Many people say that they cook but they don't bake. Baking is a science and can seem foreign or confusing and it definitely has a language all of its own. Use this collection of short definitions as a quick reference to help you decode recipes.
Bake – Cook with dry, radiant heat in an oven.
Batter – A mixture of flour, eggs, dairy, or other ingredients that is liquid enough to pour.
Beat – Stir together very rapidly in order to incorporate air. This can be achieved with a spoon, whisk, electric mixer, or food processor.
Blend – Stir ingredients together until well mixed.
Caramelize – Heat a sugar substance until it begins to turn brown.
Combine – Stir ingredients together just until mixed.
Cream – Beat together sugar and butter until a light, creamy texture and color has been achieved. This method adds air to batter, which helps the leavening process. Sometimes eggs are also added during the creaming step.
Cut In – Incorporating butter (or another solid fat) into flour just until the fat is in small, granular pieces resembling coarse sand. This is achieved by using two knives in a cross cutting motion, forks, or a special pastry cutter.
Drizzle – Pour a thin stream of a liquid on top of something.
Dust – Coat the surface of something with a light sprinkling of a dry substance (flour, sugar, cocoa powder, etc.).
Fold – Gently combine two substances in effort to not deflate a delicate, lofty texture. Using a spatula, fold the bottom of the bowl up and over the top, turn the bowl 90 degrees, fold again, and repeat the process until combined.
Glaze – Coat with a thick, sugar based sauce.
Grease – Coat the inside of a baking dish or pan with a fatty substance (oil, butter, lard) to prevent sticking.
Knead – Combine dough by hand on a hard surface. This involves folding the dough over, pressing down, turning 90 degrees and then repeating the process. Kneading mixes dough as well as developing gluten strands that give strength to breads and other baked goods.
Lukewarm – Slightly warm, or around 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
Proof – Allowing bread dough to rise or yeast to activate.
Rolling Boil – Water that boils with large, fast, and vigorous bubbles.
Scald – Heat to near boiling.
Score – Cut lines or slits into something.
Softened – A solid, high fat content substance that has been brought to room temperature in order to make it more pliable.
Soft Peaks – Egg whites or cream that has been whipped to the point at which a peak will bend or slump over to one side. To create a peak, pull the whisk or beater straight up and out of the foam.
Stiff Peaks – Egg whites or cream that has been whipped to the point at which a peak will stand completely erect. To create a peak, pull the whisk or beater straight up and out of the foam.
Whip – Stir briskly with a whisk to incorporate air.
Whisk – A kitchen tool made of wire loops that tends to add air as it mixes substances together.