5 ingredients to baking and the science behind them

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Some say baking is an art while others say that it can be a science.  Here are five ingredients commonly used in baking and cool scientific facts about them.

#1 Flour

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Flour is used in almost every baked good whether it be your favorite pastry or a delicious cookie.  Flour is made up of two proteins: glutenin and gliadin.

When you add water to flour to hydrate the ingredients, these proteins are drawn to each other and bond forming a new protein called gluten.

Now that you have dough, the next step would be kneading the dough.  Kneading the dough builds gluten networks which in turn support the bread that it will become later in the oven.  While dough rises, existing gluten threads touch and create more links inside the dough.  When the now kneaded dough is baking inside the oven, the proteins and starches in the flour transform into a sturdy webbing inside your baked product.

 

#2 Leavening agents

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Leavening agents are made up of yeast, baking soda and baking powder.

Yeast literally brings bread to life.  As yeast feeds on sugars in the dough, it produces a liquid that when it touches an air pocket it produces carbon dioxide and alcohol.  The elastic dough traps the small carbon dioxide bubbles and the dough rises.

Meanwhile, baking powder and baking soda release carbon dioxide that only enlarge bubbles that already exist in the batter.

Baking soda reacts chemically with acids such as citrus juice, buttermilk, molasses, honey and chocolate to produce carbon dioxide.

Baking powder adds carbon dioxide twice during the baking process.  Once when it reacts with liquids during mixing and again when it is exposed to higher temperatures in the oven.

 

#3 Eggs

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There are two parts of the egg to consider while baking.

Egg whites

Egg whites work as leavening agents.  When heated, the proteins in the egg whites uncoil and practically explode during the baking process.  The proteins also force out moisture when they are heated which is something to take into consideration while baking.  This can lead to chalky dry pastries.

Egg yolks

Egg yolks, on the other hand, add moisture to baked products.  Too much egg yolks and your baked good could come out kind of wet.

 

#4 Fats

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Adding fats to your baked good can make them tender.  Fats coat the proteins in flour preventing them from bonding with water and forming gluten.  Oil coats flour’s proteins better than butter, therefore, oil based cakes are moister than butter based cakes.

#5 Sugar and Milk

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Sure, sugar gives pastries their wonderful sweetness, but it also helps keep them moist.  There is a scientific explanation behind sugars tenderizing properties.

When you add sugar, the proteins glutenin and gliadin break off separately and not much gluten is formed.  Too much sugar and your baked product will not have any structure.

Milk also helps baked goods be moist.  Milk contains the sugar lactose which bonds with flour proteins and prevents gluten formation.

In addition to their tenderizing properties, sugar and milk promote browning of the pastry.  Bread crust is essentially caramelized sugars.

These are just a few ingredients used in the baking process to make wonderful creations.  It is amazing how science can explain how each ingredient acts and reacts with one another.  Just like with science, baking requires a lot of experimentation.  The addition of a few more measurements of one ingredient could cause disaster or awesomeness.  Subtract some measurements of another and you would get a completely different product.

Yes, mom, even baking cookies has science in it!

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Why Donate to Doctors Without Borders?

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So why donate to Doctors Without Borders? You might ask.  Well it is very friendly to people with beliefs that coincide with Secular Humanism.  Doctors Without Borders offers a great deal of help to those suffering around the world due to any number of disasters, whether it be war, disease or natural.  The organization plays a neutral role, not held down by religion, politics, nation, borders, or any dogmatic beliefs.  They will help anyone who will take help. Also, they show an extraordinary amount of transparency and even have been known to produce reports about themselves that do not show them in good light.  This humbleness and openness about mistakes also adds quality to the organization.

Here is a brief history of the organization, as well as some of their accomplishments.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) or Doctors Without Borders as known in the United States and Canada, is an international humanitarian-aid non-governmental organization (NGO) and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.  MSF is best known for its projects in war-torn regions and developing countries facing epidemic diseases.

During the Nigerian Civil War from 1967 to 1970, a number of French doctors volunteered with the French Red Cross to work in hospitals and feeding centers in besieged Biafra.  After entering the country, the volunteers and Biafran health workers were subjected to attacks by the Nigerian army, and witnessed civilians being murdered and starved by the blockading forces. The doctors publicly criticized the Nigerian government and the Red Cross for their seemingly complicit behavior.

“These doctors concluded that a new aid organization was needed that would ignore political/religious boundaries and prioritize the welfare of victims.”

 

The Groupe d’Intervention Médicale et Chirurgicale en Urgence (Emergency Medical and Surgical Intervention Group) was formed in 1970 by French doctors who had worked in Biafra, to provide aid and to emphasize the importance of victims’ rights over neutrality.  During this time, Raymond Borel, an editor of the French medical journal TONUS, created a group called Secours Médical Français (French Medical Relief) because of the 1970 cyclone that had killed 625,000 in Pakistan. On 20 December 1971, the two groups of colleagues merged to form Médecins Sans Frontières.

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Since as far back as 1979, MSF has been providing medical humanitarian help in Sudan.  Sudan has been a nation plagued by civil war and starvation.  In 2009, MSF had reported that it had employed a field staff of 4,590 in Sudan.  These staff attack problems such as epidemic diseases, health care and social exclusion.  They provide many healthcare services such as nutritional support, reproductive healthcare, counselling services and surgery.

In Rwanda 1994 then the genocide began, MSF working along with the International Committee of the Red Cross succeeded in keeping all the main hospitals open in the capital city during the main period of the genocide.

In Sierra Leone, MSF helped vaccinate 3 million Nigerians against meningitis during an epidemic in 1996.

In 1999 MSF launched the Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines giving them a new voice to bring about awareness of the lack of effective treatments and vaccines available in developing countries.  They also had a long campaign in Kosovo during the Kosovo War where they provided shelter, water and healthcare to civilians affected by NATO’s strategic bombing campaigns.

The list of achievements goes on for quite a while.  I did not want to bore you with more facts upon facts about the work Doctors Without Borders does.  These humanitarian doctors and nurses see past all the labels, affiliations, lifestyles, who’s side you are on and treat everyone they can as equals.  I find it a breath of fresh air in a world where who you are or what you think determines the quality of help, if any, you receive.