What is Baking? A Complete Guide to History, Types, and Techniques

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  May 27, 2022

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What is baking? It’s a simple question, but there’s a lot to it. Baking is a method of cooking using prolonged exposure to heat, in which food is enclosed and heated in a way that’s similar to oven-roasting. It’s a versatile method that can be experimented with in many different ways, including convection, roasting, broiling, and grilling.

In this article, I’ll discuss all the different aspects of baking and how it’s used today.

What is baking

In this post we'll cover:

The Art of Baking: A Delicious Way to Cook Your Favorite Foods

Baking is a cooking method that involves preparing dishes by using dry heat, typically in an oven. This method is commonly used for preparing bread, savory meats, and desserts. Baking refers to cooking food in an enclosed space with prolonged exposure to heat. Heat is gradually transferred from the surface of the food to its center, resulting in a deliciously cooked dish.

Types of Baking

Baking is a versatile method that can be experimented with in many ways. Here are some popular types of baking:

  • Convection Baking: Uses a fan to circulate hot air around the food, resulting in evenly cooked dishes.
  • Roasting: Similar to baking, but typically used for larger pieces of meat or vegetables.
  • Broiling: Uses high heat from the top of the oven to cook food quickly.
  • Grilling: Similar to broiling, but typically done outside on a grill.

How Baking Works

Baking works by using dry heat to cook food. When food is placed in an oven, the heat is gradually transferred from the surface of the food to its center. This results in a deliciously cooked dish that is crispy on the outside and moist on the inside.

What Foods Can Be Baked?

While bread is the most common baked item, many other types of foods can be baked as well. Here are some examples:

  • Savory Meats: Chicken, beef, pork, and fish can all be baked in the oven.
  • Desserts: Cookies, cakes, brownies, and pies are all popular baked desserts.
  • Vegetables: Roasting vegetables in the oven is a delicious way to bring out their natural flavors.
  • Baked Goods: Biscuits, muffins, and scones are all types of baked goods that can be made in the oven.

Baking vs. Cooking

Baking is technically a type of cooking, but it refers specifically to the method of cooking food in an oven. While there are many ways to cook food, baking is a popular method because it allows for even cooking and can be used for a wide variety of dishes.

So, the next time you’re in the kitchen, consider baking your favorite foods for a delicious and satisfying meal.

The Evolution of Baking: A Journey Through History

  • The Egyptians were the first civilization to have baking skills
  • They began producing bread using a stone tool to grind grain into flour
  • Cakes looked more bread-like and were sweetened with honey
  • The Greeks first baked cheesecakes, while the Romans baked fruit cakes with nuts, raisins, and fruits

The Middle Ages: Changes in Baking Methods

  • Artisans began to produce bread on a larger scale
  • Traditional groups of bakers emerged, connected by their trade
  • Baking became a respected profession
  • The recipe for bread remained consistent for centuries
  • Bakers used a variety of materials to shape and structure their products

The Renaissance: Advancements in Baking Techniques

  • The invention of the oven allowed for more consistent baking
  • Mixing ingredients by hand was replaced by a mechanical process
  • Cutting and shaping dough became easier with the use of tools
  • Small changes in the recipe led to the creation of new varieties of bread

The Industrial Revolution: Baking on a Large Scale

  • The start of mass production of baked goods
  • The use of machinery to mix and shape dough
  • The introduction of new materials and ingredients
  • Baked goods became more affordable and accessible to the general public

Current Times: Baking Today

  • Baking has become a common household activity
  • Local and fresh ingredients are preferred
  • Different types of baking, such as gluten-free and vegan, have become more popular
  • Baking is seen as a form of cooking and a step towards healthier eating

Baking has come a long way from its humble beginnings in ancient Egypt. From grinding grain by hand to using high-tech machinery, the process of baking has evolved over time. Today, there are countless varieties of baked goods, each with their own unique flavor and texture. Whether it’s a small batch of cookies or a large loaf of bread, baking is a time-honored tradition that continues to bring people together.

The Different Types of Baking: A Guide to Getting It Right

1. Chemical Leavening Baking

When it comes to baking, this is the most common type. It involves using baking soda or baking powder to create gases that help the dough or batter rise. Here are some examples of foods that are made using chemical leavening:

  • Cookies
  • Cakes
  • Muffins
  • Quick bread

The key to getting the final product right is to make sure that the recipe has the right amount of baking soda or baking powder. Too much or too little can affect the texture and structure of the baked goods.

2. Yeast Baking

This type of baking is known for making traditional bread and rolls. Yeast is a living organism that feeds on sugar and produces carbon dioxide gas, which causes the dough to rise. Here are some examples of foods that are made using yeast:

  • Bread
  • Rolls
  • Pizza crust

The process of making yeast bread is more complex than chemical leavening baking because it takes longer. The dough needs time to rise and develop flavor, which is why yeast bread recipes often call for a long rising time.

3. Sweet Baking

This type of baking involves using sugar as the main ingredient. Here are some examples of foods that are made using sweet baking:

  • Chocolate cake
  • Brownies
  • Fruit pies
  • Cheesecake

Sugar not only adds sweetness but also affects the texture and moisture of the final product. It helps to develop a crisp crust and a flaky texture in pie crusts.

4. Steam Baking

This type of baking involves using moisture and steam to cook the food. Here are some examples of foods that are made using steam baking:

  • Puddings
  • Custards
  • Soufflés

The key to getting the ideal texture is to make sure that the food is cooked in a water bath or a covered pan to prevent the moisture from escaping.

Baking is incredibly versatile, and there are a wide range of different types and kinds of baking that are used to make different foods. Understanding the different types of baking and their uses can help you to make the right choices when it comes to making your own baked goods.

How Baking Transforms Food: A Delicious Science Experiment

Baking is a method of cooking that allows for the uniform heating of food in an enclosed space. This technique is particularly useful for preparing dishes that require long cooking times, like pork or casseroles. By evenly heating the food, baking allows for the creation of a crispy layer on top, which can be achieved by adding cheese or breadcrumbs. Additionally, baking minimizes contact with fat, which protects the food and keeps it moist.

Increases Nutrient Value

Baking is considered one of the best ways to prepare vegetables and fruits, as it preserves their nutrient value. Boiling or steaming vegetables can result in a significant loss of vitamin C and thiamine, while frying or deep-frying destroys the fiber and micronutrients. Baking, on the other hand, reduces the loss of nutrients and creates a compound that is useful in protecting the inside of the food.

Protein and Energy

Baking is also a great way to prepare meat products, as it allows for the retention of protein and energy. By cooking meat at high temperatures, the protein is denatured, which results in a firmer texture. Additionally, baking meat products at high temperatures allows for the creation of a crispy exterior, which is both delicious and visually appealing.

Preparation Techniques

When preparing food for baking, there are plenty of techniques that can be used to create the best end result. For example, cutting potatoes into uniform pieces ensures that they will cook evenly. Adding fat to the dish can create a crispy layer on top, while adding protein can increase the nutritional value of the dish. Finally, choosing the right temperature is key to ensuring that the food is properly cooked.

The Inevitable Loss of Micronutrients

While baking is a great way to prepare food, it is important to note that there will always be some loss of micronutrients. For example, the skins of fruits and vegetables are often unstable at high temperatures, which can result in the destruction of vitamins. However, by peeling fruits and vegetables before baking them, this loss can be minimized.

Grilling vs. Baking

Grilling is another popular way to prepare food, but it is not as effective as baking when it comes to preserving the nutrient value of the food. Grilling requires high temperatures, which can result in the destruction of vitamins and other micronutrients. Additionally, grilling does not uniformly heat the food, which can result in unevenly cooked dishes. Baking, on the other hand, uniformly heats the food, which results in evenly cooked dishes every time.

The Art of Baking: Understanding the Three Stages of Baking

When it comes to baking, the first step is always to mix the ingredients. Whether you’re making bread, cake, or cookies, the mixing process is crucial to the final result. Here are some important things to keep in mind:

  • Precision is key: Baking requires a level of precision that is not always required in other types of cooking. Make sure to measure your ingredients carefully and follow the recipe closely.
  • Incorporate dry ingredients gently: When you’re mixing dry ingredients like flour, sugar, and baking powder, it’s important to do so gently. Over-mixing can result in a tough, dry final product.
  • Mix until smooth and uniform: Whether you’re using an electric mixer or mixing by hand, make sure to mix until the batter or dough is smooth and uniform. This will ensure that the resulting baked good has a consistent texture.

Stage 2: Shaping and Drying the Dough

Once you’ve mixed your ingredients, it’s time to shape and dry the dough. This stage is particularly important for bread and other yeast-based doughs. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Yeast fermentation: When making bread, the yeast in the dough creates an active fermentation process that helps the dough rise. This is why it’s important to let the dough rest and rise before shaping it.
  • Gluten development: Gluten is a protein found in wheat flour that gives bread its structure. To develop gluten, you’ll need to knead the dough, which helps to stretch and strengthen the gluten strands.
  • Folding and dividing: For enriched doughs like brioche or cinnamon rolls, folding and dividing the dough is an important step that helps to create layers and a flaky texture.

Stage 3: Baking and Serving

The final stage of baking is, of course, baking and serving the finished product. Here are some important things to keep in mind:

  • Preheat your oven: Always preheat your oven before baking to ensure that the oven is at the right temperature when you put your dough in.
  • Check for doneness: Different baked goods require different baking times, so make sure to read the recipe carefully and check for doneness by inserting a toothpick or checking the edges for browning.
  • Storing and serving: Once your baked goods are complete, it’s important to store them properly to maintain their freshness. For example, bread should be stored in a paper bag at room temperature, while cookies and cakes can be stored in an airtight container. And of course, don’t forget to serve and enjoy your delicious creations!

Understanding the three stages of baking is essential for any beginner or professional baker. By following these steps and incorporating your own personal touch, you can create the best possible result and love the process of baking.

The Art of Baking: Techniques and Foods

Baking is a method of cooking that requires careful attention to detail and accuracy. Here are some basic techniques to follow when baking:

  • Measure ingredients accurately using a scale or measuring cups and spoons.
  • Mix ingredients in a bowl, stirring gently to combine.
  • Use the correct technique for folding ingredients together.
  • Stir ingredients carefully to avoid over-mixing.
  • Use the tare function on your scale to accurately measure ingredients that need to be added in smaller parts.
  • Follow the recipe’s instructions for baking time and temperature, and use an oven thermometer to ensure accuracy.
  • Use a toothpick or skewer to test if a dish is done by tapping it gently. If it comes out clean, the dish is ready.

Types of Foods that can be Baked

Baking can be used to prepare a wide variety of dishes, from sweet to savory. Here are some foods that can be baked:

  • Sweet dishes: cakes, cookies, pies, tarts, bread pudding, muffins, and brownies.
  • Savory dishes: beef, pork, vegetables, and casseroles.
  • Thickening agents: starches like flour and cornstarch can be used to thicken sauces and gravies.
  • Delicate dishes: baking allows for gentle cooking of delicate dishes like fish and eggs.
  • Natural products: baking can be used to produce natural products like bread and yogurt.
  • Special dishes: some dishes require special techniques, like soufflés and meringues, that can be created through baking.

The Function of Baking in Cooking

Baking serves several functions in cooking:

  • It allows for even cooking of dishes.
  • It creates a crispy outer layer on dishes like bread and pastries.
  • It helps to protect delicate dishes from direct heat.
  • It allows for the natural flavors of ingredients to shine through.
  • It serves as a method of thickening sauces and gravies.

Knowing these functions can help you create delicious dishes that are sure to surprise and delight your diners.

The Baking Process: A Journey from Dough to Deliciousness

Baking is a complex process that involves several stages, each contributing to the final product’s desired texture, flavor, and appearance. The three major stages of baking are:

  • Expansion of the dough: During this stage, the dough rises and expands due to the formation and expansion of gases, also known as oven spring. This is caused by the heat of the oven, which causes the gases to expand and the dough to rise.
  • Drying of the surface: As the dough continues to bake, the surface dries out, and moisture evaporates. This is necessary to achieve a crispy crust and prevent the baked goods from becoming too dense or soggy.
  • Crust browning: The final stage of baking involves the Maillard reaction, which causes the crust to brown and develop a rich, complex flavor. This occurs when the sugars and amino acids in the dough react to the heat of the oven, creating new flavor compounds.

The Subdivided Stages of Baking

Each of the three major stages of baking can be further subdivided into the following stages, in the order of temperature increase:

  • Formation and expansion of gases (oven spring)
  • Starches gelatinize and proteins coagulate
  • Fats melt and liquids evaporate
  • Enzymes are denatured and nutrients break down
  • Caramelization and Maillard browning occur

The Role of Heat in Baking

Heat is a crucial component of the baking process, as it causes several changes to occur in the dough or batter. These changes include:

  • Formation and expansion of gases, which cause the dough to rise and expand
  • Gelatinization of starches, which contributes to the texture of the baked goods
  • Coagulation of proteins, which helps the baked goods hold their shape
  • Melting of fats, which contributes to the flavor and texture of the baked goods
  • Evaporation of liquids, which concentrates flavors and helps the baked goods dry out
  • Denaturation of enzymes, which breaks down nutrients and contributes to the flavor and texture of the baked goods
  • Caramelization and Maillard browning, which give the baked goods an attractive appearance and rich flavor

The Different Types of Baking

There are several different types of baking, each requiring a slightly different approach and set of ingredients. Some of the most common types of baking include:

  • Bread baking: This involves the use of yeast to leaven the dough and create an open, airy texture.
  • Cake baking: This typically involves the use of baking powder or baking soda to leaven the batter and create a light, fluffy texture.
  • Pastry baking: This involves the use of fats, such as butter or shortening, to create a flaky, tender texture.
  • Cookie baking: This typically involves the use of sugars and fats to create a crispy, chewy texture.

The Importance of Moisture in Baking

Moisture is a crucial component of the baking process, as it helps to dissolve sugars and other ingredients and spread them evenly throughout the dough or batter. It also helps to activate enzymes and microorganisms, which contribute to the flavor and texture of the baked goods. However, too much moisture can cause the baked goods to become soggy or dense, while too little moisture can cause them to become dry and crumbly.

The Role of Storage and Cooling in Baking

After the baked goods are removed from the oven, it is important to allow them to cool and then store them properly to maintain their texture and flavor. Cooling allows the starches to solidify and the moisture to evaporate, while storage helps to prevent the baked goods from becoming stale or moldy. Some considerations when storing and cooling baked goods include:

  • Allowing the baked goods to cool to room temperature before storing them
  • Storing the baked goods in an airtight container to prevent moisture loss or absorption
  • Keeping the baked goods at a certain temperature and humidity level, depending on the type of baked good
  • Avoiding storing different types of baked goods together, as they may have different moisture levels and require different storage conditions

In conclusion, baking is a complex and fascinating process that involves a wide range of changes and transformations. By understanding the different stages and factors that contribute to the baking process, you can create delicious and satisfying baked goods that are sure to impress.

Tools of the Trade: Essential Equipment for Baking Success

When it comes to baking, precision is key. That’s why measuring cups and spoons are a must-have in any baker’s kitchen. Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing your measuring tools:

  • Look for measuring cups and spoons made of sturdy materials like stainless steel or plastic.
  • Make sure the measurements are clearly marked and easy to read.
  • Consider getting both dry and liquid measuring cups to ensure accuracy.

Pans and Bakeware

The right pan can make all the difference when it comes to baking. Here are a few types of pans and bakeware you’ll want to have on hand:

  • Rimmed baking sheets: These versatile sheets are great for everything from cookies to roasted vegetables.
  • Square baking dish: Perfect for casseroles and brownies.
  • Pie pan: For all your pie-making needs.
  • Round cake pans: Essential for making layer cakes.
  • 12-cup muffin tin: Great for muffins, cupcakes, and even mini quiches.

When it comes to choosing bakeware, you’ll find options made of ceramic, glass, metal, and silicone. Each material has its pros and cons, so consider your needs and preferences before making a choice.

Ovens and Thermometers

Your oven is obviously a crucial piece of equipment when it comes to baking. But did you know that an oven thermometer can help ensure that your oven is at the right temperature? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Invest in a good quality oven thermometer to ensure accuracy.
  • Place the thermometer in the center of the oven for the most accurate reading.
  • Preheat your oven for at least 10-15 minutes before baking to ensure it’s at the right temperature.

Bowls and Spatulas

While measuring cups and pans are essential, don’t forget about the humble bowl and spatula. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Choose bowls made of sturdy materials like glass or stainless steel.
  • Consider getting a set of nesting bowls to save space in your kitchen.
  • Invest in a good quality spatula for mixing and scraping.

Aluminum Sheets and Baking Dishes

Aluminum sheets and baking dishes are another essential piece of bakeware. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Choose aluminum sheets that are heavy-duty and won’t warp in the oven.
  • Invest in a few different sizes of baking dishes to accommodate different recipes.
  • Consider getting baking dishes with lids for easy storage and transport.

Remember, having the right equipment is just the first step to baking success. Practice, patience, and a willingness to learn from your mistakes are also key ingredients. Happy baking!

Baking: The Heat is On

When it comes to delicate foods like soufflés or meringues, baking at low temperatures is the way to go. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Low temperatures range from 250°F to 325°F.
  • Low temperatures prevent burning and ensure even cooking.
  • Low temperatures are ideal for foods that need to rise slowly, like bread dough or cakes.
  • Low temperatures require a longer baking time, but the end result is worth it.

Baking at High Temps: Hot and Fast for a Crispy Finish

If you’re looking for a crispy crust on your baked goods, high temperatures are the way to go. Here’s what you need to know:

  • High temperatures range from 375°F to 500°F.
  • High temperatures create a crispy exterior while keeping the inside moist.
  • High temperatures are ideal for foods that need a quick burst of heat, like pizza or bread rolls.
  • High temperatures require a shorter baking time, but watch out for burning!

Choosing the Right Temperature for Your Baked Goods

Now that you know the basics of baking at low and high temperatures, here are some tips for choosing the right temperature for your specific baked goods:

  • Check your recipe for recommended baking temperatures and adjust accordingly.
  • Consider the type of flour you’re using- whole wheat flour requires a lower temperature than white flour.
  • Choose the right pan for your baked goods- dark pans absorb more heat than light-colored pans.
  • Pay attention to the texture of your dough or batter- if it’s too dense, a lower temperature may be needed to ensure even cooking.

Baking is all about finding the right balance of heat and time to create delicious, perfectly baked goods. Whether you’re baking at low temperatures for delicate soufflés or high temperatures for crispy pizza crusts, remember to keep an eye on your oven and trust your instincts. Happy baking!


So there you have it, everything you need to know about baking. It’s a great way to cook delicious foods, and you can experiment with different types of baking. Plus, it’s a great way to spend time with your family. So don’t be afraid to get in the kitchen and give it a try!

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.