Baking Terms

Cooking How-To, How-To
on August 30, 2012
baking pans
Mark Boughton Photography / styling by Teresa Blackburn

Recipes are often filled with terminology that can be confusing to the novice. Here’s a mini-glossary for baking.

Fold: To combine a light ingredient (such as beaten egg whites) with a heavier ingredient (such as melted chocolate) with as little disturbance as possible, thereby preserving the air bubbles. The lighter ingredient is placed on top of the heavy one. A spatula is drawn down the back of the bowl and up the nearest side. The bowl is rotated a quarter turn, and the process is repeated until ingredients are blended.

Cream: Aside from describing the fatty layer that rises to the top of milk, “cream” is a recipe term that refers to beating ingredients together (often butter and sugar) until smooth, creamy and free of lumps.

Proof: Testing yeast to determine if it is active; that is, capable of leavening. Yeast is dissolved in warm water mixed with a little sugar. If the yeast is active, it will bubble and foam. The term is most often used when baking bread.

Sift: Passing a dry ingredient through fine mesh to lighten it and render it free of lumps. Bakers often wonder if they should sift before or after measuring. If the recipe calls for “1 cup sifted flour,” sift before measuring. If it calls for “1 cup flour, sifted,” sift after.

Cut: Mixing shortening with dry ingredients using a pastry blender, fingers or two dinner knives until the mixture is the consistency of coarse meal. This can sometimes be done in a food processor.

Dot: Scatter small bits of something (usually butter) on top of item, typically pies and casseroles for browning and flavor.

Now that you’ve got the baking basics down, whip together one of the following pies or breads to show off your new knowledge. If you want to expand your vocabulary further, read up on more commonly used baking and cooking terms.

—By Jo Marshall, a food writer in Deephaven, Minn.