The Science of Baking: Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates provide mass by absorbing water. Carbohydrates won’t absorb water until it reaches 140 degrees F. Carbohydrates help prevent staling because they attract and absorb water. Sugar is hygroscopic which is hugely helpful at high altitudes which tend to be dry, but it also causes spread and is a tenderizer and can cause havoc at higher altitudes. At high altitudes, there isn’t the air pressure to keep sugar’s spread under control.


Dry sugars

  1. Sucrose (a combo of fructose and glucose)
  2. Dextrose (from corn)
  3. Fructose (from fruits)
  4. Lactose (from milk)
  5. Maltose (from barley extract)

Forms of sucrose, aka table sugar: powdered, ultra fine, extra fine, coarse, and brown sugar.

Brown sugar and honey help combat the drying effects of high altitude by softening cookies upon standing because of its higher amount of fructose.


Invert sugar is longer granulated and maintains its liquidity due to pH level and enzymes.

  • Honey
  • Corn syrup – browns at a lower temperature than sugar. Replacing a small amount (_ oz) of the sugar with corn syrup helps smaller items, like cookies, brown faster which is a benefit at high altitudes.
  • Molasses- sulfur is added to buffer and bring out sweetness. Blackstrap molasses is the last refinement of molasses.

Syrup may be substituted for up to 30% of a formula without adjusting the formula.


  1. Sorbitol
  2. Glycerine
  3. Xylitol
  4. Isomalt

High Intensity Sweeteners

  1. High fructose corn syrup
  2. Saccharin
  3. Aspartame
  4. Acesultame-K
  5. Sucralose

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