Origins & Information - (A-Z) Leavening

In the world of baking, you will hear the term "leavening" whether through baking things yourself or just eating foods that are either leavened or unleavened. What does it mean exactly though? Leavening is a process by which the baked product is lightened and risen; it is a result of air via steaming/carbon dioxide/fluffing being introduced into the dough. The general idea is that an element in the process must expand. There are several ways by which leavening is accomplished, and they have dated as far back as 5,000 years ago when the Egyptians used yeast!

Leavening agents which are fairly common are baking powder, baking soda, active dry yeast, and sourdough starter (though the popularity of self-rising flour will sometimes cut these from a person's pantry). Some leavening methods are steam, air, and carbon dioxide. The various agents and baking methods will contribute to the leavening process in their own ways. When the agents are mixed with water, they often produce carbon dioxide which lead to the baked goods rising when heat is added. Another way to produce the same effect for some baked goods is to fold whipped egg whites into batters because they will trap air. The ultimate difference between leavened and unleavened goods is the volume; leavened goods will have risen and are fluffier! So next time you decide to bake, don't forget your leavening agent(s) lest your final product is a dense, doughy mess.

This post is part of an A-Z series I am running for my blog category "Origins and Information" while I am in Vietnam with my family for July. Many of the posts in the series answer questions that were posed by friends/readers. If y'all enjoy the series, I will gladly run another in the future!