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Glossary A-B



a la mode - Pronounced (ah lah MOHD).  A French term that means "in the manner (or style) of".  The French use this term when referring to the method or style in which a dish is prepared or garnished.  However, the term has also been Americanized and refers to having a scoop of ice cream with a slice of pie. 

Afternoon Tea/English Tea Party - Afternoon Tea did not exist before the 19th century.  It wasn't until Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, asked for tea and light refreshments in her room one afternoon, around 1830, that the ritual began.  The Duchess enjoyed her 'taking of tea' so much that she started inviting her friends to join her.  Before long having elegant tea parties was very fashionable........More on Afternoon Tea/English Tea Party

Almond - Almonds are the nutmeat found inside the pit of the dry fruit on almond trees.  Almonds are the number one ranking nut crop in the United States and grown in the State of California.  Worldwide, they are cultivated in Australia, South Africa, Asia, Sicily and France.  Ivory-colored with a pointed, oval shape and smooth texture; almonds come in sweet and bitter forms....More on Almonds

Almond Paste - Almond paste is a combination of equal parts ground blanched almonds and sugar, mixed with glucose, corn syrup or egg whites. It is pliable with a sweet almond flavor and grainy texture.  Sold in cans or tubes, I recommend using the can variety as it has a superior taste.  Almond paste is used in pastry making and confectionery to cover cakes and pastries, as well as forming into different shapes and figures.  Unused portions should be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated or else frozen.

Amaretti Cookies - Pronounced am-ah-REHT-tee.  Amaretti is the Italian name for macaroons, which means little bitter things.  Crisp and crunchy on the outside and soft inside, these small domed shaped cookies originated in Venice Italy during the Renaissance period.  Consisting of ground almonds or almond paste, sugar, and egg whites that can be flavored with chocolate or liqueurs and two baked cookies can be sandwiched together with ganache, buttercream or even jam.  Often served with a sweet dessert wine , liqueurs or ice cream.  Can also be ground up and added to desserts (trifles) to give them added texture and flavor.  Amarettini are miniature Amaretti cookies.  ....Recipe for Amaretti 

Angel Food Cake - Sometimes referred to as Angel Cake and because of its airy lightness is said to be the "food of the angels".  This cake has no egg yolks, fat, or artificial leavener so it relies totally on stiffly beaten egg whites for leavening.  Its sole ingredients are egg whites, cream of tartar, sugar, flour, salt and flavoring (such as extracts)........More on Angel Food Cake.......Recipe for Chocolate Angel Food Cake

Apple Brandy - A brandy made from distilling apple cider.  France is well known for its apple brandy Calvados.  In the States it is known as Applejack. 

Apples - Apples originated in Western Asia but are now grown in temperate climates throughout the world where there are warm days and cool nights.  The different varieties of apples range in the thousands with each having its own unique color, shape, texture and flavor.  When choosing apples look for well-colored, firm apples with a fresh, never musty, smell. Apples should be smooth and free of soft spots, bruising, or holes.....More on Apples


Bain Marie or Water Bath - Bain Marie (pronounced BAN-mah-REE) means "Marie's bath" in French and is the French term for water bath.  Some delicate foods, such as custards, mousses, cheesecakes, sauces, puddings, need a gentle, moist and constant insulated heat that is away from the intense direct heat of the oven or stove.  A  Bain Marie accomplishes this task. 

This technique starts with a large shallow pan (usually a roasting pan of some sort) that is big enough to hold a smaller pan, bowl, or dish(es) filled with a delicate food.  If you are  baking several small individual dishes, say individual soufflés, it is best to first line the large roasting pan with a folded clean dish towel.  This prevents the dishes from moving around while they bake.  Also, if using a springform pan, first wrap aluminum foil around the outside of the pan to prevent any leakage when it is placed in the Bain Marie.  Once you have placed the smaller dish inside the large roasting pan, carefully pour warm to hot water into the larger pan until it reaches about halfway up the outside of the smaller dish containing the food.  This is then placed in the oven and this technique prevents the delicate food from burning, drying out, or curdling.  Occasionally check the water level during the baking time, adding more hot water as necessary. 

Bake Blind - If you have a filling that does not need to be baked, or a very juicy berry filling, or one that does not need much baking, it may be necessary to pre-bake or "bake blind" the unfilled pie or tart shell.  This may involve either partial or complete baking of the shell.  This is done by first rolling out your pastry and placing it in your tart or pie pan.  The bottom of the unbaked shell is usually evenly pierced with the tines of a fork.  The unbaked shell is then lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper which is weighted down with rice, beans or pie weights.  This lining and weighing down of the shell will prevent the shell from "puffing up" while it bakes.  The shell is then placed in the preheated oven and baked until set.  The weights and lining can then be removed and, if necessary, the shell is further baked until it is brown and crisp.  Once cooled, the shell can be glazed with an egg white, apricot preserves or even melted chocolate to prevent the filling from seeping into the pie shell and making it soggy.  The filling is placed in the prepared shell and further baked if called for in your recipe.

Baking - Defined as cooking food in an enclosed space, usually an oven, with dry heat. Over time the term baking has come to encompass those items made with flour i.e. breads, cakes, cookies, etc. The term 'roasting' is used when cooking meat and poultry.  Some countries, such as France, have further divided baking into "breads" and "sweet and savory pastries".......More on Baking

Baking Powder/Baking Soda - Both baking powder and baking soda are chemical leavening agents that cause batters to rise when baked.  The leavener enlarges the  bubbles which are already present in the batter produced through creaming of ingredients.  When a recipe contains baking powder and baking soda, the baking powder does most of the leavening........More on Baking Powder/Baking Soda

Batter - The terms 'batter' and 'dough' are oftentimes used interchangeably as the main difference between the two is only in their consistencies.  That is, a batter is thinner in consistency than a dough.  The name 'batter' comes from the French word 'battre' meaning 'to beat'. 

This uncooked, semi-liquid, pourable mixture whose main ingredients are flour, eggs, and milk and oftentimes includes sugar, butter, and a flavoring is used not only to make breads and pastries but as a coating for foods that are to be deep fried.  Preparing batters involves combining the flour with the liquid until a smooth mixture is achieved.  How thick the batter is depends on its use i.e. thick batters for cakes, quick breads, and some fried foods; thinner batters for pancakes, crêpes, waffles, and puddings. 

Batterie de Cuisine - Pronounced 'bat-TREE duh kwih-ZEEN'.  French term meaning 'the complete set of kitchen utensils'.  This includes, but not limited to, pots and pans, bakeware, cookware, knives and all other equipment and utensils for cooking and the making of desserts, pastries, and confections.

Beat - Whether done using an electric mixer or by hand with a fork, spoon, or whisk, to 'beat' is to vigorously mix, blend, or stir a mixture in a circular motion.  This technique changes the consistency of the ingredient(s), from the smoothing, mixing and aerating the ingredients for a cake batter, to incorporating air into egg whites or sweet cream.  Rule of Thumb - 100 strokes by hand will equal about one minute with an electric mixer.

Bienenstich (Bee Sting Cake) - Originally a German yeast cake that is also known as Bee Sting.  The story goes that a baker made the cake with a honey topping that attracted a bee which stung the baker.  The original cake had a yeast base that was filled with a custard and frosted  with honey, butter and almonds.

Biscotti - In North America, biscotti is used to describe a long, dry, hard twice-baked cookie with a curved top and flat bottom designed for dunking into wine or coffee.  The name biscotti is derived from 'bis' meaning twice in Italian and 'cotto' meaning baked or cooked.  Biscotti is said to have originated during Columbus's time and credited to an Italian baker who originally served them with Tuscan wines.  They became so popular that every province developed their own flavored version........More on Biscotti

Biscuit - European name for various types of sponge cakes and is pronounced "bees KWEE".  A light and airy cake that contains three basic ingredients: room temperature eggs, sugar, and flour and is leavened solely by the air beaten into the eggs......More On Biscuit/Sponge

Biscuits - In Britain "biscuit" refers to a flat cookie or cracker.  In the United States "biscuit" means a small quick bread.  Biscuits are made with flour, butter, baking powder, milk, eggs, and a small amount of granulated white sugar.    Biscuits should be light and flaky with a golden crust.  They are best served warm from the oven with butter.  When the sugar content of a biscuit recipe is increased, biscuits then become scones....Recipe for Biscuits

Blend or Blending - A technique where two or more ingredients are combined so they are smooth and equally distributed throughout the mixture.  A spoon, fork, rubber spatula, whisk, electric mixer with paddle attachment, food processor, blender, or even your bare hands can be used for this technique.  Blending differs from beating in that its sole purpose is to combine the ingredients, not to incorporate air into the mixture. 

Blueberries - Most of the blueberries sold in grocery stores are cultivated.  When choosing blueberries look for firm, plump, fragrant, dark blue berries with a dusty white bloom.  The white bloom is the blueberry's natural protection against the sun and is a sign of freshness.  Always check the underside of the container for any wet spots or staining.  Discard any soft, moldy, or crushed berries....More on Blueberries

Bombe - (Pronounced BAHM).  It is the name given to a frozen dessert consisting of layers of ice cream or sherbet that are placed in a round or cylindrical mold.   Each layer is first softened and then spread in the mold, one layer at a time, before the next layer is added.  The original bombe was spherical in shape but today any shape mold can be used.  A true bombe has outer layers of ice cream and/or sherbet but to be a true bombe the inside should contain a soft filling, not an ice cream.  Custard, sherbet, and mousse are some popular fillings to which fruits (fresh or dried), nuts, spices, alcohol can be added.  Some bombes (Baked Alaska being the most famous) are covered with an Italian meringue which is browned before serving.  A layer of sponge cake is sometimes placed on top of the layers of ice cream and sherbet before unmolding to act as a platform for the dessert.....Recipe for Watermelon Bombe

Boston Cream Pie - The name Boston Cream Pie is believed to be a misnomer as it really is a cake.  Maybe it was due to the fact that in New England the colonists used to bake cakes in pie tins as most people only had pie pans not cake pans.  The first reference to Boston Cream Pie was when a New York newspaper in 1855 ran a recipe for a 'pudding pie cake'.  The recipe, however, had a powdered sugar topping not the chocolate glaze it now has.  In 1856 a man named Harvey D. Parker opened a restaurant called the Parker House Restaurant in Boston.  On the menu he had a version of the 'pudding pie cake' but it had a chocolate glaze not the powdered sugar topping in the original recipe.  This is the version that is popular today and the name 'Boston Cream Pie' probably is a combination of the original 'pudding pie cake' recipe and the fact that Boston is the place where it become popular.  Boston Cream Pie consists of two layers of sponge cake with a filling of vanilla pastry cream.  You can either top the cake with a simple dusting of confectioners sugar or else a chocolate glaze.

Brandy - Alcohol distilled from wine or fermented fruit juice (eau-de-vie).  Brandy comes from the Dutch word 'brandewijn' which means 'burnt' or 'distilled' wine.  The finest brandies, distilled from wine, are the French Cognac and Armagnac.  They are distilled under very strictly controlled methods and are aged in oak casks which gives them a mellow flavor and a wonderful caramel color.  They are labeled: E - extra special, F - fine, M - mellow, O - old, P - pale, S - superior, V - very, and X - extra.  So a bottle that is labeled VSOP means 'very superior old pale'.  Besides the eau-de-vies, the word 'brandy' includes 'Marc' and the Italian 'Grappa' which are both distilled from the residue of grapes after they have been pressed for wine.  They tend to have a harsh and pungent taste.  Likewise, an eau-de-vie that is labeled 'eau-de-vie de marc de cider' is made from the residue of cider after being pressed.  Calvados is the world's finest apple brandy and is a French brandy made from the apples of Normandy.  Applejack is an American apple brandy.  Brandies are used to both flame and flavor food.  They are used in desserts, pastries and confections.  Cognac is wonderful in flavoring chocolates.  See also eau-de-vie and liqueurs.

Brandy Snaps - They are thin, crisp, wafer-like spice cookies that are quickly rolled around the handle of a wooden spoon into a tube or cone shape immediately after baking.  This must be done while the cookies are still warm and pliable.  Once the rolled cookies have cooled they can be filled with flavored whipped cream, buttercream or ice cream.   Brandy snaps come from the French gaufres or wafers of the 14th century.

Brazil Nuts - Their soft, ivory-colored nutmeat is covered in a thin brown skin that is enclosed in a three-sided hard, dark brown, roughly-textured shell.  With their sweet, soft, buttery flavor (a little like coconut) they are good to eat by hand or in desserts and pastries.....More on Brazil Nuts

Bread Pudding - Bread Pudding, first known as a "poor man's pudding", is an old fashioned dessert that has been popular in England since the 13th century.  Unlike the bread puddings of today where breads  are sometimes made specifically for making the puddings, it was once made as a way to use up any stale bread that was hanging about.  The stale bread was moistened by soaking the bread in water and then squeezing out the excess water.  Sugar, spices and other ingredients were then added.   Today, bread puddings are made with either fresh or stale bread (brioche, challah, croissant, panettone, french, Italian) that is soaked in a rich mixture (custard) of milk (or cream), eggs, sugar, vanilla, and spices.  Nuts, zests, candied or fresh fruit can also be added....More on Bread Pudding

Breads or Loaves - a thick batter that is a cross between a cake and a bread.  Can be  sweet or savory.  Baked in a rectangular baking pan available in many sizes and is fully baked when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  e.g. banana bread, cornbread. 

Breakfast - Defined as the first meal of the day and literally means, breaking the fast of the night.  It was during the 15th century that certain foods were created and served only at breakfast and this tradition continues even today.  Today the foods eaten at home for breakfast have a lot to do with convenience as people do not have the time to make and eat a leisurely breakfast.  Bread-like items are popular breakfast foods during the workweek: bagels, muffins, scones, cereal or muësli, with a cup of tea or coffee.  Weekends are when the so-called "big breakfast" or "English breakfast" is served where eggs take center stage as well as bacon, sausages, tomatoes, toast, jams and preserves.

Some breakfast foods and their countries of origin are:

North America - quick breads, especially muffins

France - croissant

Scandinavia - Danish pastries

Germany - kugelhopf (a rich yeast-leavened cake, similar to brioche, containing raisins and lemon peel with almonds on top.)

Scotland and Ireland - baps (a soft roll that contains butter or some other type of fat to produce a tender baked good.)

England - crumpet (a perforated pancake-type baked good made with yeast and cooked on a griddle in a ring mold.)

Spain - churros (a deep-fried sweet dough, much like a doughnut, that is coated with confectioners' sugar or a cinnamon/sugar mixture when still hot.)

Brownies - Brownies are classified as a bar cookie and are a cross between a cake and a cookie.  Their origin is somewhat sketchy but they have been enjoyed in the United States since the 19th century.  The name "brownie" refers to their dark brown color.  That intense chocolate flavor is what sets the brownie apart from other cookies.....More on Brownies

Buche de Noel (Yule Log) -  (Pronounced BOOSH duh noh-EHL)  In ancient times, before Christmas was celebrated, it was customary for large bonfires to be set as part of Scandinavian Jul (or Yule) festivities celebrating the winter solstice and honoring the God Thor.  After, when celebrating Christmas took the place of Yule festivities, the tradition of large bonfires ceased but many countries still celebrated by the cutting of a tree during this season.  The Yule Log, or classic Christmas Cake as it is also called, probably descended from this traditional as the dessert is designed and decorated to look like a felled tree log.    Traditionally made with a chocolate sponge (genoise) cake (baked in a jelly-roll pan) that is filled with a chocolate, mocha or chestnut buttercream and rolled into a log shape.  It is then frosted with more buttercream that is ridged with a fork or comb to resemble the bark of a tree.  The Yule log can be further decorated with meringue mushrooms, marzipan or sugar paste that is colored and cut to resemble holly leaves, red candies to simulate the holly berries, dusted with confectioners (icing or powdered) sugar to resemble snow, and other seasonal decorations.

Bundt Pan - A bundt pan is a fancy tube pan created by an American, H. David Dalquist, back in 1950. The story goes that a group of Minneapolis Jewish women from a local Hadassah wanted a better pan for baking their bundkuchen. They went to Dalquist's company, Northland Aluminum Products, with their problem and he created a ring shaped tube pan with fluted sides made from cast aluminum. He named the pan "bundt" (by adding the letter 't'  to the word "bund" which is German for "gathering") and while sales of this pan were a little slow at first, they skyrocketed once Ella Helfrich from Texas, used the pan for her Tunnel of Fudge Cake that won the 1966 Pillsbury Bake-Off contest. The beauty of this pan is that the inner tube conducts the heat into the center of the batter so it cooks evenly, which is especially good for heavy cake batters. It is important to prepare the pan properly so the cake does not stick to the pan. Before pouring in the batter, butter, or spray with a non stick cooking spray, all the creases and folds of the fluted sides, or better yet, use a nonstick bundt pan. Also, if you are using a dark colored bundt pan, reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Dark colored pans absorb more of the energy coming from the oven walls so the pan becomes hotter and transmits heat faster than light colored pans. Reducing the oven temperature slightly will help compensate for this. 

Butter - Butter is produced by churning cream until the fats separate from the liquid (buttermilk) and the butter is in a semi-solid state.  Most butter sold today is from cow's milk but butter can also be produced from the milk of buffalo, camel, goat, ewe, and mares.  Butter comes in two forms salted and unsalted (sweet).  The characteristics to look for in a good butter at room temperature are that it is dense with no air bubbles, should not be lumpy, sticky or brittle, and no sweating......More on Butter

Butter Cakes - Contain fat (butter, margarine, shortening) and rely on a chemical leavener (baking powder/baking soda) for their rise.  They are flavorful, and have a good texture and volume.  The American-style butter cake evolved from the English pound cake recipe of 1 pound of flour, 1 pound of sugar, 1 pound of butter, and 1 pound of eggs.  The French called the pound cake "quatre-quarts" which translates to four-quarters, meaning 1/4 of the recipe is flour, 1/4 sugar, 1/4 butter and 1/4 eggs.  The first pound cakes had no artificial leavener and volume was obtained through the mixing (aeration) of the batter.  Other examples of butter cakes are the white and yellow cake, coffee cakes, teacakes, and fruitcakes.   Some butter cakes are rich and flavorful enough to stand alone (fruitcakes, teacakes) or with a sifting of confectioners sugar or drizzled with a glaze.  Others, layer or sheet butter cakes, taste even better with a layer of  frosting, lemon curd, jam and preserves, nuts, or even ice cream.....More on Butter Cakes

Buttercream - Is a name that encompasses a broad range of icings that can differ by person, city, region, or country.  They can be quick or complicated to make depending on whether they are cooked or uncooked.  Buttercreams may contain powdered sugar, white granulated sugar, whole eggs, egg whites, egg yolks, unsalted butter, shortening, milk or cream, pastry cream, fondant, and various flavorings (extract, purée, chocolate, liqueur).  Generally, buttercream is a light and creamy smooth icing used to fill, frost and decorate (flowers, leaves, etc.) all kinds of cakes and pastries.   Some cooked Buttercreams are meringue-based where unsalted butter is beaten into firmly beaten egg whites that have had hot sugar syrup added to them.  This produces a rich, yet light buttercream.  French Buttercream contains both whole eggs and egg yolks that have been beaten, to which a sugar syrup is added and then unsalted butter.  Confectioners' Frosting is an uncooked buttercream icing that contains powdered (icing) sugar, unsalted butter, milk and flavoring. 

Buttermilk - has a nice thick creamy texture with a rich tangy buttery taste that makes baked goods tender.  It is now commercially made by adding a bacteria to whole, skim, or low fat milk.  However, in the past it was the liquid left over after churning butter.  You can make your own by adding 1 tablespoon of white distilled vinegar, cider vinegar, or lemon juice to 1 cup of milk.  Let stand 5 to 10 minutes before using.

Butter Tarts - unique to Canada, they start with a flaky pastry shell that is filled with a sweet mixture of butter, brown sugar and eggs.  Some would compare them (the ones containing nuts and using corn syrup in the filling) to the American pecan pie or even the British treacle tart, although history neither confirms nor denies this....Recipe for Butter Tarts


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