Primer on baking
I would like to have a broader understanding of the principles of baking.
Do you know of a good reference?
I'm not much of a recipe follower. I create a lot of my own recipes, to better match our eating style and dietary preferences.
I'm looking for a book that talks from this perspective: what kinds of things you would cook at higher temps and why, and what kinds of dishes you would cook at lower temps and that rationale for that. I want to know the science behind selecting one temp. over another.
Cooking and baking for a few decades now, I have a vague sense about this. It's time to get serious about developing my knowledge base in this area in a little bit more thorough and structured fashion.
Point of clarification, I'm interested in meat and/or veg dishes only, no grains used in our family.
As far as the primer you are looking for. I recommend a membership to America's Family Test Kitchen. I think it is about $18 for a year. They have a lot of articles on roasting and braising. A fairly new technique they developed for roasting meats is searing the roast and them roasting it in the oven at 225°F for a long while. It gets it slowly up to that medium rare to medium range. They also discuss roasting it first and then searing it. They list the advantages and disadvantages. They also recommend heavily salting a roast and putting it in the fridge for 18 hours before cooking.
Anyway, they seem to have the info you are after plus a whole lot more.
Your last sentence should be more prominent. Usually when people talk about baking, they are thinking cakes, bread and cookies. What you are talking about is commonly called roasting - not that the distinction between baking and roasting is well defined.
Your question about high and low temperature makes more sense, since there is more leeway when roasting meat or vegetables. It can be done at high temperatures, or low temperatures for longer time - e.g. a roast at 350 v BBQ at 200.
What kinds of veg dishes do you have in mind? Simple things like baked potatoes or oven roasted vegetables (carrots, pumpkin), or casseroles? Things done in an open pan, or covered (e.g. dutch oven 'baking')?
In general, higher temperatures give more color and crust; lower temperatures can dry things out by the time they are done, unless they have collagen that breaks down with time.