Glossary of Cooking Terms A to Z

The following glossary of cooking terms defines specifically as they relate to sweet and savory muffing and quick breads. Included are major and unusual ingredients and basic techniques.

Glossary of cooking terms A to C

  1. ApricotsPitted whole or halved fruits, sweet and slightly tangy.
  2. Acorn squashSee winter squash.
  3. AlmondsSee nuts.
  4. Baking powderCommercial baking product combining three ingredients. Baking soda, the source of the carbon dioxide gas that causes muffins and quick breads to raise; an acid such as cream of tartar, calcium acid phosphate or sodium aluminum sulphate, which, when the powder is combined with a liquid, causes the baking soda to release its gas; and a starch, such as cornstarch or flour, to keep the powder resistant to moisture.
  5. Baking SodaAlso known as bicarbonate of soda or sodium bicarbonate, the active component of baking powder and the source of the carbon dioxide gas that leavens muffins and quick breads. Often used on its own to leaven batters that includes acidic ingredients such as buttermilk, yogurt or citrus juices.
  6. BasilSweet, spicy herb popular in Italian and French cooking, particularly with tomatoes.
  7. BranThe papery brown coating of a whole grain, usually removed during milling. Unless the type of grain is specified, the term usually refers to wheat bran. Including batter mixtures, it provides robust flavor and texture, as well as a generous measure of dietary fiber. Oat and rice barns are also popular sources. Found in the baking or breakfast cereal section of the supermarket.
  8. BulgurWheat berries (below, right) that have been washed, parboiled, dried, partially debranned and cracked into coarse particles (left) that contribute a nut-like taste and chewy texture to muffins and quick breads. Sold in shops specializing in middle eastern foods, in health-food stores and in well stocked supermarkets. Also known as burghul.
  9. ButtermilkForm of cultured low-fat or nonfat milk that contributes a tangy flavor and thick, creamy texture to muffins and quick breads. Its acidity also provides a boost to leavening agents, adding extra lightness to batters.
  10. Butternut SquashSee winter squash.
  11. CapersSmall, pickled buds of a bush common to the Mediterranean; use as a savory flavoring or garnish.
  12. Cheddar CheeseFirm, smooth-textured whole- milk cheese, pale yellow-white to deep yellow orange and ranging in taste from mild and ranging in taste from mild and sweet when fresh to rich and sharply tangy when aged.
  13. Chili Pepper, GreenThe unripened form of any of a wide variety of fresh peppers prized for the mild-to-hot, dark green poblano; the long, mild Anaheim; and the small, firey jalapeno. When handling and chili, wear kitchen gloves to prevent any cuts or abrasions on your hands from contacting the pepper’s volatile oils; wash your hands well with warm, soapy water, and take special care not to touch your eyes or any other sensitive areas.
  14. Chili PowderCommercial blend of spices featuring ground deride chili peppers along with such other seasonings as cumin, oregano, cloves, coriander, pepper and salt. Best purchased in small quantities, because flavor diminishes rapidly after opening.
  15. ChocolatePurchase the best-quality baking chocolate you can find, including unsweetened, bittersweet, semisweet or sweet type, as the recipe requires. Care must be taken to melt chocolate without scorching. A double boiler, in which the chocolate melts above water kept below a simmer, ensures gentle heat.
  16. CinnamonPopular sweet spice for flavoring baked goods. The aromatic bark of a type of evergreen tree, it is sold as whole dried strips cinnamon sticks or ground.
  17. CurrantsSee dried fruit.
  18. CloveRich and aromatic east African spice used in its ground form to flavor muffin batters.
  19. CornmealGranular flour ground from dried kernels of yellow or white corn, with a sweet, robust flavor that is particularly appealing in baked goods. Commercial, sold in supermarkets, lacks the kernel’s husk and germ and is available in fine or coarser grinds; stone-ground cornmeal, made from whole corn kernels, produces a richer flour better suited to cornbread.
  20. Cream, heavy whippingCream with a high butterfat content at least 36 percent that adds richness to muffins. Also called double cream.
  21. Cream, sourCommercial dairy product made from pasteurized sweet cream, used to add richness and tang to baked goods. Like buttermilk, its extra acidity boosts the leavening action of baking soda.
  22. CherriesRipe tart red cherries that have been pitted and dried usually in a kiln, with a little sugar added to help preserve them to a consistency and shape resembling that of raisins.
  23. CurrantsProduced from a small variety of grapes, these dried fruits resemble tiny raising but have a stronger, tarter flavor. If unavailable, substitute raisins.
  24. Cream of TartarAcidic powder extracted during wine making that is used as a  leavening agent, most commonly combined with baking soda to make commercial baking powder.
Glossary of Cooking Terms A to Z

Glossary of Cooking Terms

Glossary of cooking terms D to O

  1. Dried FruitIntensely flavored and satisfyingly chewy many forms of sun-dried or kiln-dried fruits may be added to enhance the taste or texture of muffins and quick breads. Select more recently dried and packaged fruits, which have a softer texture than older dried fruits. Usually found in specialty-food shops or supermarket baking sections. Some of the most popular options include.
  2. DatesSweet, deep brown fruit of the date palm tree, with a thick, sticky consistency resembling that of candied fruit. Sometimes pitted and chopped.
  3. Dijon MustardMustard made in Dijon, France, from dark brown mustard seeds (unless otherwise marked blanc) and wine vinegar. Pale in color, fairly hot and sharp tasting, true Dijon mustard and non-French blends labeled “Dijon style” are widely available in supermarkets and specialty-food shops.
  4. DillHerb with fine, feathery leaves and a sweet, aromatic flavor. Sold fresh or dried.
  5. FigsCompact form (below) of the succulent black or golden summertime fruit, distinguished by a slightly crunchy texture derived from it tiny seeds.
  6. Flour, All-purposeThe most common choice of flour for making muffins and quick breads, this bleached and blended (hard and soft wheats) product is available in all supermarkets. Also known as plain flour.
  7. Flour, BuckwheatFlour ground from the seeds of an herbaceous plant originating in Asia; popular in the cuisines of Russia and Eastern Europe; its strong, earthy, slightly sour flavor is usually modulated in commercial products by the addition of a little wheat flour.
  8. Flour, cakeVery fine-textured bleached flour for use in cakes and other baked goods. All-purpose (plain) flour is not and acceptable substitute.
  9. Flour, OatFine flour ground form dried oats with a characteristic nut-like flavor. Used in combination with wheat flour.
  10. Flour, RyeFine flour ground from grains of rye grass, a close relative of wheat, with a slightly sweet-sour flavor.
  11. Flour, whole-wheatBrown-colored flour miled from whole, unbleached wheat berries. Also known as wholemeal flour.
  12. FingerThe rhizome of the tropical ginger plant, which yields a sweet, strong-flavored spice. Whole ginger rhizomes, commonly but mistakenly called roots, may be purchased fresh in supermarket or vegetable market. Ginger pieces are available crystallized or candied in specialty-food shops or supermarket baking sections, or preserved in syrup in specialty shops or Asian food sections. Ground, dried ginger is easily found in jars or tins in the supermarket spice section.
  13. GritsAlso known as hominy grits, a fine-medium or coarse ground meal derived from hominy, hulled and dried corn kernels that are a specialty of the American south.
  14. HazelnutsSee nuts.
  15. HoneyProvides a distinctive mellow sweetness in muffin and quick bread recipes. When substituting honey for sugar in a recipe, reduce other liquids by ¼ cup *2 fl oz/60 ml) for very 1 cup (12 oz/375 g) of honey used, to compensate for th4e honey’s higher moisture content, and reduce baking temperature by 25˚F (15˚C) to prevent prevent burning.
  16. Hubbard squashSee winter Squash.
  17. KashaOven-toasted, hulled grains of buckwheat either whole or coarse, medium or finely ground enjoyed for their full, nut-like, slightly sour flavor.
  18. Maple syrupSyrup made from boiling the sap of the maple tree, with an inimitably rich savor and intense sweetness. Buy maple syrup that is labeled pure, rather than a blend.
  19. MolassesThick, robust-tasting. Syrupy sugarcane by product of sugar refining. Light molasses results from the first boiling of the syrup’ dark molasses form the second boiling.
  20. NutmegPopular baking spice that is the hard pit of the fruit of the nutmeg tree. May be both already ground or, for fresher flavor, whole. Whole nutmegs may be kept inside special nutmeg graters, which include hinged flaps that conceal a storage compartment. Freshly grate nutmeg as needed, steadying one end of grater on work surface. Return unused portion of whole nutmeg to compartment.
  21. Nine-grain CerealCoarse-textured, earthy-tasting uncooked breakfast cereal, usually containing cracked rye, barley, rice, corn oats, millet, flax, soy and triticale. If unavailable, substitute any uncooked multigrain cereal.
  22. NutsNuts such as almonds, hazelnuts (also known as filberts), peanuts, pecans, pistachios and walnuts add a wealth of flavor and texture to muffins  and quick breads.
  23. Oat BranSee bran.
  24. OatmealCoarse medium or fine-textured cereal ground from hulled oats, prized for its nut-like taste and texture when cooked as breakfast porridge or added to baked goods. Use regular rolled oats for baking not quick-cooking or instant unless otherwise specified.
  25. Olives, GreekSalty cured black olives, usually packed dry or in oil. Available in ethnic delicatessens, specialty-food shop and well-stocked supermarkets. Substitute god-quality Italian black olives.
  26. OreganoAromatic and pungent Mediterranean herb also known as wild marjoram used fresh or dried as a seasoning for all kinds of savory dishes. Especially popular with tomatoes and other vegetables.

Glossary of cooking terms P to Z

  1. PearsHalved, seeded and flattened fruit (below), retailing the fresh pear’s distinctive profile.
  2. PrunesVariety of dried plum, with a rich-tasting, dark, fairly moist flesh.
  3. ParmesanHard, thick-crusted Italian cow’s milk cheese with a sharp, salty, full flavor resulting from at least two years of aging. Buy in block form, to grate fresh as needed, rather, to grate fresh as need, rather than already grated. The finest Italian variety is designated parmigiano-reggiano.
  4. PecansSee nuts.
  5. PistachiosSee nuts.
  6. Poppy seedsSmall, spherical, blue-black seeds of a form of poppy; traditionally used in central and eastern European cooking to add rich, nut-like flavor to baked goods.
  7. Potato StarchAlso known as potato flour, a fine-textured flour ground from potatoes that have been cooked and dried. Available in health-food stores and eastern European shops.
  8. PumpkinSee winter squash.
  9. RaisingsVariety of dried grapes, popular as a snack on their own. For baking, use seedless dark raisins or golden raisins (sultanas).
  10. RosemaryMediterranean herb, used either fresh or dried, with a strong aromatic flavor. Especially complements poultry or lamb.
  11. SagePungent herb, used fresh or dried, that goes particularly well with pork, ham or poultry.
  12. Shortening, VegetableSolid vegetable fat sometimes used in place of or in combination with butter in batters. The fat is said to “shorten” the flour, that is, to make it flaky and tender.
  13. Sugar, BrownA rich-tasting, fine-textured granulated sugar combined with molasses n varying quantities to yield light or dark varieties. Widely available in supermarket baking sections.
  14. Sugar, confectionersFinely powdered granulated sugar, combined with a little cornstarch to keep it dry and free flowing. Also called icing sugar.
  15. Swiss CheeseFirm whole-milk cheese, pale creamy yellow in color, with distinctive holes that grow larger and more numerous with ripening. Popular, on its own or in recipes, for its mild, slightly sweet, nut-like flavor.
  16. To toast nutsPreheat an oven to 325˚F (165˚). Spread the nuts here, walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until they just begin to change color, 5-10 minutes Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.
  17. To chop nutsSpread the nuts in a single layer on a nonslip cutting surface. Using a chef’s knife, carefully chop the nuts with a gentle rocking motion of the blade. Alternatively put a handful or two of nuts in a food processor fitted with the metal blade and use a few rapid off-on pulses to chop the nuts to desired consistency; repeat with the remaining nuts in batches.
  18. ThymeFragrant, clean-tasting, small-leaved herb used fresh or dried as a seasoning for poultry, light meats, seafood or vegetables.
  19. Tomatoes, sun-driedWhen sliced crosswise or halved, then dried in the sun, tomatoes develop an intense, sweet-tart flavor and a pleasantly chewy texture that enhance savory recipes. Available either packed in oil or dry, in specialty food shops and well stocked supermarkets.
  20. Vanilla ExtractFlavoring derived by dissolving the essential oil of the vanilla bean in an alcohol base. Use only products labeled “pure” or “natural” vanilla extract (essence). Sold in specialty food shops and supermarkets.
  21. WalnutsSee nuts.
  22. Winter squashThe pale yellow to deep orange flesh of hard, tough-skinned winter squashes such as acorn, butternut, Hubbard or pumpkin makes a colorful, flavorful addition to muffins and quick breads. Before use in recipes, the squash must be cooked and mashed. Using a heavy, sharp kitchen knife, cut the squash here, an acorn squash in half. If its skin is very hared, use a kitchen mallet to tap the knife carefully once it is securely wedged in the squash. Using a sharp edged teaspoon or tablespoon, scrape out all seeds and fivers form each squash half. Place the squash halves, cut sides down, in a shallow baking dish and add water to reach ½ 1 inch (12 mm-2.5 cm) up the sides of the squash. Bake in a 350˚F (180˚C) oven until tender, 45 minutes 1 hour, adding more boiling water if necessary to maintain original water level. Let squash stand at room temperature until cool enough to handle. Drain well, then scoop soft flesh from each shell half into a bowl. Mash with a fork or a potato masher until smooth.
  23. Wheat branSee bran.
  24. Wheat GermThe embryo. Or growing portion, of the whole wheat kernel, rich in oil and vitamin e, removed during the m8illign of white Flour but left intact in whole-wheat (wholemeal) varieties. Also sold separately, often lightly toasted, small flakes of wheat germ add a wholesome, nut-like taste and slightly crunchy texture to baked goods.
  25. ZestThin, brightly colored, outermost layer of a citrus fruit’s peel, containing most of its aromatic essential oils-a lively source of flavor in baking. Zest may be removed using one of two easy methods.

Use a simple tool known as a zester, drawing its sharp edged holes across the fruit’s skin to remove the zest in thin strips. Alternatively, use a fine handheld grater.

Holding the edge of a paring knife or vegetable peeler away from you and almost parallel to the fruit’s skin, carefully cut off the zest in thin strips, taking care not to remove any white pith with it. Then thinly slice or chop on a cutting board.

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