Monday, July 15, 2013

Common Basic Baking Terms - Part 1

I try to re-surface! I have been like a cat on a hot tin roof as I have shifted most of my baking stuff to my baking kitchen but not everything else is in place yet for me to start baking properly.  But the urge to bake and blog remains - always! A good time perhaps for another post in the series for the beginners about a few terms commonly used in baking. Complied with reference to books and various sources on the internet. Images from the web.

Aerate : Aeration is the process by which air is circulated through, mixed with or dissolved in a liquid or substance - Wikipedia. Optimum aeration (by mechanical or and chemical means) in your cake helps get one with more volume and a better texture. Sifting and creaming (more below) also aerate your batter.

Baking blind : This is basically pre-baking your pie/tart crust fully or partially without the filling in it.  You roll out the chilled crust and  fit it into the pie / tart tin, then prick it all over with a fork to prevent it from puffing up. The crust is then covered with parchment or aluminum foil and weighed down with dried beans or pie weights and baked partially or fully as needed in your recipe. Once the crust is completely cool, you could brush the crust with whisked egg white ( I would bake again for a few minutes if I did this) to prevent it from becoming soggy when its further baked with the filling.

Brush : When we want the top of our bread loaves soft, we brush the top with melted butter or oil. A baked genoise or fatless sponge is brushed with sugar syrup to keep it moist. You use a brush for this as this as it helps use just enough fat or just enough syrup, help spread more evenly to moisten your cake without making it soggy.  You similarly brush whisked egg or egg white or herbed butter. Best to use is a good quality silicon brush.

Bain marie : Pronounced (BAN-mah-REE) this is French term for a water bath.  A method used for using indirect gentle heat for delicate heating / baking, while keeping your bake moist from the steam. A more harsh or direct heat in cases like this may curdle your custard for example or dry out your bake or seize your chocolate. Baked custards, custard based puddings, mousse cakes and cheesecakes are classic examples for using a water bath. Chocolate is often melted in a bain marie but in this case, the bowl of chocolate sits over a pan of simmering water.

You could use a large tray or baking tin with sides about 2-3'' high depending on the height of your ramekin or cake tin. This gives you enough height to pour the hot water in without it spilling out and enough around the ramekin or tin to come halfway through.

 Line your tin with an old kitchen towel uniformly and then place your tin inside. With the tin in the oven, pour the hot water (with a kettle) in the lined tin. The towel helps the ramekins or tin not move around as you bake - more relevant in a convection microwave. In case of longer baking periods, the water level may come down and you would need to replenish it as needed. If using a spring form tin, warp the bottom of the tin on the outside with double layer of heavy duty aluminum foil to prevent seepage into the  tin.

Blend : You blend when you mix 2 or more ingredients to just mix them thoroughly and uniformly, so that the ingredients make a homogenous mixture. The aim here is to just mix ingredients really well and not to achieve volume or aerate. Your tools depending on the ingredients and quantity would be a fork, a tiny whisk or a large whisk. For example, when you need to make muffins, you want to combine the liquid ingredients like egg, oil, vanilla, milk and orange zest. You take them all in a small bowl and blend them with a whisk to combine them well - without wanting or needing to create air.

Beat : Beating is an action much more vigorous than blending. The aim is to achieve volume while beating eggs, to make the sugar and butter light and fluffy when you cream, to activate some amount of gluten in batter breads.

Butter : Coating your tin or pan with butter either lightly or generously as directed in the recipe. You could of course use non-stick spray or even ghee or oil for this. Buttering helps easy release of the baked goods from the pan.

Brûlée : Brûlée means ' burnt'. To brulee something is to burn it, the top specifically as in caramelizing the sugar on top of custard to make a Crème brûlée or for baking a meringue pie. Tool commonly used is a blowtorch . When you top your custard with sugar and burn it with the flames of the torch, the sugar caramelizes giving the creamy smooth custard a crunchy topping. Good that I don't have a blow torch yet or I would be tempted to bake one right away!

Creaming : Creaming is basically beating butter (at room temperature) first on low speed till smooth with a wooden spoon/ spatula/ hand mixer or with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer. The sugar is then added in a stream and both are creamed together. Start on low speed and move to medium high if using a hand mixer. Ideally you have to cream till the mixture is blended together perfectly, is light and fluffy, pale in color and not grainy anymore when rubbed between your fingers. This may take 4-5 minutes or even more on medium high speed of your hand mixer.

The jagged edges of the sugar when beaten with the butter help create air pockets which get trapped in the fat. Creaming increases the volume of the butter though not dramatically. The air bubbles thus trapped expand in the oven heat, give the cake a light texture. The other liquid ingredients, eggs, baking powder/soda work alongside for more leavening (raising and aerating the batter). Be wary of over or under creaming.

The video below will give you an idea.

Cube : To cube butter is to cut butter into chunks of specific size as needed in the recipe. Very important for making pie crust, puff pastry, scones and the kind. You need the butter to be cubed according to the recipe specifications to help achieve even distribution in some cases or to prevent one huge mass of it from turning a greasy mess in the process of creaming. Or for the reason that the butter still needs to remain in largish bits and pieces or tiny pieces at the end of the pre-baking procedure. The chilled butter when in chunks or bits in the pie dough or puff pastry dough melts in the oven giving you a tender or flaky crust.

My favorite way to cube butter is using a metal dough scraper. Its sharpish, very firm and easy to grip, slices right down from the top of the slab to the bottom (mostly!). I like to cube butter when cold but soft enough to cut easily. I cube it (with a scale to be sure) and then refrigerate it again to chill before using for puff and pie crusts.

Cut in : This again is an often used term while making pie crusts and scones. This often means taking the flour mixture (in a large bowl or on your counter), dumping in the chilled cubed butter on it, roughly tossing it to coat the butter with flour. Then you use a pastry blender or two forks or knives or a chilled metal dough scraper to 'cut' or kind of chop the butter into the flour. You are basically working the butter into the dry ingredients to make a rough mixture of largish or small pieces of butter and flour or a sandy mixture as needed.  

The aim at the end is to make a blended mixture which still has cold, unmelted chunks of butter in it, the key is working quickly and gently before the butter melts. A food processor is supposed to make a very easy job of this as well. I was quite pleased with the results my metal dough scraper gave when I made this crust. A good job of cutting in the fat helps get a flaky and tender end product.

Here is a video which shows 'cutting in', jump to the video after 2 minutes to see the technique. Rose Beranbaum uses a pastry cutter here. In this video, David Ogonowski uses a combination of different techniques, see how he uses a dough scraper to 'cut in' the butter. Quick jump to the video after 3.35 seconds to see the technique.

Caramelize :When you heat sugar, it caramelizes and turns a golden liquid or caramel. When you saute onions in fat on low heat for a long time, it turns brown and caramelizes. Great topping for your focaccias, crackers and the kind.

Coat the back of a spoon : Egg based custard recipes often direct you to cook the mixture on the stove top till it 'coats the back of a spoon'. If you dip a spoon in your custard and take it out, run your finger across the back, it will leave a trail. Your finger will form a 'path' and the custard doesn't run through this path. The custard is at the point cooked enough and further cooking may curdle it.

Crumb : Slice a loaf of bread or cake. The inside part of it is called as the crumb. This mainly refers to the texture - as in a moist or tender crumb.

Common Basic Baking Terms Part 2 - Please check this post

Common Basic Baking Terms Part 3 - here


Namita said...

Hi Suma, Your baking basics are so precious for all the self taught bakers. In fact most of us self taught bakers. Your pages are bookmarked and will be referred to from time to time. ... waiting for another part. Thanks!

surbhi said...

Thanks for such a detailed narration. Would surely help baking enthusiasts like me.Keep up with the great works.Lots of love.

chef and her kitchen said...

This post looks like a baking encyclopedia...thats a very gud effort suma,kudos!!

Shweta said...

Your posts on baking basics are very helpful. first time commenting...have been following your blog since a couple of months now. Thank you!!

Hamaree Rasoi said...

That's why I love your page !! you never shy away from sharing information when it comes to baking...Very good post...

Bharathy said...

Very helpful post, Suma!!! Had been reading about brulee recently and its great that you have added links from where we can get the blow torch!

Unknown said...

Hi Suma...this post is a treasurable one. Thanks for sharing the basics. These are bookmarked :)

Anonymous said...

Your posts on baking basics are very helpful...specifically when I am baking bread each and every time I refer your yeast basics post...

your blog is a baking encyclopaedia... it really helps, for baking enthusiast's like me...

Suma Rowjee said...

@momsrecipes - Thanks so much, sharing a little I learnt, hardly an encyclopedia!

Shwe said...

Hi Suma, very informative and precise post. Your blog is very inspiring.

Just one input, the two links at the end link to the same post, part 3 of this series.


Unknown said...

Wow , thanks a informative.