eli5 Why do we mix the liquid and the dry separate when we baking

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eli5 Why do we mix the liquid and the dry separate when we baking

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Typically you only do this for doughs that use an acid-base reaction to produce air bubbles, like muffins. The reason you do it is because you’re using baking powder (which is a powder containing both acid and base in it,) and when you mix baking powder with liquid it causes an acid-base reaction, which creates CO2. You want to trap that CO2 inside of the finished baked good as much as possible, so if you spend a lot of time mixing the dough before baking, you’ll vent most of your CO2 out of the mixing bowl.

Keeping your wet and dry ingredients separate and then only mixing as much as it takes to get an even mix is a good way to ensure that you don’t lose all that CO2.

It’s not important with other kinds of baking, like yeasted breads – you can just dump your flour, water, salt, and yeast in the same container and mix them all together and it’s no problem.

Generally this is because you’re working with flour. When you add water to flour, it starts to form gluten. Gluten makes things tough and chewy. For bread, this is good, but for most other things, it’s not. Minimizing mixing minimizes gluten formation.

The other main reason is it’s just easier. Dry powders mix together easily. Toss something dry into a liquid, and you’ll often get clumps. If it’s an important ingredient present in small quantities, having most of it clump in one place can ruin your product. Some ingredients, like corn starch, really like to clump like this

Two main reasons:

First, the liquid ingredients start chains of chemical reactions in the dry ingredients. You want to make sure all those reactions happen evenly, so it’s important to make sure that everything is mixed as much as possible before the wets and the drys go together.

Second, gluten. Gluten is the protein found in wheat flour. As the name implies, it’s gluey. Water activates the gluten and starts a process where strands of protein start to stick to each other. When you’re making sandwich bread, that’s great. The gluten is what holds the gasses produced by the yeast in place so the bread rises, and also gives bread that slightly chewy texture. That same texture is not so good for cake or brownies, though, so you want to move the flour around as little as possible after the liquids go in.

Try it out sometime. Make two batches of any basic pancake recipe. For one batch stir the wets and the drys separately before combining. For the other dump everything into a bowl as you measure it, then mix it all together until it’s evenly combined. You should be able to tell which is easier to mix, and which tastes better at the end.

Besides the basic idea of trying to evenly distribute your ingredients, baking is chemistry.

 Because the longer that flour is mixed with liquid, the more structural gluten is developed.

Gluten development is essential when making breads because it provides the stretchy framework for supporting the rising bread. But for tender cakes or other baked goods, gluten development should be minimized.

So, when baking cookies or cake, you are trying to evenly incorporate all ingredients without over mixing.

Short answer: adding dry things to liquids makes them clump and you don’t want a bite of baking soda that wasn’t mixed in. NOT good. Also, once leavening (baking soda, baking powder) gets wet it starts to activate and if it starts to activate before you’ve mixed all the rest of your ingredients, it won’t work as well when you bake and you’ll have flat things

In a case of baking, you do it because of how things react, and the order of importance being to make something mix with the right other ingredient first, in case an ingredient can bind with several others.

In other cases, like with chocolate, the chemistry plays a role in making the water not like to stick. Like when you mix hot chocolate. The chocolate powder doesn’t like to mix because cacao powder is hydrophobic, and sugar helps the transition to water, binding to the chocolate (cacao)

That’s the only order of importance in chocolate really. Warming it up makes the water atoms move quicker and soak in more easily. That can be necessary for a lot of things like butter and seasonings and whatnot