Glossary of Baking Ingredients from A to Z
Many of the ingredients required for our recipes are everyday basics to be found in any kitchen. Nevertheless these ingredients are sometimes used in a different way for baking and for this reason several of them are included in the following list.
Sold blanched or unblanched, whole, chopped, ground or in flakes. To blanch almonds yourself, pour over boiling water, leave for a short time and then simply squeeze the nuts out of their brown skins. Chopped or flaked almonds have their own special aroma when lightly roasted.
Dried and candied stem of the angelica plant with a slightly bitter aromatic flavour. Used mainly to decorate cakes and gateaux.
Spice from the fruit of Mediterranean plant. This wonderful baking spice is rich in natural oils. You can buy aniseed whole, crushed or ground. It is best to grind whole aniseeds yourself as you need them.
Rice brandy. Arrack is a prized flavouring for baking, but it should be used sparingly. Icing with arrack stirred into it tastes delicious.
A raising agent, mainly consisting of sodium bicarbonate, sold in small quantities. Always use the exact amounts given in the recipes. Store in a cool, dry place and sift baking powder with other dry ingredients before use.
Chocolate containing at least 60 % pure cocoa.
This is the ideal fat for all good baking. Instead of butter you can use margarine.
This is the milk which is left after churning butter.
Candied coffee beans
Coffee-flavoured chocolate shaped into coffee beans, used to decorate cakes and gateaux.
Fruits soaked in a thick sugar syrup and finally dried, used mainly to decorate cakes : chopped finely they can also be mixed into cake mixtures or form part of a filling.
Candied orange or lemon peel
The candied rind of oranges or lemons which is used finely chopped for cakes, yeast doughs and biscuits. It is also sold in large pieces which can be cut up and used for decoration.
Spice from the fruit of the caraway plant. Savoury flans, breads and rolls are often sprinkled with caraway seeds, and they are also used in some cakes and biscuits.
Sharply flavoured spice used in some yeast and biscuit doughs.
Spice from the dried bark of the cinnamon tree. Ground cinnamon is light brown in colour and has a mildly aromatic smell. It should be stored in airtight containers for it easily loses its aroma. Cinnamon sticks are mostly infused in milk for fillings and flavourings.
Spice from the dried buds of the clove tree, gathered before they flower. Cloves are sold as whole buds or ground. They taste nice in apple and plum tarts but should be used sparingly.
The raw material for all cocoa products is the cocoa bean. Cocoa butter is obtained from it, an aromatic and easily melted ingredient of chocolate, and cocoa powder. If cocoa powder is used for chocolate cakes you should add a little extra sugar, to avoid a bitter taste. Larger quantities of cocoa should be sifted so that no lumps can form.
Food colourings are available in a wide range of colours : blue, yellow, green, orange, red and black. Use sparingly.
Plain, inexpensive chocolate in thick blocks, with an exceptionally high cocoa content. Used grated or melted as an ingredient for various mixtures.
Spice from the dried fruit of the coriander, sold whole or ground.
Used in cake and biscuit mixtures — mostly mixed with flour — but also for thickening mixtures. If cornflour is used for thickening or binding, it must be blended with a little cold water or milk before adding to the hot liquid, and then brought to the boil, stirring continuously until thickened.
Cream must be stored in a cool place away from any food that might taint it. Always add icing sugar for sweetened whipped cream at the beginning of the process. When whipping cream the whisk and bowl should be really cold.
Small, dried and stoneless dark-coloured grapes, mainly from Greece. Currants should be washed and dried before use.
A brown, slightly caramelised sugar.
Finely grated flesh of the coconut, sold packed in airtight bags. Once the packet is opened it should be used quickly Fresh coconut which you have grated yourself tastes even better.
Dried ripe fruit includes apricots, apples, bananas, pears, dates, figs, plums, peaches and of course raisins, currants and sultanas. Dried fruit is used often in baking, for fruit bread and cakes.
This can be used in baking as a substitute for fresh milk, but should be diluted with water according to the instructions on the can. It is not recommended for use in creams or custards.
Butter and margarine are the ideal baking fats. Pure vegetable fat is recommended for some types of cooking, frying for example.
Flavourings and essences
Oil extracts of basic substances used to flavour baking, often prepared from artificial flavours and fragrances. You can buy vanilla, almond, rum and lemon essence, among others.
Flour is the finely ground meal of wheat and other cereals, including rye, buckwheat, rice, oatmeal and corn. Wheat flour is best for breadmaking because of its gluten content; choose a strong plain flour. Wholemeal flour or coarsely ground flour for some cakes and bread can be obtained from a specialist shop, as can rye and maize flour.
Basically a sugar icing made with lump sugar, water and glucose.
For frying, a pure vegetable oil such as corn, sunflower or safflower oil, is suitable. The frying temperature should be somewhere between 176-182°C/350-360°F, according to the type of food you are cooking.
A setting agent which can be bought in leaf or powder form. Soften gelatine leaves in a little cold water for up to 1 hour then drain well and dissolve in hot but not boiling water. If a particular recipe contains no hot fluid it is best to melt the gelatine by standing it in a bowl over a saucepan of hot water. Dissolve powdered gelatine in a little water in a bowl over a saucepan of hot water, stirring continuously over a gentle heat.
Spice from the dried root of the ginger plant, sold whole or ground, or preserved in syrup as stem ginger. Ginger is very strong in flavour and should be used sparingly. Crystallised ginger is used as a decoration or can be chopped and added to cake mixtures.
See Candied fruit. Glace cherries are sold in yellow, green and red colours.
For cake and biscuit mixtures, hazelnuts are often nicer left unpeeled, as their skins are full of flavour. Hazelnuts are also sold ground.
Powdered coffee which dissolves immediately in boiling water and is very rich in flavour. Follow the quantities given for powdered coffee in the recipes exactly, as too much will spoil the flavour of the cake.
Dried shell of the nutmeg which is sometimes sold ground for particular types of baking.
Can be used instead of butter in all baking recipes. Soft margarine in tubs is especially useful for all cake making, whereas a firmer margarine is more suitable for pastry making.
A confection made of egg whites and sugar that can be successfully used in place of nougat for cake icings.
Marzipan or Almond paste
Marzipan is sold ready-made in 225 g/8 oz and 500 g/1 lb blocks, but you can make your own from ground almonds. It is used for filling and decorating cakes.
Kneaded with sifted icing sugar, it gives a workable paste from which figures, sweets and decorations can be prepared.
Every available type of milk is suitable for baking as long as the correct quantity for the recipe is added. Instead of fresh milk you can use reconstituted powdered milk, thinned evaporated milk or thinned cream. Buttermilk or soured milk can also be used if suitable. It is important in every recipe to take note of the method of adding the milk and the temperature it should be at.
A mixture consisting of finely ground toasted hazelnuts or almonds combined with sugar and sometimes cocoa. It is usually melted and added to cake fillings or used to sandwich biscuits together.
Spice from the seed of the nutmeg plant. Nutmeg is sold either whole or ground and adds a subtle flavour to spiced cakes, biscuits, fruit flans and yeast doughs.
Orange flower water
Made from the concentrated essence of distilled bitter orange flowers, it is a valuable flavouring and aromatic agent used in baking and desserts.
Use unsalted peanuts in baking like other nuts; they make a cheaper substitute when you are not baking a cake which needs a particular kind of nut.-
In their shells pecan nuts look like large hazelnuts, but when shelled they resemble walnuts. Pecan nuts are used for all types of nut baking, in cakes or biscuits, or for decoration.
Nut-like seed kernel of the pine, used ground in cake mixtures instead of almonds and whole for decorating cakes.
Fruit of the pistachio tree. They are always used shelled for baking, and are a pretty light green in colour. Add finely chopped to cake mixtures or use as decoration.
Seeds of the poppy plant which are used ground as an ingredient for fillings or doughs. You can grind poppy seeds yourself in a grinder or buy them ready-ground. Whole poppy seeds can be sprinkled on savoury bread rolls.
A type of cornflour made from potatoes.
Light and dark-coloured dried grapes from Greece, Turkey, California and Australia. Wash in hot water and dry before using.
This is used as a base for macaroons, gingerbread and sweets and is wholly edible.
Condensed liquid, by-product of rose oil. In baking it is a valuable flavouring, especially in icings, and it is also used to prepare marzipan.
Spice from the dried stamens of the saffron or cultivated crocus. This slightly bitter spice is used mainly on account of its yellow colour; use in baking wherever an intense yellow colour is required.
Small, flat seed kernels of the sesame plant. They contain valuable oils and are used crushed as a cake and biscuit ingredient, or whole to sprinkle on cakes and bread.
Chocolate sold in blocks with at least 50% cocoa content.
Castor sugar is most usually used in baking, while icing sugar is used to sift over cakes for decoration, and in icings.
Vanilla can be used either in its original form, as a pod, or as an extract (vanilla essence). The dark leathery pods can be cut open lengthways and then infused in boiling milk, to obtain the full flavour.
This is a sugar flavoured with vanilla and which is especially useful for baking. The vanilla pod is placed in a jar of castor sugar to infuse its aromatic flavouring into the sugar. The jar should be sealed and left for at least a week before using.
Walnuts are either used ground or chopped to be added to cake mixtures, and halved to use as decoration.
A biological raising agent, which should be sold as fresh as possible. Dried yeast can be stored until the date given on the container.