Many baking ingredients call for mixing wet and dry ingredients. For the experienced baker, it’s a no-brainer. But if you are starting out, you might get confused by some ingredients that are not as clear-cut. For example, sugar.
Is sugar a wet ingredient? What makes sugar a wet ingredient? What does it do? We’re here to answer the questions that have been on your mind. So, let’s get into it!
Technically, no. Sugar is solid, and it is neither damp nor moist. However, when baking using the “muffin method,” sugar is mixed as a wet ingredient along with other wet ingredients. Even though it is technically dry.
Sugar is considered a wet ingredient in baking because, in many recipes, sugar is mixed along with wet ingredients. There are different reasons why a recipe could call for this. We’ll let you in on a few of these reasons.
First off, it is easy for sugar to dissolve in a fluid or liquid without reacting to it. We can’t say the same about other dry ingredients. By mixing sugar and other wet ingredients, you can be sure that they will be evenly distributed in the batter.
Secondly, creaming sugar with butter serves a specific purpose in some cake recipes. For one, it can create small air pockets that make it easier for the cake to rise.
What are dry ingredients in baking?
Dry ingredients in baking are those ingredients that don’t contain any fluids or moisture. They include flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, yeast, salt, spices, etc. Although sugar is technically a dry ingredient, it is often mixed with wet ingredients to ensure even distribution.
Generally, you mix the dry ingredients first when baking. However, most (if not all) recipes will instruct that you sieve the dry ingredients together first, then set them aside. Next, you would mix the wet ingredients. Then, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine both.
What is it called when you mix dry and wet ingredients separately when baking?
We referenced the “muffin method” earlier, and this is what it means. It is a mixing process where you mix the dry and wet ingredients separately first before you combine them when baking.
You can separate wet and dry ingredients by mixing each in a separate bowl before combining. You often combine by adding the wet mix to the dry mixture.
It’s pretty simple, really. Alternating wet and dry ingredients makes the mixing process a lot easier and saves you a lot of time. It also ensures that all the wet ingredients are thoroughly absorbed and gets you a smooth and even batter in no time!
There are many dry ingredients. Basically, any ingredient that does not contain fluids, water, or moisture is dry. Common dry ingredients are flour, salt, yeast, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, etc.
The first thing that comes to anyone’s mind when asked about the purpose of sugar in baking is that it is used as a sweetener. However, sugar is much more than that. While it certainly enhances the flavor and taste of baked goods, sugar does much more than that.
Sugar is sometimes used to enhance the color of your treat. Most browned treats like banana bread, for example, have their color due to caramelization. This can’t happen without sugar. Sugar also plays an essential role in preserving your treats. Because it is hygroscopic, sugar helps to slow down water action in foods and give them a longer shelf life. It also maintains their color and keeps your treats from becoming stale or brittle.
Apart from making your cake sweet, there is much more afoot when you add sugar to your recipe. Any addition or reduction could impact how the cake turns out. Here are some other things sugar does in a cake.
It keeps your cake and icing from drying out too quickly, leaving the cake soft and moist. Also, it helps the cake to maintain its structure and shape. If the cake is too tender, it could fall apart and lose its shape. However, if it is too strong, it will keep its form but will not be much fun to eat. This is a significant reason why it is best to stick to the amount of sugar a recipe calls for. Adding much more or much less could severely affect the outcome of your cake.
When wet, sugar becomes sticky due to a chemical process called hydrogen bonding. This means that the hydrogen in sugar bonds with the hydrogen in water, leading to a sticky, sugary solution.
You can dry sugar if it gets wet in three ways. One way is to leave it out in the open to dry out. This sometimes works but might not be of much help if the air in the room is humid. Also, leaving sugar out in the open tends to attract a lot of ants in some areas. So, we do not recommend this process.
Alternatively, you could lay it out on a tray and put it in an oven with low heat. But, again, make sure the heat is low as you do not want it to caramelize.
The third option is to place it in an airtight jar with a slice of bread. We haven’t personally tested out this method, so we can’t say for sure how it would go. But if you would want to give it a try, make sure to replace the bread at intervals to prevent mold.
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I write about the intersection between evolutionary biology and food. I also talk about practical applications, sustainable agriculture, and general tasty things