Almond Paste – A creamy mixture made of ground blanched almonds and sugar. For the best baking results, use an almond paste without syrup or liquid glucose. Almond paste is used as a filling in pastries, cakes, and confections.
Bake – To cook in an oven with dry heat. The oven should always be heated for 10 to 15 minutes before baking.
Baking dish – A coverless glass or ceramic vessel used for cooking in the oven. A baking dishcan be substituted for a metal baking pan of the same size. For baked items, such as breads and cakes, the oven temperature will need to be lowered 25 degrees to prevent overbrowning of the food.
Baking pan – A coverless metal vessel used for cooking in the oven. Baking pans vary in size and may be round, square, rectangular, or a special shape, such as a heart. The sides of the pan are 3/4 inch high or more.
Baking stone – A heavy, thick plate of beige or brown stone that can be placed in the oven to replicate the baking qualities of brick-floored commercial bread ovens. Baking stones can be round or rectangular and can be left in the oven when not in use.
Beat – A mixture of flour, liquid, and other ingredients that is thin enough to pour.
Batter – To thoroughly combine ingredients and incorporate air with a rapid, circular motion. This may be done with a wooden spoon, wire whisk, rotary eggbeater, electric mixer, or food processor.
Blend – To combine two or more ingredients until smooth and uniform in texture, flavor, and color; done by hand or with an electric blender or mixer.
Bread flour – The type of flour recommended for bread recipes, made from hard wheat. It has a higher gluten content than all-purpose flour. Gluten, a protein, provides structure and height to breads, making bread flour well suited for the task. Store bread flour in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 5 months, or freeze it for up to a year.
Cake flour – Cake flour is made from soft wheat and produces a tender, delicate crumb. Many bakers use it for angel food and chiffon cakes.
To substitute cake flour for all-purpose flour: Use 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of cake flour per 1 cup all-purpose flour. Sift cake flour before measuring to lighten it to avoid adding too much.
Caramelize – To heat sugar until it is melted and brown. Caramelizing sugar gives it a distinctive flavor.
Chop – To heat sugar until it is melted and brown. Caramelizing sugar gives it a distinctive flavor.
Combine – To stir together two or more ingredients until mixed.
Cooling racks – If fresh-from-the-oven baked goods are cooled on or in a pan, their crusts can become soggy and, in the case of muffins, tough, due to condensation. Racks prevent this. They also are helpful when you’re drizzling icing or chocolate over pastries and don’t want the cookie or cupcake to sit in a puddle of icing. Choose racks that have a grid design rather than parallel strips of metal; a grid offers better support.
Cornmeal – A finely ground corn product made from dried yellow, white, or blue corn kernels. Cornmeal labeled “stone ground” is slightly coarser than regular cornmeal. Store cornmeal in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to six months, or freeze it for up to one year.
Cream – To beat one or more ingredients, usually margarine or butter, sugar, and/or eggs, until the mixture is smooth and fluffy.
Crème fraiche – A dairy product made from whipping cream and a bacterial culture. The culture causes the whipping cream to thicken and develop a sharp, tangy flavor. Creme fraiche is similar to sour cream but is softer and has a milder flavor. Popular in French cooking, creme fraiche is often spooned over fresh fruit or used in recipes like sour cream. It is available at specialty food stores. If you can’t find it in your area, you can make a substitute by combining 1/2 cup whipping cream and 1/2 cup dairy sour cream. Cover the mixture and let it stand at room temperature for 2 to 5 hours or until it thickens. Refrigerate for up to a week.
Crimp – To seal the edges of two layers of dough with the tines of a fork or your fingertips.
Cut in – To distribute solid fat throughout the dry ingredients using a pastry blender, fork, or two knives in a scissors motion.
Cutting butter into flour – The technique combines fat and flour in a way that preserves irregular-size pieces of butter in the mixture. When these shards of butter melt during baking, they create a flaky, tender piecrust, cookie or scone. Cutting in can be accomplished with your fingers, a pastry fork, two knives, a pastry blender, a mixer or a food processor (pulsed gently). Leave the biggest pieces of butter larger than you are tempted to (we suggest the size of your thumbnail); they really do create a flake that is divine.
Dash – A measurement less than 1/8 teaspoon.
Dissolve – To stir a solid food and a liquid food together to form a mixture in which none of the solid remains.
Dough – A soft, thick mixture of flour, liquids, fat, and other ingredients.
Dot – To distribute small amounts of margarine or butter evenly over the surface of pie filling or dough.
Dried egg whites – Dried egg whites can be used where egg white is needed (but not meringue powder, which has added sugar). Dried egg whites also are safer than raw egg whites. One handy use for them is in making egg white glazes for baked goods (no yolk is wasted). Dried egg whites are found in powdered form in the baking aisle of many grocery stores.
Drizzle – To drip a glaze or icing over food from the tines of a fork or the end of a spoon.
Dust – To sprinkle lightly with sugar, flour, or cocoa.
Egg separating – Crack the shell in the middle and use the two halves to pass the yolk from one side to the other, letting the white drip out of the shell and into a bowl. [Food-safety concerns? Egg separator preferred by people who worry about such things as the cleanliness of the shell.]
Extract and oil – Products based on the aromatic essential oils of plant materials that are distilled by various means. In extracts, the highly concentrated oils usually are suspended in alcohol to make them easier to combine with other foods in cooking and baking. Almond, anise, lemon, mint, orange, peppermint, and vanilla are some of the extracts available.
Flavoring – An imitation extract made of chemical compounds. Unlike an extract or oil, a flavoring often does not contain any of the original food it resembles. Some common imitation flavorings available are banana, black walnut, brandy, cherry, chocolate, coconut, maple, pineapple, raspberry, rum, strawberry, and vanilla.
Flute – To make or press a decorative pattern into the raised edge of pastry.
Fold in – To gently combine a heavier mixture with a more delicate substance, such as beaten egg whites or whipped cream, without causing a loss of air.
Food coloring – Either liquid, paste, or powdered edible dyes used to tint foods.
Frost – To apply a sweet cooked or uncooked topping to a cake, cupcakes, or cookies. Frosting is soft enough to spread but stiff enough to hold its shape.
Ganache – A rich chocolate icing made of bittersweet chocolate and whipping cream that’s heated and stirred together until the chocolate melts. The mixture is cooled until lukewarm and poured over a cake or torte for a satiny finish.
Garnish – To add visual appeal to a finished dish by decorating it with small pieces of food or edible flowers. The term also refers to the items used for decoration.
Ginger – A semitropical plant whose root is used as a pungent spice. Ginger has a slightly hot flavor and nippy aroma. Ginger comes fresh as gingerroot, dried in powdered form, and in candied or crystallized form.
Glaze – To coat with a liquid, thin icing, or jelly before or after the food is cooked.
Gluten – An elastic protein present in flour, especially wheat flour, that provides most of the structure of baked products.
Gluten flour – Sometimes called wheat gluten, made by removing most of the starch from high-protein, hard-wheat flour. If you can’t find gluten flour at your supermarket, look for it at a health-food store. Store it in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to five months, or freeze it for up to one year.
Grate – To shred with a handheld grater or food processor.
Grease – To rub fat on the surface of a pan or dish to prevent sticking.
Grind – To produce small particles of food by forcing food through a grinder.
Ice – To drizzle or spread baked goods with a thin frosting.
Juice – To extract the natural liquid contained in fruits or vegetables. This can be done with a juicer or — in the case of citrus fruits — simply by squeezing wedges of fruit over a measuring cup to catch the juice.
Knead – To fold, push and turn dough or other mixture to produce a smooth, elastic texture.
Lukewarm – A temperature of about 105°F, which feels neither hot nor cold.
Marble – To gently swirl one food into another; usually done with light and dark batters for cakes or cookies.
Mascarpone cheese – A very rich cream cheese made primarily of cream.
Mash – To press or beat a food to remove lumps and make a smooth mixture. This can be done with a fork, potato masher, food mill, food ricer, or an electric mixer.
Meringue – Sweetened, stiffly beaten egg whites used for desserts. There are two basic types of meringues. Soft meringues are moist and tender and are used for topping pies and other desserts. Hard meringues are sweeter than soft meringues and are baked to form crisp, dry dessert shells or cookies, such as macaroons. Meringue shells often are filled with fresh fruit or pudding.
Mix – To stir together two or more ingredients until they are thoroughly combined.
Mix until just moistened – To combine dry ingredients with liquid ingredients until the dry ingredients are thoroughly moistened but the mixture is still slightly lumpy.
Partially set – To refrigerate a gelatin mixture until it thickens to the consistency of unbeaten egg whites.
Peel – To remove the skin of a fruit or vegetable by hand or with a knife or peeler. This also refers to the skin or outer covering of a fruit or vegetable.
Pipe – To force a semisoft food, such as whipped cream, frosting, or mashed potatoes, through a hole in a bag to decorate a food.
Plump – To allow a food, such as raisins or dried cherries, to soak in a liquid.
Proof – To allow yeast dough to rise before baking. Or to dissolve yeast in a warm liquid and set it in a warm place for 5 to 10 minutes until it expands and becomes bubbly.
Puree – To change a solid food into a liquid or heavy paste, usually by using a food processor, blender, or food mill. Also refers to the resulting mixture.
Refrigerate – To chill in the refrigerator until a mixture is cool or until dough is firm
Ricotta – A fresh, moist white cheese that is very mild and semisweet. It has a soft, slightly grainy texture. It is available in whole milk, part-skim milk, or fat-free varieties: the whole milk cheese has a creamier consistency and fuller flavor than the lower-fat types.
Roll – To form a food into a shape. Dough, for instance, can be rolled into ropes or balls. The phrase “roll out” refers to mechanically flattening a food — usually a dough or pastry — with a rolling pin.
Rind – The skin or outer coating of such foods as citrus fruit or cheese.
Rolling boil – To cook a mixture until the surface billows rather than bubbles.
Rounded teaspoon – When dough is slightly mounded, not level.
Section – A pulpy segment of citrus fruit with the membrane removed. Also refers to the process of removing those segments.
Scald – To heat a mixture or liquid to just below the boiling point.
Score – To cut slits in food with a knife, cutting partway through the outer surface.
Shortening – Shortening is a solid fat made from vegetable oils. It is often used to create tender, flaky piecrusts and biscuit toppers. It comes packaged in sticks marked with tablespoon and cup measurements and in canisters.
Shred – To cut food into narrow strips using a sharp knife, grater, or food processor fitted with a shredding disk.
Sift – To put one or more dry ingredients, especially flour or powdered sugar, through a sifter or sieve to remove lumps and incorporate air.
Softened – Margarine, butter, ice cream, or cream cheese that is in a state soft enough for easy blending, but not melted.
Soft peaks – Egg whites or whipping cream beaten to the stage where the mixture forms soft, rounded peaks when the beaters are removed.
Sponge – A batterlike mixture of yeast, flour, and liquid used in some bread recipes. The mixture is set aside until it bubbles and becomes foamy, which can be several hours or overnight. During this time, the sponge develops a tangy flavor; the remaining ingredients are added to the sponge, and the dough is kneaded and baked as usual.
Steam – To cook food on a rack or in a wire basket over boiling water.
Stiff Peaks – Egg whites beaten to the stage where the mixture will hold stiff, pointed peaks when the beaters are removed.
Stir – To combine ingredients with a spoon or whisk using a circular motion.
Toss – To mix lightly with a lifting motion, using two forks or spoons.
Whip – To beat rapidly with a wire whisk or electric mixer to incorporate air into a mixture in order to lighten and increase the volume of the mixture.
Whisk – A kitchen utensil made of a group of looped wires held together by a long handle. Whisks are used in baking for whipping ingredients such as eggs and cream to incorporate air into them. Also refers to the process of whipping ingredients together.
Whole wheat flour – Unlike all-purpose and bread flours, whole wheat flour is ground from the complete wheat berry and contains the wheat germ as well as the wheat bran. It is coarser in texture and does not rise as well as all-purpose and bread flours. Store whole wheat flour in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to five months, or freeze for up to one year.
Yeast – A tiny organism that feeds on sugar in dough (often bread dough) to make small carbon dioxide bubbles that get trapped in the dough and make it rise. It works slowly and helps to develop flavorful dough.
Zest – The colored outer peel of citrus fruit, which is used to add flavor. The zest is often referred to as “grated peel” in recipes. To create zest, choose the diagonal-hole side of a box grater (it will zest more cleanly than if you use the nail-hole side) and rub lightly to avoid getting the white pith, which is bitter. For broader strips of zest, use a swivel-blade peeler or a sharp knife to cut away the peel.