Sep 10, 2013

The Building Blocks of Baked Goods Part 3: Correcting a Quickbread

This is a continuation from The Building Blocks of Baked Goods, as well as The Building Blocks of Baked Goods 2. The previous two parts discuss ratios in baked goods, and how to check to see if a recipe is unbalanced.

The recipe that I started with is this zucchini bread recipe from Paula Deen. It has too much liquid, too much sugar, and it is slightly over leavened. The flavors, however, are still good.  So I know that I want to keep the spices, and balance out the rest of the recipe.

The first step is to peg your limiting reagent. In other words, pick one ingredient that you want to use to calculate the rest of the recipe. Eggs are an easy pick, since it is much more difficult to measure half an egg than half a cup of flour. In the case of zucchini bread, if you only have a limited amount of zucchini, that could be the limiting reagent.  When I've made angel food cake, I've sometimes used the flour, to ensure that I have the proper volume for my pan.  It doesn't really matter, as long as we just pick one.

Let's start with the original ingredients (using weight measurements for all structural components, of course):

447 grams all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
916 grams sugar
218 grams vegetable oil
200 grams beaten egg (appx. 4 eggs)
78.9 grams water
340 grams grated zucchini
1 teaspoon lemon juice

I want to make sure that I maintain the size of the recipe, so that I still end up with 2 loaves of bread.  Therefore, I am going to opt to use my flour as the limiting reagent.  Hopefully my eggs will play nicely for weight. Therefore, 448 grams of flour (I am rounding up slightly to make math easier) will be 1 part.  Because the volume will be about the same, I am going to leave the spice amounts to be about the same.  I also want to keep the zucchini amounts the same, if I can, based on what I tasted from the previous recipe.

Now, let's take the ratio for a balanced recipe:
If 1 part = 448 grams

1 parts flour = 448 grams
1 parts liquid = 448 grams
.5 part egg =224 grams
.5 part fat = 224 grams
1 part sugar = 448 grams

Flour and sugar are clear enough, as we are only using one type of each.  The fat is the adjusted weight of the vegetable oil, and liquid includes the egg, vegetable oil, water, and zucchini.

Adjusted weight of vegetable oil: 224 grams fat * (218 grams vegetable oil/204 grams fat)=239.4 grams.

Liquid: 633.4 grams (1.4 parts)
224 grams egg
239.4 grams vegetable oil
170 (.5 * 340) grams zucchini

The sum of the weights (and yes, I am being rather low with the weight of the zucchini) is already higher than that of the flour.  Therefore, I'm going to leave out the water altogether.  If I wanted to be even pickier about weights, I could substitute shortening for the vegetable oil, or try to extract some extra water weight from the zucchini, or even take out an egg yolk for a little extra structure.  Based on how the recipe turned out previously, though, I'm going to just risk it.  I'm going to assume that the zucchini will also help to provide some structure to the bread as well.  I would not, however, try to make this recipe in a cake pan.  With the high liquid amounts when compared to the amount of protein, it would just sink in the middle.  So it's convenient that I'm using a bread pan to begin with.

Two last notes, before I give you the recipe (which you've waited oh so patiently through 3 blog entries for). First, a word about salt.  I use kosher salt.  I buy it in a big box at the supermarket, and it lasts a really, really long time.  I never thought much about salt, but I started noticing that everything I baked was requiring extra salt.  I really didn't understand it until I read an article about the differences between types of salt, and then once tried weighing out the salt for a recipe.  Table salt has been milled, so that all the crystals are a uniform size.  Kosher salt, on the other hand, is made up of bigger, chunkier crystals.  Not only does this mean that sometimes it doesn't distribute quite as well throughout a baked good (oops!), but because the crystals are bigger and chunkier, there is actually less salt (and more air space) in a teaspoon of kosher salt than a teaspoon of table salt.  Confused?  Think of it this way: If you take a jar, and fill it with wooden blocks, the jar is not completely full.  There is a lot of air in between the blocks.  If you take an identical jar, and fill it with rice grains, there is a lot less air.  When I weighed out the salt for something I was baking, it turned out that, in order for me to get the right amount of salt, I needed to use about 50% more than what I was measuring.

Secondly, I want to talk about leavening.  I have now done the recipe below with both baking powder, and baking soda/lemon juice.  There are benefits and drawbacks to each method.  Baking powder is usually double acting (as opposed to single acting baking soda), so I have found that it produces a slightly lighter, fluffier bread. Using baking powder means that we would leave out the lemon juice, however, which contributes to browning on the top of the loaf.  If you want to try using baking soda instead of the baking powder, just remember to use 1 teaspoon of baking powder per cup of flour, plus just a touch extra to account for the weight of the zucchini.

Finally! Here is my "corrected" Zucchini Bread Recipe
Zucchini Bread: Fix a bad recipe, and making it your own.  Math never tasted so good.
Who says Math isn't tasty?
448 grams  (appx. 3 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
448 grams (appx. 2 1/4 cups) sugar
239.4 grams (appx. 1 cup) vegetable oil
224 grams beaten egg (appx. 4 large eggs)
340 grams (appx. 2 cups) grated zucchini
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (freshly grated recommended)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon lemon juice

.Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Use the muffin method to mix the ingredients.  Mix the flour, sugar, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and baking soda (all of the dry ingredients) in a bowl.  In a separate bowl mix all the wet ingredients thoroughly: vegetable oil, eggs, lemon juice, and zucchini. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir only to combine. *

Bake in 2 loaf pans for about 1 hour, or until a toothpick entered into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

*Remember, we are making a quick bread, and don't want it to be tough or chewy.  Therefore, we want to limit the amount of gluten that we form.  Mix the wet and the dry ingredients well separately before combining them. The more we stir the mixed batter, the more gluten we have a chance to form.

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