Why is chocolate cake compared to a compound?

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Any cake could be considered a compound, which is defined as something composed of two or more separate elements. Baking is a science, requiring precise measurements of the ingredients listed in a recipe in order to produce the cakes, cookies, muffins, and other products we associate with baking.

Each ingredient has a specific role in making this compound turn out correctly. The proteins in flour form an elastic network of gluten, which stretches as gases expand inside the rising dough. And the type of flour makes a difference too—high protein flours work best for breads and biscuits (think hearty whole grain loaves) and low protein flours are used for lighter pastries and cakes. Shortening, such as butter and vegetable oils, “shorten” the formation of gluten, producing a more delicate product. Leavening, such as baking soda or yeast, makes the dough rise before or during baking. Egg proteins get rearranged during the baking process, creating a solid from a liquid and giving structure to the cake. Sugar helps to caramelize the product.

As for chocolate, over 600 unstable compounds play a role in its aroma and flavor. It is available in various forms for baking, including cocoa powder (made by pressing cacao liquor to remove the cocoa butter, which absorbs liquids in baking, replacing some of the flour in baked goods) and bar form (chocolate liquor and cocoa butter). There is also compound chocolate, the type most often used by the baking industry, typically used as a coating and containing no cocoa butter.

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