Taste and the Function of Form

How important is how your food looks? In recent years, a variety of new studies have cropped up studying the relationship of how food is manifested and how we experience it. While the majority of how we taste is directly connected to our sense of smell, what we see on our plates may have more impact that you think.

There are some functional ways in which form affects flavour. New technologies at the Tokyo Medical and Dental University have confirmed that the shape of a wine glass directly affects the flavours experienced through manipulating the distribution of flavour-enhancing ethanol vapours. (Newton, Scientific American) In 2012, a consumer uproar arose over changes in the Cadbury formula. Cadbury, however, changed its shape from square block to rounded pieces, but did not change the recipe. Based on prior sensory tests by the Nestle Research Centre, the round shape encouraged faster melting, affecting release of flavour compound and the ensuing perception. (Scott-Thomas)

But further research seems to indicate that the mental perception of shape alone may be enough to sway our palettes. Studies are being done indicating everything from color to sounds actually changes the way something tastes to the individual. (This article giving some breakdown on a slew of new research being delved into.) For us as bakers, hoping to perhaps innovate in our field, even adapting traditional recipes, this could be a crucial tool.


Tangzhong, or Water Roux

Tangzhong is a paste of flour and water that has been cooked to fully gelatinize the present starches (then cooled before addition to your bread).

The effects of water roux can be two fold. The supplementary gelatinized starches further bind water in your bread, creating loaves or buns that stay “fresh” and soft for longer, and in binding that same water, lightly restrict gluten formation. This mild restriction means that while enough gluten forms to create good structure around the new excess of gelatinized starches, there is less of a hard protein structure to exacerbate stiffness as the bread ages.

Tangzhong is generally recommended to be mixed from a 1:5 ratio of flour to water, taken from already present total weights much in the same way one could cover a recipe to include a levain. This mixture is cooked, stirring, until it reaches 65ºC/150ºF. This slurry, cooled, is then added to your mix with your flour and liquid.

On Pastry Chef Online, Jennifer Field integrates tangzhong into a pain au lait. Having previously tested tangzhong use, she deviates slightly from the typical methodology. She uses milk in place of water (perfectly sensible in a pain au lait) and decreases the ratio difference between liquid and flour to create a thicker slurry. She integrates several bread techniques, such as autolyse making this a complex, but rewarding recipe.

Tangzhong Water Roux Pain au Lait
Recipe from Pastry Chef Online
(some steps modified for readability)

What You Need
For the tangzhong
* 6 oz whole milk
* 1.2 oz bread flour
For the Dough
* All the tangzhong
* 6 oz. whole milk
* 15.8 oz bread flour
* 4 teaspoons granulated sugar
* 1¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (from a batch of yeast you know is alive and kicking)
* 1⅛ teaspoon (7 grams) kosher salt (picky, but there you have it)
* 3.25 oz butter, cut into small pieces and allowed to get very soft

What To Do
For the tangzhong
1. Whisk together the flour and milk.
2. Once there are no lumps remaining, cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture has evenly thickened and is nice and smooth.
3. Remove from the heat and…
For the Bread
1. Pour the 6 oz of milk into the tangzhong, whisking until smooth. (This will lower the temperature so you don’t have to wait before continuing.)
2. To your mixing bowl, add all the tangzhong/milk mixture and all the rest of the ingredients except for the butter.
3. With the dough hook, mix on low speed for one minute, or until the dough just comes together. There might be some loose flour in the bowl, but don’t worry about it. It will get incorporated in the next step when you add the butter.
4. Cover the mixer bowl with a lint-free towel (you can leave the bowl on the mixer) and let rest for 30 minutes. This rest (autolyse) allows some gluten to form before you even start kneading.
5. After the rest, turn the mixer on medium-low speed and add the butter in several additions over the course of about three minutes. The dough will be a wreck–sticky, buttery, messy. Worry not.
6. Turn the mixer on medium speed and knead for 7 minutes.
7. Cover the bowl again and let rest for 20 minutes.
8. Remove the towel and knead on medium speed for 7 more minutes.
9. Test the dough. It should be somewhat tacky, very extensible (you can stretch it out really easily) and smooth. Check the dough with the windowpane test. If you can stretch out a wee piece of the dough until it is taught and translucent like bubble gum, you’re good to go.
10. Put the covered dough in the warm and moist microwave–leave the mug of water in there–and let double in size, 45 minutes-an hour.
11. Once the dough has doubled, turn it out onto a clean work surface–no flour. Lightly press the dough into a rough 9″ square.
12. Fold the dough into thirds like a letter. Then, fold it in half–it will seem an impossible task, but just start at one side and sort of push the dough down in the center of your letter fold and pinch the top and bottom edges together. Keep doing this all the way down the length of your dough. Now you will have a fat cylinder of dough about a foot long.
13. Roll the dough over (smooth side up) and hold it like a bowed up slinky.
14. Fit the dough into a pan-sprayed 9″x5″ loaf pan so the slinky’s ends are down in the bottom of the pan. Then press the dough down a bit to even it out and allow it to sit snugly in the pan.
15. Heat the mug of water for another minute or so, and spray the top of the loaf with pan spray.
16. Cover with plastic wrap and place back in the cozy microwave with its little mug friend.
17. Go ahead and set a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350ºF.
18. Let the rise until it has not quite doubled in size–it will probably rise about an inch or so above the lip of the loaf pan. This will take about 30-45 minutes.
19. Once the dough has risen nicely, place in the preheated oven and bake until the loaf is a deep golden brown. It doesn’t need any egg wash or anything. The loaf should sound hollow when tapped and the internal temperature will be between 205ºF and 210ºF.
20. Tip the bread out of the pan and onto a wire rack to cool. Let cool at least an hour.
21. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for 3-4 days. For longer storage, pre-slice, wrap well and freeze. Pull out slices as needed and leave the rest frozen.

The scientific basis of tangzhong’s successful use is fairly straight forward to the educated baker; staling is caused by the migration of moisture out of the starch, resulting in it’s degelatinization. Use fully gelatinized starch in greater amounts, hold on to more water for longer, have less degelatinization. Simple stuff. Even the reduction in gluten formation, while it may not spring immediately to mind, is easily confirmable by any book detailing the science of gluten formation. However, The science behind tangzhong is fairly difficult to find authoritative confirmation for.

Said to originally be from Japan, it was proliferated throughout south-east asia in the 1990s via the book 65º Bread Doctor by Yvonne Chen. (cited in Cookipedia) This history seems to be generally accepted in the majority of descriptions found of tangzhong, which is indeed found in such popular japanese bread products as Hokkaido milk bread. My attempts to get the information straight from the horses mouth (or at least the book the horse wrote) was waylaid by the fact that 65º Bread Doctor is in Chinese. I can find no other mention of tangzhong anywhere that does not either cite Chen’s book as the source, or is entirely uncorroborated. Tangzhong works through basic, well known mechanisms, but short Yvonne Chen’s contributions might not be so readily available through the internet to the home or novice baker.

(If you know of any further books that mention tangzhong please comment! I would love to learn more about this fascinating medium.)

Interesting ways to experiment in the future: how would a tangzhong work in tandem with a levain? Tangzhong can be made from a variety of non gluten alternatives suggested on Pastry Chef Online (which seems very successful in Gluten Free on a Shoestring.) What difference is there between such alternatives?

Paleo “Bread”.

Growing up with chronic skin conditions, mostly eczema, has meant I have tried any and every “cure” available. Adjusting my diet has proven to be helpful at times with the “paleo” diet being my favourite. Also known as the “caveman diet”, eating paleo is essentially eliminating processed foods, dairy, grains, and excess sugar from your diet. The sugar withdrawals are generally the biggest hurdle to overcome for most people whereas I struggled with the concept of no longer eating bread.

As a baker, fresh baked bread is my weakness, especially with how often I would make it. From a slice of toast at breakfast, a sandwich at lunch, and maybe a slice with cheeze whiz in the evening. Bread was easily my downfall. When a major eczema flare happened to me I decided to go all in on the paleo diet. After a few days without bread I knew I needed an alternative, which I luckily found in Danielle Walker and her Against All Grain cookbook. My knowledge of alternative flours was very limited, but I enjoyed the challenge of baking with them. Danielle’s sandwich bread has proven to be one of my favourites and very enjoyable as a mildly sweeter sandwich bread or great french toast.

Grain Free Sandwich Bread


1 cup smooth raw cashew butter at room temperature (almond butter can be substituted)
4 large eggs, separated
½ to 2 tablespoons honey (This is your sweetener; more honey, sweeter bread)
2.5 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
¼ cup almond milk
¼ cup coconut flour (highly recommend using coconut flour, this recipe is formulated for the absorbtion rate of coconut flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt


Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.
Grease a 8.5×4.5 glass loaf pan with a thin coat of coconut oil, hen line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
Beat the cashew butter and the egg yolks, then add honey, vinegar, and milk.
Using an electric mixer,beat the egg whites in a separate bowl until medium peaks form.
Combine the dry ingredients in another small bowl.

Add the dry ingredients to the cashew butter mixture, make sure you mix well and break up any lumps.

Add the medium peak eggs and mix well again, if the peaks were stiff enough then the bread will get a rise.

Pour the batter into the greased pan and then bake for 45-50 minutes. When the loaf has pulled from the edges of the pan and a toothpick comes out clean, then the loaf is done.

Remove from oven and cool for 15 minutes, run a knife along the edges to release the loaf and then flip onto a cooling rack. Cool right side up. Wrapped well and stored in the fridge extends this loafs shelf life as its structure is similar to that of a banana bread instead of a white bread.


paleo bread


Hope you enjoy one of my mom and I’s favourite paleo breads!


Banana Oat Greek Yogurt Muffins

Muffins for breakfast are a delicious treat, because it’s kind of like eating a “healthy” cupcake. Most of the time, muffin recipes are anything but healthy, and can contain as much fat and sugar as a cupcake sans frosting. However, this recipe for banana oat Greek yogurt muffins are gluten free (but only if the oats are gluten free, like these), contain no oil or butter and minimal sugar. The formula replaces flour with ground oats, and the fat with Greek yogurt, which adds a nice bit of protein as well.

These muffins are extremely easy to make, because everything except the chocolate chips are just blended in a food processor, making it a fast and healthy option for a busy lifestyle. To begin, you’ll want to preheat your oven to 400 F, and gather all the ingredients, which are as follows:

  • 2 medium ripe bananas, about 1 cup mashed
  • 2 cups old fashioned or instant oats
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


The method for mixing these is just putting everything except the chocolate chips into a food processor, and blending until smooth and the oats are finely cut.

Then simply mix in the chocolate chips by hand, and pour into a lined muffin tin. The yield will be approximately 12 muffins, depending on the size of your tin. You can fill the liners quite full, maybe leaving a ¼ inch from the top of the liner, because the muffins don’t rise that much.




Bake the muffins for about 15 minutes, checking the center with a cake tester to ensure the oats have fully set. Let cool, and enjoy!

The flavour is pretty spot on with these muffins compared to a regular sugar and fat filled recipe. You can definitely taste the oats, but if you like oats, then these muffins should win you over. Greek yogurt keeps them very moist, and the chocolate chips add that little bit of something that makes it seem like these aren’t really healthy. The structure is the only factor that takes away from the overall experience with these muffins, probably due to the fact that they are gluten free. They don’t release easily from the sides of the muffin liner, and are quite delicate, causing them to be sort of a hassle to eat. However, I think that is a small price to pay for an otherwise excellent recipe.


I hope you give these a try and enjoy them as much as I did!

Gluten free baking from a gluten lover

Since living with my friend who has Celiac, I have gotten to have the cool experiences having learning and playing with some gluten-free recipes. Not only do I get to make gluten-free meals but also gluten-free baking recipes. Recently I have got to do a lot more gluten-free baking since we have had time off from school. I had never done any gluten-free baking moving with my friend. It has been quite interesting and can be slightly annoying at times. The main thing that I have noticed with gluten-free baking that gluten-free is a lot more absorbent than normal flour making batters a lot thicker and a lot less viscous.

There are different ways to do gluten-free baking, you can either use an actual gluten-free baking recipe or change regular gluten full recipe and switch the flour to gluten-free flour. I use a cup-for-cup gluten-free flour which is a mix of a lot of different gluten-free flours blended into one. I use Cloud 9 gluten-free flour, it is an all-purpose flour in gluten-free baking.

More recently, the main gluten-free baking I have done is I made some blueberry muffins. IMG_20160206_182848181

I also made a banana chocolate loaf.IMG_20160126_154240091

Both of these were made from gluten-free websites, blueberry muffins and banana loaf, although instead of using Bob’s Redmill gluten-free flour I used the Cloud 9 flour.

The most recent baking I’ve done is made some incredibly adorable little gluten-free apple crisps, I did not use any recipe for this however, I just played off of past experiences and improvised something which turned out delicious. Snapchat-8269750207157885948

By: Talia Bernath