Back to Basics

Let’s be real, sometimes special baking terms can get confusing.  Have you ever heard a term and wondered exactly what you’re eating or read a recipe and thought “what??”  No worries, it happens to the best of us.

So let’s get back to the basics. Here, I’ll go over some basic terminology and a few techniques you’ll need to start your own baking adventures (or know what you’re eating when you buy desserts, whichever)


Basic Baking Terms

  • Brown Sugar~ This seems like a given, but some people don’t know exactly what makes brown sugar, well, brown.  It’s cane sugar mixed with molasses.  Dark vs light brown refers to amount of molasses added.  
  • Buttercream~ A blend of butter and/or shortening with sugar and flavor extracts, mixed/whipped together to create a creamy frosting.  This is one of the sweetest and richest frostings.  Traditionally, it is also made with eggs…but many leave raw eggs out due to food safety concerns. 
  • Confectioner’s Sugar~ aka powdered sugar.
  • Fondant~ A sugar and water mixture that’s heated to boiling, cooled, and agitated so sugar crystals form.  Kind of like a sugar play-dough. It is used as an icing to cover cakes, for decorations, and in candy making.
  •  Ganache~ A mix of chocolate and heavy cream.  Ratios vary depending but it’s typically 2 parts chocolate to 1 part heated heavy cream.  Ganache can become anything from a filling, to frosting, to truffles.
  • Petit four~ A small piece of cake that can be eaten in 1-2 bites.  Typically, these are layers of very moist, dense cake brushed with flavored sugar glaze or liqueur, then dipped or covered with a glaze that hardens upon cooling.
  • Royal icing~ Type of icing made with sugar and egg whites or meringue powder (among other ingredients).  This icing gets quite hard and is great for decorations.
  • Simple syrup~ 1 part sugar to 1 part water, boiled until sugar is dissolved and then allowed to cool.  

Basic Techniques

  • When making cupcakes, use a triggered ice cream scoop to accurately measure the cupcake batter and cleanly pour it into the baking cups.  All of your cupcakes will be the same size and bake evenly
  • If placing more than one baking pan on a shelf in your oven, leave a couple of inches between pans so air circulates evenly.
  • With cakes, it’s important not to over mix the batter.  If you beat the batter for too long, the gluten (protein) in the flour begins to develop and will make your cake tough instead of light and fluffy.
  • For perfectly baked cookies, pull them out of the oven while still pretty moist and a little under-done.  Then allow them to sit on the baking sheet for 3-5 minutes when you take them out so they finish baking.

So there ya go! You’re all ready to be professional bakers. Well, you’re at least ready to make some great basic desserts. Happy baking!

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