gas expansion in the baked good, promoting lift and rise.

 The two main types of sugars used in recipes are castor sugar and brown sugar.

Castor sugar is nothing but superfine sugar. It’s recommended for baking since its fine and can dissolve easily as compared to granulated sugar that can leave some sugar crystals even after baking. Castor or superfine sugar is perfect for light sponges, cookies or shortbreads. Brown Sugar gives a dense, fudgy and chewy texture to the baked good.


eggs in tray on white surface
Photo by Daniel Reche on

The function of eggs in baking is enriching, moistening, colouring, aerating and binding. They create the structure and stability within a batter. Whole eggs bind the baked good together, adding structure and strength. It also helps tenderise and add moisture.

An egg is made up of two parts – egg white and the yolk. The egg white is made up of mostly water and proteins, while the yellow is high in fat percentage. The egg whites tend to have a drying effect in the baked goods as they contain a great deal of water and no fat, whereas the yolk gives the richness and flavour. There will be a few recipes that ask for additional egg yolks, to get a rich and tender end result.


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The main leavening agents used in baking cakes and cookies etc are baking powder and Baking Soda (bi-carb soda). Yeast is used in breads as a leavening agent.

Baking powder is known as a complete raising agent. It contains both an acid and a base. When the two components are moistened, the acid reacts with the base releasing gases causing the baked good to rise. Baking powder is normally activated when moisture is added. However, the reaction continues when the batter is heated and that is what causes the baked product to rise in the oven.

Baking Soda /Bi-carb soda is simply a base and requires an acid added in to the recipe to activate the chemical reaction. It is mainly used in recipes that also contain an acidic ingredient such as vinegar, lemon juice, buttermilk and sour cream.

Yeast is a biological leavening agent. Few types of yeasts are –

  • Active dry yeast
  • Instant dry yeast
  • Fresh Yeast

Yeasts eat sugar and they produce Carbon dioxide (CO2) gas and alcohol, leading to the rise in doughs.


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We use dairy products widely baking due to their moistening qualities. Recipes with the addition of milk tend to be softer and lighter. Also, the sugar within the milk helps develop a golden crust.

Buttermilk, yogurt and sour cream are denser than milk and contain an acidic component that helps in the rise and make the baked good light and fluffy. They also act as a tenderiser, creating a softer crumb in baked goods. The creaminess of Yogurt helps keep baked goods moist and adds a slight tang.


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Flavouring, essences and extracts used enhance the flavour of the baked goods.

In Short –

FLOUR – Foundation

FAT – Keeps everything together, Tenderiser

SUGAR – Sweetens and tenderises, Browning

EGGS – Texture and Binding

Liquids – Tenderness

Leavening agents – Rise

This is not an exhaustive list of ingredients, but based on the most common ones. There are a lot more ingredients one can add into the baked goods.


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  1. There’s certainly a great deal to find out about this subject. I love all the points you made.|

  2. Loved the content !! It’s nice how the basics are explained so well. Especially for someone who doesn’t have a baking experience, I think your page surely is of great help!!
    Good luck ?