To be a Great Chef know what these ingredients actually do!

I recently had some guests stay over at my house. One of them had some allergies to lots of different things like eggs, dairy, and nuts. So when I was cooking, I had to find recipes and substitutions to accommodate for his allergies. When you have to find substitutions, it helps if you understand the ingredients’ roles in baking. Knowing what each ingredient does will help you be a better baker generally too!


Salt if a very common ingredient used in most baked dishes. The main purpose of the salt is to enhance the flavors of everything else in the dish. Not only that, but it strengthens gluten and helps moderate the effects of yeast so that breads don’t rise too quickly. In fact, without salt, holes can form in bread because it rises too fast and creates air bubbles.


The seemingly counter-point to salt. Sugar, of course, adds to the sweetness of the dish. It is the main flavor in dessert baked dishes. But sugar, like salt, does more than create flavor. It caramelizes in the mixture and creates the color of the dish. It also is responsible for holding lots of the moisture, and tenderizing baked goods by limiting the amount of gluten formed.


Eggs act as a leavening agent. The individual parts of the eggs contribute different properties as well. You might wonder why some recipes only call for egg yolks or only egg whites. Egg whites are a drying agent and when beaten, can hold air and add fluffiness to the dish. Yolks on the other hand give the mixture a rich and creamy texture.


Flour is the building block of a baked dish. It holds it together. The gluten in flour combines to form webs that traps air and sets. The starch in flour creates the support structures. Fats and sugar prevent gluten from forming which helps in creating softer baked dishes.

Butter (fat)

Another versatile ingredient. Butter carries and holds in flavor, holds air and tenderizes the dish. It can also add a creaminess to the mixture.

Baking Soda and Powder

Both baking soda and powder help the baked good rise. They form CO2 which expands inside the mixture and makes it not flat. They aren’t interchangeable though. Baking soda reacts quickly, and settles quickly. Recipes with only baking soda require an acidic ingredient to help the dish not go flat after the soda expends itself. Baking powder has cream of tartar in it, which is an acidic ingredient. So be sure to make certain what the recipe calls for before you add it.

There is a basic rundown of many common ingredients in baking. I recommend really reading more into what ingredients do, as it will improve your substitution skills and baking skills as a whole.


    Rhett Hildebrandt
    Monthly Newsletter Contributor since 2017
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