Basic Baking Terminology

Before you begin baking, it’s a good idea to know the vocabulary that goes along with all your favorite recipes. Baking is like learning drive a car. You don’t want to be yielding when you should be stopping.

First, let’s start at the beginning. You say that you want to bake something. What is baking anyway? It’s cooking food, whether covered or uncovered using the indirect dry heat of an oven. That’s different than steaming food, which is a moist process. Or cooking over an open flame, which is definitely direct heat! If a recipe calls for beating, you will be mixing more than one ingredient together until it’s smooth. Don’t confuse that with whipping. Whipping is a fast process, usually using a whisk or electric mixer and its purpose is to incorporate AIR and increase the volume.

Boiling involves heating liquids over heat on top of the stove (or in the microwave) until bubbles form. If the liquid is water, it boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Simmering, on the other hand, is heating liquids over low heat until bubbles form but they are below the surface. If muffins are the order of the day, folding will be involved. The important part of folding is the word gentle. The goal is not to get a smooth consistency at the end. But rather, you want even distribution. Kneading is working dough with the heal of your hand, pressing and folding it until it forms a consistent form.

Have you seen old recipes that call for a dash of pepper or salt? I don’t know how anyone ever got anything to taste right! Today, there is actually a measuring spoon for those ingredients that require a dash. It’s actually 1/8 of a teaspoon. Perhaps you’ve been given a recipe that calls for a scant cup of something. There is no scant cup in the kitchenware department! A scant cup is not quite full. It’s not an exact measurement. But an approximate measurement would be 1 cup minus 1 Tablespoon.

Finally, if you are making a dessert, it may call for a particular type of garnish. A garnish can be anything that adds visual interest. It is basically a decoration of some sort, such as icing, nuts, fruits or edible flowers. A garnish can also be on other things besides dessert. It can be the green frilly lettuce on a steak platter or a radish cut in a decorative way.