Do you want to know why your cakes sometimes are too hard or sometimes too soft? In this article you will learn why.
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During the mixing process, sugar acts as a tenderizing agent by absorbing water and slowing gluten development. During the mixing of batters and doughs, flour proteins are hydrated (surrounded with water) forming gluten strands. The gluten forms thousands of small, balloon-like pockets that trap the gases produced during leavening. These gluten strands are highly elastic and allow the batter to stretch under expansion of gases. However, if too much gluten develops, the dough or batter becomes rigid and tough. Sugar competes with these gluten-forming proteins for water in the batter and prevents full hydration of the proteins during mixing. As a consequence, less gluten is allowed to “develop,” preventing the elastic dough or batter from becoming rigid. With the correct proportion of sugar in the recipe, the gluten maintains optimum elasticity, which allows for gases to be held within the dough matrix. These gases, fromleavening agents and mixing, expand and allow the batter or dough to rise. By preventing the gluten development, sugar helps give the final baked product tender crumb texture and good volume. In conclusion you want a lot of gluten for bread, or you'll get horrible loaves. But you don't want a lot in cakes or pastries, or you'll get tough crust and coarse unappealing cakes.
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