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Glossary Q-Z



Quick Breads - A mainly North American term used to describe a light and moist baked good that is "quick" to make. The dry ingredients and liquid ingredients are mixed together separately, then combined and baked.  Leavened using a chemical leavening agent (baking powder/soda not yeast) that does not require fermentation and involves little or no kneading.  Quick breads are made either from a batter (muffins, coffee cakes, pancakes, popovers, loaves or breads) or a dough (scones and biscuits).....Recipe for Banana Bread


Raspberries - Raspberries belong to the rose family.  Although called a berry, technically it is a cluster of small individual drupelets that are held together by very fine threads (hairs).  Each drupelet is an individual fruit with its own seed.  The oval or conical shaped raspberry encloses a white or yellow central core (receptacle) that comes away from the raspberry when picked and remains on the plant.  This leaves the raspberry with a hollow core.  Raspberries are a very delicate fruit and have a sweet, slightly acidic flavor when first picked.  They soften quickly so they are best used immediately but can be stored overnight on a single paper towel lined tray.  Do not soak in water as their hollow core will fill with water and they will be less flavorful.....More about Raspberries

Ribbon - A baking term used to describe the consistency or texture of an egg and sugar batter that has been beaten long enough to become very thick and pale-colored (this usually takes upwards of 5 minutes).  To test, raise the beaters or whisk, and if the batter slowly falls back into the bowl in a 'ribbon-like' pattern, it has been sufficiently beaten.  Once the batter falls into the bowl, it should stay on the surface for a few seconds before disappearing back into the batter.

Ricotta - Prounced rih-KAHT-TUH and means "recooked".  It is an Italian cottage cheese made from the whey (watery residue from making other cheeses) that is cooked once again to produce a mild sweet tasting, soft, yet granular white cheese....Recipe for Ricotta Cheesecake

Roulade - The name given to a light and delicate sponge cake that is baked in a sheet pan (jelly roll pan) and rolled up in a towel while still warm.  Once cooled, it is unrolled and filled with whipped cream, ganache, buttercream, lemon curd, fruit, fruit purees, nuts, etc. and then rolled.  Can be dusted with confectioners sugar or frosted with whipped cream, buttercream, ganache, etc.  Used to make the classic Buche de Noel.....Recipe for Roulade

Royal Icing - Was traditionally used to ice Wedding and Christmas cakes and consists of powdered (icing) sugar, egg whites or meringue powder and water.   (If you are worried about salmonella use the royal icing recipe that contains meringue powder, not raw egg whites.)  This pure white icing when dry produces a perfectly flat, smooth and matte hard surface which makes it ideal not only for frosting cakes and cookies, but also for intricate piping of decorations (flowers, borders, lettering, etc.)   You may have to adjust the water and sugar used depending on whether you are using the icing for decorations (fine lines, outlines, etc. needs a thinner icing) or to coat cakes or cookies (thicker icing).  In my opinion this icing does not taste that good, and I usually like to use the Confectioners Icing.......Recipe for Royal Icing

Rhubarb - Rhubarb is technically a vegetable (although the United States Customs Court in New York ruled it a fruit in 1947) and belongs to the Polygonaceae family.  It is a perennial plant (rheum rhaponticum) originating in northern Asia.  The first rhubarb plants had green stalks, some with a touch of red.  The color, size, season, and oxalic acid content of rhubarb can vary.  However, do not eat the leaves of the rhubarb plant as they are inedible and toxic.  The rhubarb you find in markets today can be either field grown or hothouse grown.  Field grown rhubarb is identified by its bright rosy red and green tinged stalks with green leaves and has a very pronounced tart flavor.  Hothouse rhubarb, on the other hand, has pale pink to pale red stalks and yellow green leaves.  The stalks are not as tart as field grown but has the advantage of being available year round....More about Rhubarb


Sables - The Sable is a classic French cookie originating in Normandy.   Sable is French for "sand" and refers to the sandy texture of this delicate and crumbly shortbread-like cookie.  A versatile dough that can be flavored with ground nuts or zests and although traditionally round with fluted edges, they can also be cut into other shapes and even sandwiched together with jam or preserves, chocolate or lemon curd.  Butter is what gives these cookies their wonderful flavor.  To get the best tasting Sable use the European- style premium unsalted butters that are now on the market....Recipe for Sables

Scant - Recipes commonly use the term "a scant teaspoon or cup" of an ingredient.  Scant means "just barely".

Scrape Down - This term is used so often in baking recipes that food writers assume the meaning is obvious.  To 'scrape down' is defined as taking a rubber spatula or pastry scraper and running it around the inside surface of a mixing bowl containing batter or dough that has just been mixed.  This batter or dough is then placed back into the bottom of the bowl with the rest of the batter.  This is done to make sure all the ingredients of the batter are fully incorporated. 

Scone - Pronounced "skon" or "skoan" .  Believed to have originated in Scotland and is closely related to the griddle baked flatbread, known as bannock.   First made with oats, shaped into a round, scored into triangles,  and cooked on a griddle either over an open fire or on top of the stove.  The scone's origins are unclear, some saying the name comes from where the Kings of Scotland were crowned, the Stone (Scone) of Destiny.  Others believe the name is derived from the Dutch word "schoonbrot" or "sconbrot" meaning 'white bread' or 'beautiful bread'.  This small cake, similar to a biscuit, has a crisp golden crust with a soft white interior.....More on Scones

Scoring - To lightly mark or make shallow cuts into the top surface of pastries (pies and shortbreads) or breads with a sharp knife or prongs of a fork.  Do not cut all the way through the pastry or bread.  Scoring is done both for decorative purposes and as a way for gases to escape during baking.

Semi-sweet Chocolate - Dark chocolate is another name used to describe any sweetened chocolate that does not contain milk solids i.e.. extra-bittersweet, bittersweet, and semi-sweet.  In general, European dark chocolate refers to bittersweet, while American dark chocolate refers to semi-sweet. The two chocolates are used interchangeably.   However, flavor, texture, and appearance of the finished product may be changed depending on the type and quality of chocolate used.  Bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolates contain at least 35% chocolate liquor in North America and 43% in Britain.  The best chocolates can contain 65-70% chocolate liquor.  The higher the content of chocolate liquor, the more rich and flavorful the chocolate.  Bittersweet chocolate generally has a stronger chocolate flavor.  Semi-sweet chocolate generally contains more sugar than bittersweet.  However, because the amount of sugar this type of chocolate contains is not regulated, what one manufacturer calls bittersweet may be called semi-sweet by another manufacturer....More about Semi-Sweet Chocolate

Sherbet- Sherbets (pronounced SHER-biht) contain fruit juice or puree, sugar, water, milk and/or cream, and sometimes eggs which gives them a smooth and rich consistency somewhere between an ice cream and a sorbet.  Comes from the Turkish word 'chorbet' which was a drink made with fruit juice/puree, sugar and milk.  The story goes that the drink was frozen one day and that is how 'sherbet' was invented.  Sherbets are served for dessert only, not in between meals like a sorbet as a palate cleanser......Also see Sorbet

Shortbreads - Scottish in origin, this rich, tender and crumbly straw colored biscuit (cookie) was once only served during Christmas and New Year's Eve (Hogmanay).   The classic proportions of one part sugar to two parts butter to three parts flour were mixed together and placed in a lightly floured  8 inch (20 cm) round wooden mold carved with a thistle.  The dough-filled mold was then inverted onto a baking sheet, released from the mold,  and baked in a slow oven.  Once baked, the shortbread was cut into wedges that were given the name "petticoat tails".  This name was derived because the shape of the shortbread wedges was similar to the bell-hoop petticoats worn by court ladies in the 12th century.....More on Shortbreads

Sift or Sifting - Sifting is a technique used to combine dry ingredients so the mixture has a uniform consistency.  At the same time it also aerates the ingredients and breaks up any large lumps that may have resulted when the dry ingredient(s) (confectioners sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, or flour) was in storage.  Sifting does increase the volume so be sure to read your recipe's instructions before sifting.  If your recipe states "1 cup of sifted all purpose flour" this means you sift the flour before measuring it.  However, if your recipes states " 1 cup of all purpose flour, sifted" this means you measure the flour first, then sift it.  Sifting can be accomplished using a finely woven meshed strainer, sieve, sifter or even a wire whisk can be used.

Smoothie/Frappe - These two names are now used interchangeably by  food writers.   The 'Smoothie', a relatively new drink, probably evolved from the 'Frappe or Frappe' (pronounced fra-PAY).   In Jonathan Bartlett's "The Cook's Dictionary and Culinary Reference" , he defines "Frappe" as either "a drink composed of a liqueur poured over shaved ice" or as "a dessert of thick fruit juice or syrup frozen until mushy".  There is also listed a "Frappe", no accent on the 'e', which is like a milkshake and consists of milk, some form of flavoring, and ice cream, and maybe an egg.   The Smoothie seems to combine the best of a Frappe (fruit/juice), with the dairy part of the Frappe (ice cream, yogurt, etc.).  'Smoothie', being defined as a beverage made of pureed fruit and/or juice blended with yogurt, milk or ice cream. 

Sorbet - Sorbet (pronounced Sor-BAY) is French for sherbet and contains fresh fruit (juices/purees), sugar, water and sometimes lemon/lime juice.  It has no eggs, milk or cream, like sherbets.  Sorbets were very popular in the 19th and early 20th century when they were served as a palate cleanser between courses (called Intermezzo which means "in between the work").  Today they are still sometimes served between courses as well as for dessert.  Sorbets have a softer consistency than sherbets and are sometimes known as 'ices'.....See also Sherbet

Sponge Cake - 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.  Contains no fat.  A very versatile cake that can be flavored with extracts, nuts, citrus zests, liqueurs and can be baked in round cake pans or else a sheet pan.  Can be eaten plain or filled with whipped cream, buttercream, jam or preserves, fruit, fruit purees, nuts, chocolate, etc........Recipe for Sponge Cake 

Stiff, but not dry - A culinary term commonly used to describe egg whites that have been beaten by hand (using a wire whisk) or in an electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, until they have formed glossy firm peaks that are still moist but not too finely grained.  Adding a little cream of tartar and white sugar when beating egg whites helps them to reach and hold their maximum volume, without becoming too dry.

Strawberries - Strawberries are an aromatic, glistening-red, roughly conically shaped berry covered with what look like tiny black dots.  Strawberries are divided into two categories: Cultivated and Wild.  There are hundreds of varieties of cultivated strawberries.  The modern hybrids were developed to make the strawberry more commercially viable i.e. improving size, appearance and shipping quality, extending the growing season, and overcoming diseases.   There are spring bearing and ever bearing varieties so strawberries are now available year round.....More about Strawberries

Streusel - Streusel comes from the German word 'streuen' which means 'to sprinkle' or 'to scatter'.  Was originally made to be used as a topping for the German made 'Streusel Kuchen'.   Streusels are now used as a topping for cakes, coffee cakes, Danish pastries, muffins, pies, sweet breads, and tarts.

Streusel is a crumbly topping containing a mixture of butter, flour, and sugar.  Spices, chopped nuts, and oats can be added.  This mixture is sprinkled over the top of baked goods before they are placed in the oven.  It provides a crisp crust that adds both taste and texture to baked goods.

Sugar - The refined table sugar we now consider a staple was once so rare and expensive it was called "white gold".  Sugar cane, which was the first source of sugar, is a perennial grass that originated in Asia but is now grown in tropical and subtropical areas.  (Before the arrival of sugar cane, honey and fruit were the only sweeteners.)  During the Napoleonic war, when the supply of cane sugar was cut off, the development of an alternative source of sugar was discovered, beets.  When sugar is used in baking its role is not only as a sweetener, it also adds volume, tenderness, texture, color, and acts as a preservative......More on Sugar

Sugar or Simple Syrup - Sugar or simple syrups are a combination of sugar and water that is cooked over low heat until the sugar dissolves (and liquid is clear) and then boiled for about 1 minute.  The density can vary from heavy (one part sugar to one part water), medium (one part sugar to two parts water), to light (one part sugar to three parts water) depending on how the sugar syrup is to be used.  Sugar syrups are used to soak cakes and pastries (called a "soaking syrup" and a flavoring can be added such as extracts, juices or liqueurs), added to fondants to dilute them, used to poach fruit, as a glaze, added to frostings and sorbets, and used in confectionery.


Tart - Defined as a single-layered base of pastry (plain or puff) with a sweet or savory filling baked in either a shallow tart pan that has straight, fluted sides and a removable bottom or a metal tart ring placed on a baking sheet.   The tart is removed from the tart pan or ring before serving. Broadly, the term 'tart' encompasses flans, quiches, and pies.   Depending on the type of tart made they can be served as appetizers, entrées or desserts.  Their size ranges from bite-size (hors d'oeuvre), individual-size (tartlet) to full-size (tart).....More on Tarts

Tiramisu - Pronounced tih-ruh-mee-SOO.  Literally translated it means "pick me up" or "carry me up".  It is an Italian dessert that is sometimes called an Italian trifle, although it has a much lighter texture than a regular trifle.  Tiramisu is composed of a sponge cake or ladyfingers soaked in a mixture of coffee (espresso) and brandy, then layered with a mixture of zabaglione and mascarpone.  Once assembled the Tiramisu is refrigerated for several hours so the flavors can mingle.  Garnished with whipped cream, cocoa powder and sometimes cinnamon it makes a spectacular dessert......Recipe for Tiramisu

Torte - Torte is German for cake and refers to both a multi-layered cake filled with buttercream, jam, or cream and to a rich, moist, and dense single-layered cake.   They contain very little or no flour.  Instead ground nuts or bread crumbs are used along with  butter, sugar, and flavorings.  Americans apply the word "Torte" to any type of European-style cake that contains little or no flour, although sometimes containing ground nuts or breadcrumbs. ......Recipe for Chocolate Torte  Recipe for Chocolate Almond Torte

Trifle - What a stunning dessert the trifle makes with its multiple layers that delight our senses with so many colors, textures and flavors.  The English have enjoyed this dessert for over three centuries now.  Although the dictionary defines 'trifle' as being something insignificant, this dessert is anything but.  Its beginnings were humble as the first trifles simply consisted of a mixture of boiled cream and a few other ingredients.   It wasn't until the mid 18th century that the trifle started to evolve into what we have today.  Many trifle recipes exist and there are very definite opinions as to what should and should not be used in a trifle.  There does seem to be a consensus that a layer of cake is on the bottom of the trifle, followed by spirits, fruit or jam, custard, whipped cream, and decorations.....More on Trifle

Truffles - These rich and elegant, bite-sized round petit fours are made from a mixture of dark or white chocolate and cream (ganache) to which various flavorings can be added: butter, liqueurs, extracts, nuts, coffee, purees, spices, candied or dried fruits.  This mixture is first chilled and then rolled into small balls.  They are finished with a coating of cocoa powder (classic truffles), confectioners sugar, toasted and chopped nuts, tempered chocolate, shredded coconut, or shaved chocolate.  The name 'truffle' for this confection comes from the fact that the mis-shaped cocoa powder covered truffle looked like the fungus of the same name.....Recipe for Truffles

 Tuiles - French for tile.  So named because tuiles copy the shape of roofing tiles once used in France.  A very thin, crisp (brittle) cookie that is traditionally made with almonds but can be flavored with vanilla, oranges, or even other types of nuts......More on Tuiles


Unsweetened Chocolate - Unsweetened chocolate is also called baking, plain or bitter chocolate.  This is chocolate in its rawest form.  Chocolate liquor that has been refined and contains 50-55% cocoa butter.  The quality of the chocolate is determined by the type of cocoa beans used and how they have been processed.  Since no sugar has been added to the chocolate it has a strong, bitter taste that is used in cooking and baking but is never eaten out of hand.  Unsweetened chocolate, if well wrapped and stored in a cool dry place with good air circulation, will keep several years.


Vanilla - Pure vanilla, with its wonderful aromatic flavor, is the most widely used flavoring in pastries, confections, and other desserts.  It is the second most expensive spice in the world, next to saffron, and as much as flavor chemists try with the glycoside found in the sapwood of certain conifers or from coal extracts, the cheaper synthetic vanillas on the market today do not come close to competing with pure vanilla.  Vanilla, is the fruit of a thick green orchid vine (v. planifolia) that grows wild on the edge of the Mexican tropical forests.   Vanilla is sold in different forms: extract and essence, pods (beans), powdered, and vanilla sugar....More on Vanilla


Walnuts - Walnuts are a type of hickory grown in temperate climates, like California.   They are the second ranking nut crop in the United States, after almonds.  There are two types of walnuts; Black or American, and English or Persian walnut.  English walnuts comes in several varieties and are the most common and widely available of the two.  About the size of a small plum, a light brown shell (fairly easy to crack), encloses two gnarled halves of ivory-colored nutmeat.  The Black or American walnut is harder to find.  The nut has a hard shell that is darker in color than the English, and has a stronger flavor...More about Walnuts 

Water Bath or Bain Marie - 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 water bath 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 water bath.  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. 

Whip or Whipping - A mixing technique used to incorporate air into an ingredient or mixture (i.e. egg whites, heavy cream) to increase its volume and make it light and fluffy.  This is done by vigorously beating in a circular motion using a wire whisk or electric mixer.  Egg whites are often whipped and then added to cake batters to make them less dense so they have more volume when baked.  Whipped heavy cream can be added to custards or sauces to make them lighter.

To Whisk or Whisking - A technique to rapidly beat or whip as much air (volume) as possible into a mixture or one ingredient (usually heavy cream or egg whites).  This is accomplished using a wire whisk or electric mixer.  A whisk is made of several wires that are looped together into a teardrop shape and attached to a wooden or stainless steel handle.  They come in many different sizes and shapes with the wires of various amounts, thicknesses and flexibilities.  Whisks can be used to whip, blend, or stir ingredient(s). 

White Chocolate - Officially white chocolate cannot be called "chocolate" because it does not contain chocolate liquor.  Good white chocolate contains cocoa butter, sugar, milk solids, vanilla, and lecithin.  Make sure when buying white chocolate that it contains cocoa butter as some inferior brands contain vegetable fat.  White chocolate is ivory-colored (white chocolate made with vegetable fat is white-colored) and is rich and creamy.  Its sweet and subtle flavor complements other ingredients in baking....More about White Chocolate


Yeast - The word "yeast" comes from the Sanskrit 'yas' meaning "to seethe or boil".  Yeast is a living organism and is in the air around us.  It is a  member of the fungus family and is a single-celled fungi of which there are about 160  different species.    The two forms of baker's yeast are; compressed cakes (also called fresh yeast) and dehydrated granules (dry yeast).  There are two types of dry yeast:  regular active dry and rapid-rise. ....More on Yeast


Zabaglione or Zabaione - An Italian dessert, Zabaglione (Zabaione) is  pronounced zah-bahl-YOH-nay.  It is a light, airy wine custard made by whipping egg yolks, sugar and sweet Marsala wine over a water bath.  Traditionally served warm or cold in wine goblets.  Can also be used in making Tiramisu.  Invented by the Italians but the French make their own version called sabayon (pronounced sah-bah-YAWN) and the Marsala wine is sometimes replaced by Champagne or dry white wine.

Zest - The outer rind of citrus fruit (lemons, limes, oranges, etc.) that contains the fruit's flavor and perfume.  This outer rind, of varying thickness and graininess, can have either a bumpy or smooth glossy texture.   Cold fruit with a thick, bumpy texture yield the most zest.  This rind (zest) can be removed using a knife, vegetable peeler, grater or zester depending on its use.   The zest is most aromatic and flavorful when first removed, so use immediately.  Inside the outer rind is a white membrane (pith) that is very bitter and should not be used as it is inedible.  It can be used in desserts for its flavor as well as for garnishing. 

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