Almond streusel
Achieving the characteristic lift of baked goods involves different leaveners depending on inclusions like almonds.
Blue Diamond Almonds

KANSAS CITY — Consumers expect most baked goods to have some degree of volume. This lift, also known as leavening, involves the entrapment of air, which causes the dough or batter to rise and lighten up. Without leavening, baked goods are dense, often hard, masses only palatable when consumed in a thin format, such as with flatbread and matzo.

There are three categories of leaveners. The first includes some of the basic baking ingredients, such as butter, eggs, milk powders and syrups, which by their molecular composition help create a rise by forming a matrix that entraps air. These ingredients typically work in combination with a more powerful leavener, which is either biological (yeast, sourdough starter, etc.) or chemical (baking powder, baking soda, etc.).

There are several considerations when deciding on the appropriate leavening system. This includes process, distribution and sensory characteristics.

“Yeast imparts a defined flavor profile, and in sweet goods such as cakes and muffins, this is undesirable,” said Michelle Briggs, vice-president technical and marketing, Kudos Blends.

Yeast and starter cultures are living systems that can be challenging to control. Baked goods leavened by such a biological means require additional time and even a modified temperature space — a proofing box or room — to allow for growth. It’s also an immediate process, whereas the microorganisms grow, produce carbon dioxide and then get baked.

Chemical leaveners, on the other hand, allow for controlled release of carbon dioxide during the resting and baking phases of production. This can be carefully manipulated to produce the best volume in baked goods.

“Yeast fermentation takes time,” said Sharon Book, senior food technologist-bakery, ICL Food Specialties. “Chemical leavening is much faster. It is very versatile and lends itself to both lean and rich formulas as well use in bakery mixes, refrigerated and frozen doughs, and baked goods for retail and food service.”

Robert Mason, technical development manager — encapsulates and inclusions, SensoryEffects, a division of Balchem, said yeast tends to make gas bubbles, which then expand, whereas chemical leavening tends to make many smaller bubbles.

“This can make for a softer crumb structure and mouthfeel,” Mr. Mason said.