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Molecules in pastry: the importance of the ingredients molecular composition

We have all heard about molecular cuisine: a branch of food science that studies the physicochemical transformations of ingredients when cooked. Some may consider it a passing craze or a fad, although we do not intend to enter into debate. What we do want is to deepen into the “molecular” concept, in this case, molecular pastry. Have you ever wondered why this adjective? At Jordi Bordas pastry school we understand the sweet world as an art but also as a science, as precise as chemistry itself. Therefore, in order to work with B·Concept, it is essential to be familiar with (and understand) the molecular composition of the ingredients you are using.

Our R&D&i team –formed by Adrianna Jaworska, Paula Domènech and Ariadna Martínez– has been studying for some time the main food molecules; such as water, lipids, proteins, or carbohydrates; their properties and how they intervene in pastry recipes. It is a very complete field of study and we could talk about it for hours (we actually will the B·Concept pastry online course), but in this post, we are just going to introduce the first basic concepts.

The water molecule

In the culinary world, it is almost impossible to imagine any type of cooking or preparation without the presence of water. You can use it as a pure ingredient in your recipe, but it is important that you know that this molecule is also present in fruits and in other ingredients such as egg whites or milk. For this reason, it is so important to be familiar with its properties and to know how to manipulate it and is transformed, since, although water is a simple molecule, controlling it is essential to obtain good results in pastry.

Lipid molecules

Lipids are a group of molecules rich in energy and insoluble in water. In addition to their nutritional value, lipids can provide flavour, creaminess and texture thanks to their functional properties. Very important attributes that you should consider when creating pleasant to the palate textures. Among the ingredients with high lipid content butter, cream or chocolate, for example can be found.

Protein molecules

We continue with the fascinating world of proteins, which are present in ingredients of animal origin, such as eggs, milk, cream or gelatin. But also, vegetable proteins offer a wide range of possibilities and are becoming more frequent in the market day by day. We could say that these are the food molecules superheroines, since they are the only ones capable of creating creamy, airy, thick and gelled textures at the same time. In fact, most pastry recipes owe their stability and structure to proteins.

Carbohydrate molecules

Carbohydrates are also found in many different foods, such as honey, fruits, vegetables or cereals and, therefore, in many pastry ingredients. We usually classify them into sugars, starches and fibres, and they usually bring flavour and texture to recipes, in addition to providing dry extract and helping to control water mobility.

SUGARS

We could say sugars are the basis of pastry since, mainly, they provide that characteristic sweet sensation. There are many types of sugars and each of them provides, in addition to sweetness, other important functions in our recipes.

STARCHES

Ingredients such as cereals, tubers or legumes contain starches and are widely used both in pastry and cooking for their excellent texturizing properties. In addition, a good use of starches can help us elaborate gluten-free products, like cakes and breads. A perfect example is this vegan and gluten-free bread recipe made with buckwheat, a pseudo-cereal rich in resistant starch.

FIBRES

Fibres can add sweetness, water control, and many health benefits, but what else do they contribute to in pastry? They are useful as bulking agents, to thicken, gel, emulsify and even as a partial or total replacement of fats. Knowing fibres in depth will give you many clues to master pastry techniques. If you want to go into greater detail right now, we recommend that you read our articles “Fibres as a key ingredient in modern pastry: citrus fibres” and “Inulin: a healthy and nutritional ingredient for use in pastry“.


Now that we have introduced the importance to deepen into pastry ingredients and studying their molecular composition, we are going to tell you a little secret. The B·Concept pastry online course begins with a theoretical module dedicated exclusively to make an exhaustive analysis of main food molecules.