Here is a glossary of common baking definitions and terms with their definitions to help bring you baking success in your kitchen. Knowing these baking terms can help with relieving frustration as to how to read a baking recipe or formula.
Baking is both science and art. Some would say baking is more of a science than an art. If one part of the recipe is off or the wrong substitution is made, the entire recipe can be a failure. That is why when I was studying for my Associates’s degree in Baking & Pastry Arts as well as my bachelor degree at Johnson & Wales University, we referred to ‘baking recipes’ as ‘formulas’.
In a formula, there is a percentage for everything and every ingredient is weighed out to a precise measurement. This ensures that the formula, or recipe, is consistent from batch to batch. The home baker may not want to take these precise measurements in their baking, but they will have better success in the finished product if they do.
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I will be referring to my notes from Baking And Pastry University as well as the Food Lover’s Companion, Second Edition for these baking definitions. The Food Lover’s Companion is a staple on my cookbook shelf and I feel every household should have a copy. Mine was a gift to me from a mentor in college. I think of her often as I see her signature in the front cover. Miss you Ms. G!
Baking Deffinitions – Ingredients
- Baking Soda – known as bicarbonate of soda, baking soda is a leavener in baked goods. when combined with an acid such as yogurt, buttermilk, or molasses, baking soda produces carbon dioxide bubbled, giving the product a rise. Baking soda is activated when it comes in contact with liquids and should always be added to the dry ingredients before the liquid ingredients are added. I like to remember that Baking Soda lets products spread…S for spread.
- Baking Powder – a leavening agent that contains both baking soda and an acid agent such as cream of tartar. When combined with a liquid and heat, baking powder gives off carbon dioxide bubbles, giving the product a rise. I like to remember that baking powder likes to make products poof, instead of spread like baking soda.
- Confectioners’ sugar, Powdered sugar, 10x Sugar: white sugar that has been ground to a fine powder about 3% by weight, of cornstarch has been added to prevent clumping. Because of how quickly it dissolves powdered sugar is used in icing and candies. Confectioners’ sugar can be substituted for granular sugar. 1 3/4 cups PACKED powdered sugar equal 1 cup granular sugar.
- Cream of Tartar – a fine white powder derived from a crystalline acid deposit from the inside of wine barrels. Cream of tartar is added to candies and frosting mixtures for a creamier consistency and to egg whites before beating to improve stability and volume.
- Dry Milk – [see powdered milk ] – milk which all the moisture has been removed. This milk is less expensive and easier to store. It comes in 3 basic forms – whole, non-fat and buttermilk. Dry milk doe not taste quite like fresh milk once reconstituted.
- Egg Wash – egg yolk or egg white mixed with a small about of water or milk. Brushed over breads, pastries or other baked goods before baking to give them color and gloss.
- Fondant: used in both candy making and as an icing, fondant is a simple water\sugar\cream of tartar mixture cooked to softball stage and then once cooled, kneaded until pliable and able to be rolled out to cover a cake or formed to make decorations. also see the ONLY question on my midterm on year. How do you make fondant? One question. 50% of my grade. I got a 98%.
- Ganache: a rich chocolate icing made of heated heavy cream poured over semi sweet chocolate and stirred to form a smooth consistency. Ganache can be a soft, medium or hard consistency, depending on the chocolate to heavy cream ratio.
- Milk chocolate: A type of chocolate made from cocoa butter, sugar and milk solids.
- Royal icing: A hard, brittle icing used for decorating cakes and cookies.
- Shortening: Any type of fat added to a baking recipe. Fat interferes with the formation of long gluten strands, literally shortening the strands and producing a crumbly texture.
- Sourdough: A bread leavened by a natural starter.
- Yeast: A microorganism that consumes sugars and starches and produces CO2 gas which causes bread to rise.
Baking Definitions – Products
- Choux Pastry – Choux pastry is made by cooking milk, butter, water and flour together to form a dough and then slowly incorporating eggs into the paste. The steam from eggs, milk and butter will make the pastry rise. Also see: Pâte à Choux, Choux paste, eclair paste
- Creme Brulee – [krehm broo-LAY] – a literal translation is ‘burnt cream’. A chilled custard that is sprinkled with sugar or brown sugar that has been quickly caramelized using a kitchen torch, salamander or broiler. The caramelized topping is brittle and crunchy in comparison to the cook, creamy custard under it . Try my sous vide creme brulee for silky smooth custard without the work.
- Croissant [kwah-SAHN; KWAH-saw n; kruh-SAHNT] – croissant is the French word for ‘crescent’. Originally, the croissant was made from a rich bread dough but not until the 1900’s when a French baker made the croissant we know today with its flaky layers, similar to that of puff pastry. Croissants can be filled with chocolate or cheese and are generally a breakfast pastry but I love to use them as bread for savory sandwiches such as chicken salad.
- Curd – a creamy mixture made from fruit juices, sugar, butter, and egg yolks. These ingredients are cooked together until the mixture becomes quite thick and then cooled to be used as a spread, filling to topping for a variety of pastries. See recipes for: lemon curd, rhubarb curd, pomegranate curd, blood orange curd.
- Eclair [ay-KLEHR] – a small, oblong, cream-filled pastry made with choux pastry, often topped with sweet icing, chocolate or sugar.
- Flan [FLAHN]- a round pastry tart that can have a sweet filling such as a fruit or custard or a savory filling such as vegetable, meat or savory custard. This pastry is usually baked in a metal ring with a removable bottom. Additionally, a flan is a Spanish baked custard coated with caramel.
- Galette [gah-LEHT] – a flat, round cake made with a base of flaky pastry dough, yeas raised dough or even an unleavened bread. The galette can also be referred to as a tart and have sweet or savory fillings or toppings.
Baking Deffinitions – Technique
- Cream – to beat an ingredient to a combination of ingredients until the mixture is soft, smooth and ‘creamy’. Often you will see the ‘creaming method‘ or ‘cream together‘ as the instruction in a recipe. This is when two or more ingredients come together as a result of beating them together or form a smooth, homogeneous mixture that shows no separation or evidence that the mixture is more than one ingredient.
- Deep Dish – a term usually referring to a sweet or savory pie made in either a deep pie dish or shallow casserole, having only a top crust. Chicken pot pie would be an example of a savory deep-dish pie.
- Flambe – [flahm-BAY] french for ‘flammed’ or ‘flamming this is a dramatic way of presenting certain foods with liquor, which, after warming, is ignited just before serving.
- Fold – a technique used to gently combine a light and airy mixture with a heavier, denser mixture. The lighter mixture is placed on top of the heavier one in a bowl, using a rubber spatula the two mixtures are cut down the center, vertically, across the bottom of the bowl and up the opposite side. The bowl is rotated a quarter turn after each stroke.
- Hard-Crack stage – a test for sugar syrup and candy making to determine the brittleness of the boiling sugar syrup that has been dropped into cold water. Hard-crack stage is between 300 and 310 F.
Types Of Flour
All types of flours should be stored in airtight containers, at room temperature (about 70 degrees F) for up to 6 months. Temperatures higher than room temperature can invite mold as well as bugs. In commercial kitchens and bakeries, it is common to store flour in a walk-in refrigerator in large closed containers.
- All-purpose flour: made from a blend of high-gluten hard wheat and low-gluten soft wheat. This fine-textured flour is milled from the inner part of that kernel and contains, neither the germ or the bran of the wheat. US law requires that all flours not contain wheat germ must have niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, and iron added. Sometimes added vitamins such as A& D are added. All-purpose flour comes in two forms. Bleached and unbleached.
- Bread Flour – an unbleached, high-gluten blend of 99.8% hard wheat flour and a small amount of malted barley flour, to improve yeast activity, as well as vitamin C and potassium bromate. Bread flour is used in yeast bread such as Paska and Naan.
- Cake or Pastry Flour – a finely textured soft wheat flour with high starch content. Perfect for tender cakes and pastries.
- Flour – a finely ground and sifted meal of any various edible grains.It is common to find steel-ground flour in the local grocery store.
- Self Rising flour – an all-purpose flour that has had baking powder and salt added. this can be substituted for all-purpose flour in yeast bread by omitting the salt and in quick breadd by omitting both the baking powder and the salt.
- Steel-ground flour – flour that has been crushed with huge and high-speed steel rollers or hammers. The heat that is generated with these high-velocity machines strips away the wheat germ and destroys valuable vitamins and enzymes. See stone-ground flour as an alternative to steel-ground.
- Stone-ground flour – a flour that is produced by grinding the grain between two slow-moving stones. This is a gentler process than steel-ground flour. this process crushed the rain without generating heat and separating the germ of the wheel. A stone-ground flour can be purchased in a range of textures from coarse to soft and powdery depending on the sifting it receives at the mill.
- Whole Wheat Flour – contains the wheat germ, giving it a higher fiber, fat and nutritional content. Because of the higher fat content, whole wheat flour should be stored in the refrigerator to prevent it from going rancid. Check out my whole wheat zucchini bread recipe.
- Gluten – a portion that forms an elastic network
Sarah Mock is a classically trained Chef and graduate of Johnson & Wales University. A culinary blogger for 11 years Sarah helps the home cook prepare her recipes with professional results.