Baking Terminology

To be a better baker, you need to learn the language of baking. Use this handy ‘cheat sheet’ to help you decode recipes and get the most out of your kitchen time.
Terminology Definition Baking Science Tips & Tricks Baked Goods

Bain-marie

A water bath prevents delicate desserts from curdling, cracking or overcooking as they bake.

Water creates a barrier between the dessert and the direct heat of the oven so that it bakes slowly and evenly.

Line a baking dish with a clean kitchen towel to prevent pans from slipping. Nestle ramekins or baking pan inside the baking dish. Slowly pour boiling water halfway up the sides of the ramekins or baking dish.

Cheesecake, flan, custards

Batter

Generally, a mixture of flour, eggs and dairy that is thin enough to pour or thick enough to scoop. But cannot be rolled out like a dough.

When overmixed, too much gluten can develop, resulting in a tough baked good.

Minimize the amount of time spent mixing your batter. Follow the amount of time specified in the recipe, or when no streaks of flour remain, stop mixing.

Muffins, quick breads, cakes, cupcakes, brownies

Blind Baking (pre-baking)

Process of partially or fully baking a pie crust or other pastry before adding the filling.

Raw pie dough is made up of cold, solid fat distributed within layers of moist flour. In its raw state, fillings can potentially seep through these layers during the baking process, resulting in a soggy crust.

 

Prick dough all over with a fork to prevent crust from puffing up and shrinking. Line pie crust with parchment paper then fill with pie weights or uncooked rice, dried lentils or dried beans.

Pies and tarts

Bloom/blooming (of gelatin)

A process where gelatin powder or sheets are soaked in cold water for a few minutes before using. This makes the gelatin easier to dissolve and disperse more effectively in the liquid that is to be gelled.

Gelatin is made of long protein strings that connect to each other. These strings hold water to create a gel effect.

Avoid the use of fresh tropical juices such as papaya, kiwi, mango and pineapple as they contain certain enzymes that break down proteins and prevent the gelatin from setting.

Mousse, crémeux

Can be used to thicken puddings, sauces, yogurt, ice cream, gummy candies, marshmallows, stabilizing whipped cream

Caramelize

Process of modifying sugar into a liquid with heat. Final product will be a shade of amber or golden brown.

When heated, water within sugar evaporates and the sugar starts to break down into glucose and fructose. At higher heat, these components further break down into smaller molecules that will react with each other to create hundreds of flavour compounds, producing the unique flavour and aroma of caramelized sugar.

Keep a close eye on the colour of the caramel as it can quickly go from the colour you want to too dark. Depending on the application, caramel can range from a pale golden colour to a deep amber colour. The darker the amber colour, the deeper and nuttier the flavour.

Use a candy thermometer to ensure the hot sugar is the right temperature.

Sugar decoration, dessert sauces and candies

Cream

Process of beating butter together with sugar.

Beating butter and sugar together creates air pockets that lighten and leaven baked goods.

Too hot or too cold butter will not aerate properly. Butter needs to be at room temperature to be properly creamed with sugar.

Buttercream frosting, butter-based cakes, cookies

Crumb Coat

A very thin layer of frosting applied to the top and sides of a cake, providing a crumb-free coating; a base for the final, thicker, decorative layer of frosting.

A thin layer of frosting traps cake crumbs and prevents them from appearing in the finished cake. This fills in any gaps between your cake layers to a smooth and solid surface before adding the final coat.

Transfer a small quantity of buttercream into a separate bowl. This prevents crumbs from contaminating all of your buttercream.

If cake is warm, chill until firm so that the layers don't shift while you're working.

Layered cakes

Cutting In

Process of incorporating small pieces of fat (usually butter) into flour.

Coating flour in fat protects the proteins in flour from forming too much gluten. Small pieces of fat dispersed throughout the dough will melt in the oven, creating pockets of steam that give pastry its flakiness.

Use a pastry cutter or pulse with a food processor to cut cold butter into flour until a crumb-like mixture forms.

Chill dough to ensure the butter remains cold.

Biscuits, pies and scones

Docking

Process of perforating the surface of a dough with a fork or a docker (a special roller with "spikes"). This allows steam to escape and prevents the dough from puffing up when baked.

When blind baking, poking holes lets the steam escape so that the pie crust does not puff up. When making pizza or crackers, docking the dough keeps the dough flat.

Roll out your dough onto the pan. Press it and shape the edge. Prick it all over with a fork. Don't forget the sides. For pizza dough, if a docker is not readily available, you can dock the dough all over with fingertips.

Pie dough, pizza dough, crackers

Emulsion

Process of combining two ingredients that are normally unmixable.

Oil and water do not mix naturally. Rigorous beating is enough to combine these ingredients. Common emulsifiers such as egg yolks, butter, mustard are added to stabilize the suspension.

Take your time when incorporating two competing ingredients. For example:

Add one egg at a time to creamed butter. Wait until fully incorporated before adding another egg.

Slowly incorporate warm cream into chocolate.

Slowly pour oil into egg yolks, while whisking.

Ganache, hollandaise sauce, salad dressing

Fermentation (in baking)

Process of feeding yeast with starch and sugar, as found in yeast dough. Also the name for the first rise of yeast dough.

After kneading, dough needs time to rest and rise. The first rise is called fermentation. During this step, the yeast produces ethanol and carbon dioxide in the dough which gives a unique flavour and causes bread to rise.

The ideal temperature for fermentation is just above 27C. Ideally, place dough in a warm environment such as an oven with the light on.

Yeast bread

Fold

Technique of gently incorporating two mixtures together.

Unlike whisking, a rubber spatula is required to fold an aerated mixture into a batter without deflating the trapped air bubbles. Folding reduces gluten formation.

Gently incorporate whipped egg whites or whipped cream into batter with a scooping-and-folding motion. Do not stir!

Meringues, souffle, mousse

Knead

Process of working wheat-based dough by hand or in a mixer with a dough hook attachment into a smooth and elastic ball.

When water is added to flour, gluten strands form. Kneading increases the strength and elasticity of gluten strands, allowing the dough to stretch and expand as it rises.

Over-kneading will result in a dry and dense bread. Knead until dough looks smooth and feels smooth to the touch.

Yeast bread

Proof

Final rise of a yeast dough after it is shaped and before it is baked.

This step allows the gluten in the dough to relax and to regain the airiness that was lost during shaping. The dough should double in size.

Gently press the dough with your finger. If the indent slowly fills in then it is proofed properly.

The dough is underproofed if the indent springs back immediately.

Yeast bread

Punch down (dough)

The process of gently deflating the air pockets formed during the first rise in a yeasted dough. Usually done before shaping and final rise of a dough.

During rising, air pockets are formed inside. Releasing air makes yeast form a closer bond with the sugar and moisture, aiding fermentation, and improving the second rise. Also, removing more air pockets result in a finer crumb.

After the first rise, make a fist with your hand, and gently push the center of the puffy dough. Fold the edges of the deflated dough into the center to form a ball.

Yeasted doughs

Puree

Process used to blend, mash, or grind food (e.g. bananas) into a smooth, lump-free or paste-like consistency.

The process of pureeing releases both starch and fibers, which thicken soup. In most cases, cooking fruit and vegetables evaporates their water content, providing a concentrated flavour.

Certain purees such as applesauce can be used in place of sugar, eggs, or fat in baking (results will vary). Other purees, like berries or beets, can be used as a natural food colouring to colour cakes and or frostings.

Coulis, sauces

Ribbon stage

A stage that is reached after beating or whisking whole eggs or yolks with sugar until very thick and pale in colour. The stage is reached when the mixture falls slowly back into the bowl creating "ribbons" that hold their shape for a few seconds on the surface of the batter.

Whipping eggs or yolks with sugar incorporates air into the mixture and also dissolves the sugar into the eggs, allowing the egg mixture to be tempered which prevents it from coagulating when heated.

Flavourings such as vanilla, lemon zest or juice.

Mixture should be pale yellow

Sabayons/Zabaglione

Sponge cakes or baked goods that do not rely on leaveners (baking soda or baking powder) for lift.

Sift

Process of passing dry ingredients through a mesh (for example a sieve) to break up lumps and aerate ingredients.

Sifting aerates dry ingredients and creates a more uniform consistency, making them easier to incorporate into wet ingredients. It also helps in giving a lighter texture to baked goods.

To combine dry ingredients more easily, first filter them through a sifter or a fine mesh sieve.

Cakes, cupcakes, delicate pastries

Simple syrup

A solution of sugar in water. Usually made with equal parts sugar and water.

A liquid form of sugar that is easier to blend into cold beverages, Italian meringues, and glazes.

Use simple syrup to moisten dry cakes.

Add herbs, spices and citrus rinds to flavour your simple syrup.

Store for up to 2 to 3 weeks

Cocktails, sorbets, granita, glaze

Stiff peaks

The final stage of whipped egg whites or whipped cream

When whipping egg whites or heavy cream, air gets trapped inside and causes the ingredient to foam, grow in volume, and become stiff. In the oven (in the case of egg whites), the trapped air expands making cakes and souffles fluffy.

Use cream of tartar or a small amount of lemon juice to stabilize egg whites. Sugar may be used to stabilize egg whites when making meringues.

Egg whites should be at room temperature and free of any fat (e.g. yolks) for easy whipping and best volume.

To whip easily, heavy cream should be cold and the bowl and whisk attachment should be chilled in the freezer for 10 minutes.

Cakes, cupcakes, delicate pastries

Torte/Torting (a cake)

Horizontally slicing a cake into layers. May also refer to levelling the cake by slicing off the domed part of a baked cake.

Torting a cake provides layers between which you can add frosting and filling, thereby increasing the moisture and flavour of your cake.

Chill cake first so that it is easier to cut.

Use a serrated knife that is as long as your cake. Place cake on a flat surface. Move the knife back and forth in a gentle sawing motion to remove the crown of the cake. Once cake is levelled, evenly split cake into 2 or 3 layers, depending on the height of the baked cake.

Layered Cakes