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The Home Baker's Glossary
Better your baking by understanding these common baking terms and never confuse "to cream" for the dairy product again!
Hi Bakers! We are nearing the end of our Back to School : Back to the Kitchen month. I hope you’ve been enjoying some cooler temperatures as we turn our ovens on after summer. With the kids back in school, I sure have been enjoying the art of baking again. As much as I love how enthusiastic they are about being in the kitchen with me, sometimes it is nice to enjoy the peace and process that made me first fall in love with baking in the first place.
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Know the difference between stirring and whisking? Ever have a moment like on Schitt’s Creek where they didn’t know how to fold in the cheese? While this might feel a little like homework, having a basic understanding of these common terms will upgrade your baking skills. Skim them now or bookmark for later, this glossary of baking terms will have you reading a recipe like pro:
Glossary of Baking Terms
Aerate: To fluff-up and introduce air into a mixture. For example, you will want to aerate flour that has settled or is packed down before measuring.
Bain-marie: Also known as a water bath, a bain-marie is a piece of equipment or two pots that fit snugly into each other. The bottom portion contains simmering water in order to gently heat the ingredients in the top. A saucepan and a heat-proof bowl on top will also work. This is used for melting chocolate or gently cooking eggs like when making lemon curd.
Blend: To bring two or more ingredients together.
Blind Bake: This refers to baking empty pie shells until browned that are used for unbaked pies (like banana cream). You can partially bake a pie shell as well for recipes that spend a short time in the oven (like pumpkin pie) but still require a flaky crust.
Bloom: Certain spices and ingredients need to ripen before use. Bloom spices by gently cooking them in hot oil or butter until fragrant. Bloom cocoa powder by mixing it with hot coffee or water. And bloom gelatin in water before use. A recipe may also call you to bloom dried yeast in warm milk or water until it awakens and turns foamy.
Caramelize: To heat an ingredient until the sugar breaks down and turns brown.
Coats the back of a spoon: This phrase is typically used when cooking custards. The mixture should be heated until it is thick enough to coat a spoon or spatula. To test, remove the spoon from the mixture and carefully run your finger across the back - it is thick enough when your finger leaves a clean line behind.
Consistency: The thickness and texture of a substance or mixture.
Cream (verb): To cream is when softened butter or solid fat (like shortening) is beaten together with sugar until light and fluffy. As the ingredients mix, air is incorporated as the sugar cuts into the butter and creates tiny bubbles.
Cutting In: This technique typically refers to adding cold pieces of butter into flour or other dry ingredients to make a crumble. The idea is to incorporate the butter by coating the dry ingredients in fat so that the butter pieces stay intact and don’t uniformly blend in.
Docking: This is the process of pricking holes (typically with a fork) in the bottom of a dough to keep it from puffing in the oven. You might do this when blind-baking a pie crust or when wanting to keep puff pastry from rising too much in the oven.
Dredge: This means to coat an ingredient in a dry mixture (like flour, breadcrumbs, or powdered sugar) either before or after baking.
Emulsion: An emulsion is the result of successfully blending two ingredients that typically do not mix - like oil and water. Some examples are mayonnaise, vinaigrette, meringue-based buttercream, and ganache.
Fold: To carefully but deliberately blend two mixtures (typically of different densities) together by turning the mixture from the bottom of the bowl up to the top in a large folding motion.
Grease (verb): This means to swipe a thin layer of oil, butter, or shortening around the inside of a pan to prevent from sticking.
Knead: This stretching and folding action helps mix together dough when making bread and develops gluten.
Macerate: In this process, adding sugar to ingredients (like berries) draws out its juices and sweetens the overall mixture.
Mise en place: The act of having everything “in its place.” This may include measuring out all of your ingredients, prepping equipment, and reading through a recipe before getting started.
Preheat: Most ovens need ample time (about 30 minutes) to fully reach the set temperature. Always make sure the oven is hot enough before baking, unless the recipe states otherwise.
Prove/Proof: The stage in baking yeasted recipes where the dough needs to rise.
Puree: To blend until a smooth liquid or sauce.
Reduce: This technique refers to the process of cooking a liquid at low heat until some of the water evaporates and the liquid thickens and concentrates.
Ribbon Stage: This refers to the stage after whipping together eggs and sugar. The mixture should be thick enough to fall off the whisk like a ribbon. You should be able to draw two figure-8s on the surface of the batter before it sinks back in.
Score: Scoring means to cut into a dough or baked good without cutting all the way through - like when making slashes on bread dough before it is baked.
Simmer: When liquids are gently cooked on the stove and only small bubbles appear at the surface.
Steep/Infuse: Heating herbs, teas, and spices adds flavors to liquids and melted butter. Add these dry ingredients to a warm liquid and let rest. Strain then use the liquid or butter in the recipe as instructed.
Stir: To blend or mix together. This is typically done with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.
Temper: To gradually increase the temperature of one mixture by slowly stirring in a hot mixture. This is typically done when whisking hot milk into eggs when making custard to prevent curdling.
Tort (verb): To cut baked cakes into flat layers.
Whip/whisk (verb): This is the beating of an ingredient to incorporate air and increase its volume to make it lighter and/or frothy. This is usually achieved by using a whisk (noun).
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