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Baking

BakingBaking is the technique of cooking food in an oven by dry heat applied evenly throughout the oven or only from the bottom element. Many household ovens in North America are usually provided with two heating elements, one in the top for baking, and one in the bottom for broiling.

The person who does the baking is called a baker. Breads, desserts, and meat (see also roasting) are often baked, and baking is the primary cooking technique used to produce cakes and pastry-based goods such as pies, tarts, and quiches. Such items are sometimes referred to as "baked goods," and are sold at a bakery.

Overview

The dry heat of baking changes the structures of starches in the food and causes its outer surfaces to brown, giving it an attractive appearance and taste, while partially sealing in the food's moisture. The browning is caused by caramelization of sugars and the Maillard reaction. Moisture is never really entirely "sealed in," however; over time, an item being baked will become more and more dry. 

This is often an advantage, especially in situations where drying is the desired outcome, for example in drying herbs or in roasting certain types of vegetables. The most common baked item is bread. Variations in the ovens, ingredients and recipes used in the baking of bread result in the wide variety of breads produced around the world.

To compensate for moisture loss, some items (usually meats) are basted on the surface with butter or oil to slow the loss of moisture through the skin, or sometimes brined. The term "baking" is not usually associated with the cooking of meats in this manner; it is instead called roasting. Some foods are replenished with moisture during baking by placing a small amount of liquid (such as water or broth) in the bottom of the pan, and letting it steam up into or around the food, a method commonly known as braising.

Over time baked goods become hard in a process known as going stale. This is not primarily due to moisture being lost from the baked products, but more a reorganization of the way in which the water and starch are associated over time, a process similar to recrystallization.

Ingredients often used in baking

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