Baking is the technique of prolonged cooking of food by dry heat acting by convection, and not by radiation, normally in an oven, but also in hot ashes, or on hot stones. It is primarily used for the preparation of bread, cakes, pastries and pies, tarts, quiches, cookies and crackers. Such items are sometimes referred to as "baked goods," and are sold at a bakery. A person who prepares baked goods as a profession is called a baker. It is also used for the preparation of baked potatoes, baked apples, baked beans, some casseroles and pasta dishes such as lasagna, and various other foods, such as the pretzel.
Many commercial ovens are provided with two heating elements: one for baking, using convection and conduction to heat the food, and one for broiling or grilling, heating mainly by radiation. Meat may also be baked, but this is usually reserved for meatloaf, smaller cuts of whole meats, and whole meats that contain stuffing or coating such as breadcrumbs or buttermilk batter; larger cuts prepared without stuffing or coating are more often roasted, a similar process, using higher temperatures and shorter cooking times. Baking can sometimes be combined with grilling to produce a hybrid barbecue variant, by using both methods simultaneously or one before the other, cooking twice. Baking is connected to barbecuing because the concept of the masonry oven is similar to that of a smoke pit.
The baking process does not require any fat be used to cook in an oven. Some makers of snacks such as potato chips or crisps have produced baked versions of their snack items as an alternative to the usual cooking method of deep-frying in an attempt to reduce the calorie or fat content of their snack products.
The dry heat of baking changes the form 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 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.
Some foods are surrounded with moisture during baking by placing a small amount of liquid (such as water or broth) in the bottom of a closed pan, and letting it steam up around the food, a method commonly known as braising or slow baking.
When baking, consideration must be given to the amount of fat that is contained in the food item. Higher levels of fat such as margarine, butter or vegetable shortening will cause an item to spread out during the baking process.
With the passage of time breads harden; they become 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. This process is similar to recrystallization, and is promoted by storage at cool temperatures, such as in a domestic refrigerator.
In ancient history, the first evidence of baking occurred when humans took wild grass grains, soaked them in water, and mixed everything together, mashing it into a kind of broth-like paste. The paste was cooked by pouring it onto a flat, hot rock, resulting in a bread-like substance. Later, this paste was roasted on hot embers, which made bread-making easier, as it could now be made anytime fire was created. Around 2500 B.C., records show that the Egyptians had bread, and may have learned the process from the Babylonians. The Greek Aristophanes, around 400 B.C., also recorded information that showed that tortes with patterns and honey flans existed in Greek cuisine. Dispyrus was also created by the Greeks around that time and widely popular; was a donut-like bread made from flour and honey and shaped in a ring; soaked in wine, it was eaten when hot. The first evidence of stone ovens was in Italy, where they made pizza and pasta.
Baking flourished in the Roman Empire. In about 300 B.C., the pastry cook became an occupation for Romans (known as the pastillarium). This became a respected profession because pastries were considered decadent, and Romans loved festivity and celebration. Thus, pastries were often cooked especially for large banquets, and any pastry cook who could invent new types of tasty treats was highly prized. Around 1 A.D., there were more than three hundred pastry chefs in Rome, and Cato wrote about how they created all sorts of diverse foods, and flourished because of those foods. Cato speaks of an enormous amount of breads; included amongst these are the libum (sacrificial cakes made with flour), placenta (groats and cress), spira (our modern day flour pretzels), scibilata (tortes), savaillum (sweet cake), and globus apherica (fritters). A great selection of these, with many different variations, different ingredients, and varied patterns, were often found at banquets and dining halls. The Romans baked bread in an oven with its own chimney, and had mills to grind grain into flour.
Eventually, because of Rome, the art of baking became known throughout Europe, and eventually spread to the eastern parts of Asia. Bakers often baked goods at home and then sold them in the streets. This scene was so common that Rembrandt illustrated a work that depicted a pastry chef selling pancakes in the streets of Germany, with children clamoring for a sample. In London, pastry chefs sold their goods from handcarts. This developed into a system of delivery of baked goods to households, and demand increased greatly as a result. In Paris, the first open-air café of baked goods was developed, and baking became an established art throughout the entire world.
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[[File:|thumb|Baker putting bread into an oven, 1568]] Baking is a skill or way of cooking food in an oven. Sometimes, though, baking can also be done in hot ashes, or hot stones. It is used for making bread, cakes, pastries, pies, , cookies, and much more. Such foods made by baking are called "baked goods." The ingredients used in baking include flour, water, leavening agents (baker's yeast, baking soda, baking powder), shortening (fats, oils), eggs, milk, and sugars. These are all mixed together to create dough or batter, which is then put into a pan or a sheet and heated. Leavening agents produce gas that becomes trapped in the dough. This makes it rise. Shortening makes doughs more easily workable and the bread that comes out in the end more soft and tender. Egg whites are used to help make a light, airy .
Baked goods are sold at a bakery. A person who makes baked goods as a job is called a baker. It is also used for making baked potatoes, baked apples, baked beans, some and pasta dishes such as , and various other foods, such as the pretzel.
In ancient history, the first baking happened when humans took wild grass grains, and soaked them in water. Then they mixed everything together, and also mashed it. After that, this mixture was poured onto a flat, hot rock, and roasted on hot . This new way of making bread was much easier than the other ways of doing so. This was because now bread could be made anytime if only there was fire. Around 2500 B.C., it shows that the Egyptians had bread, and may have learned how to make it from the Babylonians. Also, the Greeks, around 400 B.C., wrote information that showed that with patterns and honey was included in Greek food. Dispyrus, another type of baked good, was also made by the Greeks around that time. It was popular. Dispyrus was a donut-like bread made from flour and honey and shaped in a ring. Soaked in wine, it was eaten when hot. The first proof of stone ovens was in Italy, where they made pizza and pasta.
Baking was very popular in the Roman Empire. In about 300 B.C., the pastry cook became a special job for Romans (called the pastillarium). Romans loved pastry, which was often cooked for large parties. Baking became so popular during the Roman Empire that someone who could think of a new kind of pastry was given an award. Around 1 A.D., there were more than 300 pastry chefs in Rome, and it was written.
Eventually, because of Rome, the art of baking became known in Europe. It later spread to the eastern parts of Asia, too. Bakers sometimes bake goods at home and then sell them in the streets. In London, chefs sold their baked goods from handcarts. In Paris, the first café of baked goods was made. Baking became a real art in the world. Cakes can be actually mixed in just a few minutes, with only a small bit of skill needed, and it can be lifted fresh from the oven in less than 30 minutes. A basic loaf of bread may take slightly longer time, but it does not demand a lot of time from the cook.