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A Glossary of Baking Terminology
Nuggets Every Connoisseur Should Know


Angel Food Cake

	Unique because of its light texture, angel food cake is a supreme example of the
tremendous leavening power of egg whites. The batter is made with just egg whites,
sugar and flour and is baked in a tube pan.

Baba

	Babas are small cakes made from a yeast dough containing raisins or currants. They
are baked in cylindrical molds and then soaked with a sugar syrup usually flavored with
rum.

Baking Blind

	This term refers to baking an unfilled tart shell to produce a partially or fully baked
crust. It is done by lining the dough with parchment paper or foil and filling it with pie
weights or dried beans to hold the shape during baking.

Bavarian Cream

	This molded cream is made from custard sauce or sweetened fruit puree that is
bound with gelatin and lightened with whipped cream. Bavarian cream can be served
on its own or used as a filling for cold charlottes or molded cakes.

Boiled Icing

	This icing, which is similar to Italian meringue, is used as a filling and frosting for a
number of old-fashioned American layer cakes such as devil's food cake.

Butter Cakes

	These cakes are made by first creaming butter with sugar to incorporate air. Whole
eggs or egg yolks are added and flour is stirred in alternately with the liquid (often milk)
at the end. When made with whole eggs, baking powder is often used as the leavener.
When only the yolks are added at first, the beaten whites are folded in at the end. Most
American layer cakes are butter cake-based.

Buttercream

	Buttercream is basically a flavored mixture of butter, sugar and eggs that is used to fill
and frost cakes. Whole eggs, yolks or whites may be heated with sugar over simmering
water and whipped cold before adding the butter and flavoring, or a sugar syrup cooked
to the firm-ball stage can be poured over the eggs, then whipped until cold before the
butter and flavoring are added. Buttercream can also be made by combining butter with
pastry cream in a 1-to-2 ration or with custard sauce, 1-to-1.

Caramel

	See Sugar Cooking.

Charlotte

	This molded dessert is composed of a filling surrounded by ladyfingers or bread.
Apple charlotte is a golden crusted dessert made by baking a thick apple compote in a
mold lined with buttered bread. Cold charlottes are made in a ladyfinger-lined mold and
filled with a Bavarian cream; for frozen charlottes, a frozen soufflé or mousse
replaces the Bavarian cream.

Cookies

	Cookies can be prepared in myriad shapes and textures and are usually categorized by
the way they are formed. Drop cookies are dropped from a spoon. Rolled cookies are
made from a chilled dough that is rolled out and cut into shapes. Bar cookies are baked
in sheets and then cut into squares or bars. Molded cookies can either be shaped by hand,
stamped with a pattern before baking or baked directly in a mold. Bagged or piped
cookies are shaped with a pastry bag or a cookie gun.

Cream Puff Paste (Pâte à Choux)

	Somewhere between a batter and a dough, cream puff paste is made by beating flour
and then eggs into boiling water and butter. Once shaped and baked, it is crisp on the
outside, almost hollow inside and forms a convenient container for whipped cream,
pastry cream or ice cream (cream puffs, éclairs and profiteroles, e.g.). The dough
can also be deep-fried and rolled in sugar to make sweet fritters (beignets).

Custard Sauce (Crème Anglaise)

	Often served as an accompaniment to sweet soufflés, fruit desserts and cakes,
custard sauce is also the foundation for Bavarian cream and for frozen desserts such as
rich ice cream. Sometimes called stirred or pouring custard, it is a mixture of egg yolks,
sugar and milk and/or cream that is cooked only until the yolks coagulate to thicken the
custard. The mixture must not boil or else the yolks will scramble; if this does happen,
whir the custard in a blender to emulsify it.

Dacquoise

	This classic French cake is composed of baked nut meringues layered with
buttercream. There are many names for nut meringues and meringue-based desserts --
succès, progrès, japonais among them -- and the proportions, size and
type of nut(s) used varies from one to another. Back to Meringue (if you linked here from there).

Dock

	This term refers to piercing pastry doughs before baking. The holes allow the steam to
escape, preventing the dough from bubbling and becoming distorted.

Foam Cakes

	In these cakes, air is beaten into whole eggs and sugar before the other ingredients
(starches) are gently folded in. Genoise is an example of a foam cake, and some other
sponge cakes fall in this category as well.

Ganache

	Ganache is a rich chocolate mixture made by combining chopped semisweet chocolate
and boiling cream and stirring until smooth. The proportions of chocolate to cream can
vary, and the resulting ganache an be used as a cake glaze or beaten until fluffy and used
as a filling or as the base for truffles and other chocolate confections.

Gateau

	The French word for cake (pl. gâteaux).

Genoise

	Genoise is the classic, fine-crumbed French sponge cake made by beating warm whole
eggs with sugar until the mixture more than triples in volume, then folding in the flour
and sometimes melted butter too.

Glazes

	Glazes are used to give desserts a smooth and/or shiny finish. Cake glazes can be
water icing (confectioners' sugar mixed with liquid), melted chocolate in combination
with cream, butter and/or sugar syrup, or fondant (a thick shiny opaque icing). Caramel
is used to glaze some cakes and small pastries; and sugar cooked to the hard-crack stage
can be used to give pastries sheen but no color. Tart glazes are made from sieved jam,
preserves or jelly, or a combination of the above. Pastry glazes (brushed on dough before
baking) can be an egg glaze made with whole eggs or yolks; milk, cream and/or butter
glaze (these produce a duller finish); sugar glaze (sugar sprinkled over milk or cream
glaze), or any combinations of the above.

High-Altitude Baking

	Altitude does not begin to affect baking until above 2,500 feet. Higher than that, the
altitude will dry out ingredients, make doughs and batters rise faster, and make liquids
boil faster. Generally speaking, pans should be greased more heavily, oven temperatures
increased slightly, leaveners and sugar reduced and liquid increased. The actual
adjustments needed will depend on the altitude.

Ladyfingers

	Ladyfingers are small sponge cakes, about 3 1/2 inches long, used primarily in making
charlottes. They can be formed with a pastry bag with a plain tip, in a ladyfinger pan or
with two spoons.

Lemon Curd

	This cooked mixture of lemon juice (and sometimes grated zest), sugar, butter and
egg yolks makes a rich, tart spreading cream that can be used as a filling. Many
variations exist using other citrus fruits.

Meringue

	Meringue, a beaten foam of egg whites and sugar, can be used as a pie topping, to
lighten other mixtures and, after being baked to a crisp layer or shell, as the foundation
of various cakes and desserts (see dacquoise). Simple,
uncooked meringue is made by beating egg whites, then beating in the sugar until very
stiff, shiny peaks form. Cooked meringue is more stable. Two forms are: Swiss
meringue-- egg whites and sugar heated over simmering water, then beaten until long,
tall peaks form and the meringue is cold; Italian meringue -- sugar syrup cooked to the
firm-ball stage, beaten into whipped egg whites, then whipped until cold.

Pastry Cream (Crème Patissière)

	Pastry cream is a cooked mixture made with egg yolks, sugar and milk thickened with
flour and/or cornstarch and finished with a little vanilla. Butter is often beaten in at the
end to give it a silkier consistency. It is used as a filling or as the creamy layer in a fruit
tart. It can be flavored with liqueurs, chocolate or coffee; when flavored with almonds or
macaroons, it becomes a frangipane; with the addition of gelatin and Italian meringue, it
becomes crème chiboust. Lighten pastry cream by folding in 1 part whipped
cream to 2 parts pastry cream.

Pastry Dough

	Pie dough or flaky pastry is the standard American dough for pies. It can be made
with butter, vegetable shortening or lard, but most often a combination of butter and
shortening is used. Whatever fat is used, it is rubbed or cut into the flour and then
moistened with water to form the dough. Salt is either dissolved in the water or added
to the flour at the start. The more finely the fat is rubbed in, the less flaky and more
mealy the baked dough will be. Pâte brisée, the French equivalent of our
pie dough or flaky pastry, uses the same proportions of ingredients, but the fat is always
unsalted butter and the liquid may be water, water and egg or all egg. When well made,
the pastry is flaky. Sweet dough, or pâte sucrée, is made in a similar way
with the addition of sugar and sometimes baking powder. It is often used for small tarts
where the filling is baked directly in the raw dough. Cookie dough, or pâte
sablé, is a delicate dough that is usually made by beating the fat with sugar, then
mixing in eggs, with the flour (often cake flour) added at the end. This dough is usually
baked blind and then filled after it has cooled.

Petits Fours

	Petits Fours Secs ("dry" petits fours) are usually thin, delicate cookies often
sandwiched with preserves, ganache or praline paste, although plain butter cookies
could also fall under this heading. Petits fours glacés are tiny iced cakes
sandwiched with preserves, ganache or buttercream and delicately decorated. Petits fours
frais are miniature pastries like fruit tarts or eclairs that are filled either with pastry
cream or with buttercream.

Phyllo Dough

	Phyllo is a tissue-thin pastry dough cut into sheets that is used in Middle Eastern
desserts, such as baklava, and is similar to strudel dough. Sheets of phyllo are brushed
with melted butter and layered before baking. Phyllo is increasingly available in the
freezer section of supermarkets.

Pound Cake

	This is the ultimate butter cake. It gets its name (and texture) from the traditional
proportions of its ingredients -- one pound each of butter, sugar, eggs and flour --
although over the years cooks have tinkered with the original formula and baking
powder is sometimes added to the batter.

Praline Paste (Praliné)

	This smooth paste is made by adding equal proportions of skinned hazelnuts (or
hazelnuts and almonds) to hot caramel, letting it harden and then pulverizing until
creamy. A perfectly smooth praline paste is difficult to make at home, but is available in
specialty food shops.

Puff Pastry

	This is the multilayered buttery pastry in napoleons and palmiers. The thin, crisp,
flaky layers are formed when the dough and butter are rolled together, then folded in
thirds like a letter and rolled again in a process called a turn; classic puff pastry is
"turned" six times, which creates over 1,000 layers of dough (thus the French term
mille-feuille, which means 1,000 leaves). Well-made puff pastry rises to 5 times its
original volume during baking. As it bakes, the water in the dough converts to steam,
filling the places previously occupied by the butter, which has already melted and been
absorbed by the dough. Preparing the dough from scratch is an exacting process and
many people prefer to buy the dough ready made. Quick puff pastry is made by tossing
large cubes of butter with flour before the water is added to form the dough; the dough is
then rolled and folded like puff pastry. Although it does not rise so high as classic puff
dough, the quick pastry has the same delicate, flaky texture and can be used for any
desserts where the pastry doesn't have to rise as tall.

Royal Icing

	This icing is a mixture of confectioners' sugar and egg whites, and it dries hard. It is
the traditional icing for English Wedding Cake and is often used to make filigree
designs.

Savarin

	Made from a yeast dough, like babas, but without the currants, savarins are baked in
large or small ring molds, soaked with a syrup usually flavored with rum or kirsch and
then painted with a fruit glaze. The center of the ring is filled with whipped cream or
pastry cream, and sometimes fresh or poached fruit is added.

Sponge Cake

	Sponge cakes are leavened by beating air into whole eggs and sugar or by beating the
sugar with the yolks and whites separately. The cakes tend to be fairly lean, even when
they contain butter, and are often split into layers, moistened with a flavored sugar
syrup and filled.

Strudel Dough

	A traditional Viennese strudel dough contains more fat (oil) than phyllo dough and
is stretched to a large tissue-thin sheet before being rolled around a filling to make one
strudel. Although prepared strudel dough is sometimes hard to find, phyllo can be used
in its place to make small strudels (both can be mail-ordered).


Sugar Cooking

	When sugar is dissolved in water and brought to a boil, it forms a solution called a
syrup. Simple syrup is made with equal quantities of sugar and water. As the syrup boils,
the sugar becomes more concentrated and the syrup more dense. The various stages of
the cooked sugar solution can be measured with a candy thermometer. Simple syrup is
used to moisten cakes, and sugar cooked to various stages is used in the making of
fondant, buttercream, boiled icing, and Italian meringue. Sugarcooked to between 320
and 350 degrees becomes caramel, which is used for glazing and making spun sugar,
caramel cages and praline paste. Back to Caramel.


Tart

	Tarts are shallow and straight sided (as opposed to sloped-sided American pies) and
usually have only a bottom crust, but this is by no means the rule. They are baked in
pans with removable bottoms or in flan forms (frames that support the sides of the tart
as it bakes on a baking sheet) and are usually served unmolded. Tarts can also be baked
free-form on a sheet.

Torte

	Torte is the Eastern European name for a cake (pl. torten).


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