Recipe got you stumped? It happens to me, too! No matter how much experience one has in the kitchen, there is always something to learn!
I’ve put together a running list of terms/phrases used in baking recipes, along with their definitions. If there is a term or word that you think may be useful in this list, please leave it in the comments below!
Beat – The process of stirring or whipping with a spoon, electric mixture, wire whisk, or beater to create a smooth mixture of ingredients.
Blend – To blend ingredients is to mix two or more of them together with a spoon or whisk or an appliance such as a blender, mixer, or processor.
Bloom – 1.) In bread, bloom is the brown color found in the crust of a well-baked loaf.
2.) In chocolate, bloom refers to pale, grayish streaks or blotches that appear on the surface of chocolate that demonstrates that separation of cocoa butter from the chocolate itself. It occurs when chocolate has been stored in an environment that is too warm, but it does not mean that the chocolate is no longer usable.
Boil – To heat a liquid until bubbles rise continually to the surface and break.
Caramelize – To heat sugar until it is melted and golden brown. This gives a distinct, rich flavor.
Coats the back of the spoon – When a thin, even film covers a metal spoon after it has been dipped into a cooked mixture and allowed to drain.
Combine – To stir together two or more ingredients until mixed.
Cream – To beat sugars and fats (normally butter, margarine or shortening) until smooth, soft and fluffy.
Crumb Coat – A very thin layer of frosting that is applied to a cake before the final frosting is put on. This essentially traps all the loose crumbs on the surface of a cake in a thin, sticky layer of frosting.
Cut In – To distribute solid fat throughout the dry ingredients using a pastry blender, fork, or two knives in a scissors motion, without creaming. This results in a grainy, crumbly mixture.
Dash – Measurement that’s less than 1/8 teaspoon (but more than a pinch).
Double Boiler – A kitchen tool used for applying gentle heat on the stovetop. It’s useful for delicate tasks like making hollandaise sauce, melting chocolate, and preparing custards.
TIP: If you do not have a double boiler, fill pot about 1/4 full with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and fit the bowl into the pot. The bottom of the bowl should not reach the water (at least 2″ to 3″ space between the bowl and water is optimal). The intention is to heat the bowl with steam and not the water.
Drizzle – Usually done with icing, glaze or melted chocolate, this is the process of dripping the icing off a fork or spoon onto your finished .recipe.
Fold – A process of stirring that gently combines something heavy into something light so that the heavy ingredient doesn’t ruin the light one. Using a spatula, fold the bottom of the bowl up and over the top, turn the bowl 90 degrees, fold again, and repeat the process until combined.
Flute – To make or press a decorative pattern into the raised edge of pastry.
Glaze – This is a light layer of icing that is more liquid in form than frosting. Glazes can be drizzled over recipes or baked goods can be dipped in glaze. (Think glazed donuts.)
Gluten – Proteins found in wheat. It helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together.
Grease – To prepare your pans so they don’t stick to the food. This can be done with nonstick cooking spray or butter, shortening or oil.
Grease and flour – This is when you grease your pan with butter or shortening and then add a bit of flour. Tap and swirl the pan so that the flour coats all of the fat. Tip out excess flour. This is usually done when making a cake, for easy removal.
Heavy Whipping Cream – Also called heavy cream. Contains 36% or more milk fat. When whipped, this will hold its shape longer than whipping cream/light whipping cream.
Knead – The process of working dough with the heels of one’s hands, pressing and folding it and turning it a quarter of a turn after each time the dough is pressed and folded. This is done to assist in gluten production, which results in a smooth, elastic texture.
Lamination – The process of alternating dough and cold butter in pastry. The dough is wrapped around butter (so that the butter is completely enclosed in dough and cannot slip out), the “package” is rolled out, folded over to double the number of layers, and then the whole thing is repeated. More folds/turns results in a flakier dough (i.e. croissants, puff pastry and danish dough.)
Leavening – The production of a gas in a dough batter using an agent like baking powder, yeast, baking soda, or even eggs. Leavening agents work via the production of carbon dioxide in the dough, and long ago these agents were also known as “lifters.”
Lukewarm – Slightly warm, between 98 and 105° Fahrenheit.
Macerate – Soften or become softened by soaking in liquid. Normally done with liquid and sugar combined.
Mix until moistened/combined – Stir or beat just until the wet ingredients and dry ingredients are mixed together, then stop. Mixing beyond this point can result in a dry or tough baked good.
Pasteurized – A process in which certain goods and foods are treated with mild heat (usually less than 212° F/100° C), to eliminate pathogens and extend shelf life
Pinch – Less than a dash, literally the amount you get when you pinch a spice or other ingredient between your thumb and forefinger.
Proof – To let dough rise and rest. Often done with yeast doughs.
Punch – In between risings of bread or other such dough you’re asked to deflate it by punching it down in between.
Rolling Boil – Rapidly boiling with lots of bubbles.
Rounded – Used when referring to a measurement (i.e. teaspoon, tablespoon, cup, etc.) When measuring, it is not leveled off, but rather left as a dome.
Scald – To heat a mixture just below the boiling point.
Scant – In terms of measurement, a scant cup of flour is measured just below the cup line (just less than the amount called for).
Score – Cut lines or slits into something, usually dough. This can serve a decorative purpose, or to allow steam to escape while baking.
Sift – Put dry ingredients through a sieve/sifter in order to remove lumps or large particles.
Simmer – Just before a mixture boils, after it scalds, is when it simmers: little bubbles form around the edge of the pan.
Softened – A state soft enough for easy blending, but not melted. Usually referring to fat such as better, margarine or cream cheese.
Soft Peaks – Egg whites or whipping cream beaten to the stage where the mixture forms soft, rounded peaks when the beaters are removed from batter.
Stiff Peaks – Egg whites beaten to the stage where the mixture will hold stiff, pointed peaks when the beaters are removed.
Tempering – To slowly increase the temperature of a cold ingredient so it’s more compatible with the hot ingredient. Not doing so can result in shocking one or both of the ingredients, which can lead to a curdled, broken or split dish.
Well Method – In baking, this is when you make a divet in the center of your dry ingredients, pour your wet ingredients in and stir in circles. This evenly incorporates the dry ingredients into the wet.
Whip – Beating or stirring rapidly with a whisk to add air and volume into a recipe.
Whipping Cream – Also called light whipping cream. Contains 30-35% milk fat.
Yield – The amount of servings estimated for a recipe.
Zest – The colored outer peel of citrus fruit, which is used to add flavor. To grate zest, use a microplane grater or the smallest part of a box grater.
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