Here are some definitions of common baking and pastry terms. This is a work in progress. These are my own definitions supported by my sources.
Aftertaste – The flavor that remains even after the food is swallowed. Basic tastes, especially bitter, and chemical feeling factors largely contribute to aftertaste. See also: top notes, middle notes, base notes, and flavor profile.
American Buttercream – The most basic buttercream consisting of butter, powdered sugar, flavoring, and liquid usually in the form of milk. It is common to be made partly with shortening though when made with 100% shortening it is known as “grease cream”.
Aroma – Aroma is another term for smell. Aroma is the complex chemicals and molecules of flavor that evaporate and reach your nose to stimulate your olfactory cells. In other words, aroma is the complex flavor of food that goes beyond the basic tastes of sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. See also basic taste and olfactory bulb.
Base notes – Also known as background notes. Flavor’s largest, heaviest molecules that are nonvolatile – meaning they evaporate slowly or not at all. Basic tastes and chemical feeling factors are part of a flavor’s background notes. Weak flavors typically lack middle and base notes. See also: top notes, middle notes, aftertaste, and flavor profile.
Basic Tastes – Basic tastes are perceived by taste receptors located throughout the mouth (like taste buds). The basic tastes are sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. Umami is a fifth basic taste that has been generally accepted in the culinary community. It is a meaty flavor and is best known for the flavor of MSG and sometimes soy sauce (which is also salty). However, without aroma a complete flavor profile cannot be sensed. See also aroma, flavor profile, and olfactory bulb.
Bavarian Cream – Bavarian cream is a cream that is made from an egg-yolk base (creme anglaise or pate bombe) and stabilized with gelatin and lightened with heavy cream. It was once used to make charlotte russe and charlotte royal but those desserts have since gone out of style. Bavarian cream is gaining popularity again in the form of chilled cakes.
Bloom – 1) Hydrating gelatin. Typically water is used but most liquids can be used, except for tropical fruits which contains enzymes breaking down gelatin. 2) Conditions on chocolate that cause blemishes. See fat bloom and sugar bloom.
Buttercream – Icing made with butter and sugar and many types include eggs. Variations come from how the eggs and sugar are treated. Buttercreams can contain shortening though it is frowned upon.
Chantilly Cream – Chantilly cream is a fancy name for whipped cream. Some will argue that whipped cream can be any form of whipped heavy cream while chantilly cream is only made when whipped cream is sweetened and has flavoring added. See also: Whipped Cream
Chiffon – A chiffon is simply whipped egg whites. A chiffon can have sugar and other ingredients in it or it can be just plain egg whites. Contrast with meringue.
Chilled – Product placed in the fridge and brought to about 35-40 degrees F.
Chemical Feeling Factors – These factors are a component of taste/flavor. They are the feel of the food such as the cooling of mint, the spiciness of red pepper, the burn of cinnamon, and the sting of alcohol.
Cis Fatty Acid – A Cis Fatty Acid can be thought of as the opposite of a trans fatty acid. Chemically speaking, a cis fatty acid is a fatty acid where hydrogen atoms are on the same side of a double bond between carbon atoms. Cis fatty acids are unsaturated, because they have a double bond. To make them saturated they are put through the hydrogenation process. See also: Hydrogenation, Trans Fat
Compote – A compote is a dessert sauce that is typically made with fruit or a blend of fruits, juice or water, and cornstarch. Compotes most defining characteristic is that they are chunky and have pieces of fresh fruit throughout.
Confit – (pronounced cun-fee) Confit loosely means cooked in it’s own juices. In my experience it is typically used to describe simple syrup sauces that have been boiled with fruit until the juices burst out of the fruits – most notably blueberry confit.
Cooled – Short for cooled to room temperature. Product is around 65-75 degrees F.
Coulis – (pronounced coo-lee) A coulis is a dessert sauce made with fruit that has had sugar or simple syrup added to it and typically has the fruit pulp strained out. Coulis are never cooked. Coulis and puree are typically used interchangeably.
Creme Anglais – Literally translates to English cream. Creme anglais is a custard sauce used in plating up desserts and pairs especially well with dense, heavy, and dry desserts. It has a smooth creamy texture much like melted French vanilla ice cream which makes sense as creme anglais is also used as a base for ice cream. It is typically made with whole milk, heavy cream, sugar, and egg yolks and is cooked on the stove to 180 degrees F.
Crumb – The space in a baked product that is in between the crust or surface. In bread the crumb is very obvious since the surface of the bread is typically darker than the crust. Crumb is also used to describe the texture of cakes and cookies.
Diplomat Cream – Diplomat cream is pastry cream that has whipped cream folded into it. Typically the standard ratio of pastry cream to whipped cream is 1:1. Diplomat cream is commonly used in fruit tarts, cream puffs, cream pies, eclairs, and napoleons.
Ermine Icing – An icing made with a roux base. Considered to be the classic icing to frost red velvet cake.
Fat Bloom – A condition when cocoa butter is not properly set in solid chocolate. To avoid fat bloom you need to temper chocolate. Fat bloom is a white to gray film on chocolate and can be present on the surface or inside a solid piece of chocolate. Fat bloom is typically seen in untempered chocolate and results in a weak and chalky product. However, fat bloom can also occur when chocolate is exposed to high temperatures. For example: leaving a candy bar in a car on a sunny and it melts and sets back up.
Final Melting Point – The temperature where all of a fat’s crystals have completely melted. Butter starts to noticeably melt around 75 – 80 degrees F but its final melting point is 94 degrees F.
Flavor Profile – 1) The complete make up of a food’s flavor from when it is first smelled until after it is swallowed. A full flavor profile includes top notes, middle notes, base notes, and an aftertaste. 2) Distinctive flavors that are characteristic of a particular culture i.e. Bread pudding being made with brioche in France, and challah in America; Iranian baklava may have rose water added to it, while the Greek version does not; Schezuan (Sichuan) Chinese food is typically very spicy while Cantonese Chinese food is not as much.
French Buttercream – An icing made from a pate a bombe base. Though considered by some to be too heavy to use as a standard icing it has become popular to use as a filling especially with macarons.
French Meringue – A meringue made by slowly added granulated sugar to whipping egg whites then has powdered sugar folded into it. It’s typically made for baking/drying and are used as layers in cakes or as cookies. It is considered unacceptable for making buttercream because of its texture – but it can be made into an icing.
Ganache – Ganache is a dessert sauce typically made with a 1:1 ratio of chocolate to heavy cream with butter sometimes added. Stiff or heavy ganache (2:1 ratio of chocolate to heavy cream) is typically used as cake fillings and to make chocolate truffles. Soft ganache (2:1 ratio of heavy cream to chocolate) is typically used for coating, dipping, and as a dessert sauce.
German Buttercream – Buttercream icing made with a custard or pastry cream base. Sometimes called Belgian buttercream.
Humectant – Something that attracts and readily bonds to moisture. Sugar is a humectant.
Hydrogenation – Hydrogenation is the process where unsaturated fats (usually oils like soybean oil) become saturated. The process involves a catalyst (such as nickel), heat, and hydrogen gas. Double bonds between carbon atoms are changed so that they bond to another hydrogen atom instead. Fully saturated fats are very solid so often manufacturers partially hydrogenate fats so that they are still plastic. Hydrogenation has lead to some concerns since trans fats are also a by-product of the process. See also: Trans Fats, Plastic Fats, Cis Fatty Acids
Hydrogenation more broadly refers to the process where hydrogen chemically reacts with another compound or element. Hydrogenation is used to create sugar alcohols or polyols.
Hygroscopic – Something that attracts and readily bonds to moisture. Sugar is hygroscopic.
Italian Meringue - A meringue made with a hot sugar syrup. A french meringue is made on a mixer (sans powdered sugar) while sugar is melted and heated on the stove with water until it reaches 250 degrees F. The sugar syrup is then slowly drizzled into the whipping egg whites. It is smooth and light and is considered less time consuming to make than Swiss buttercream but also considered the most difficult meringue to make. It is typically used to lighten mousse, create floating islands dessert, and to make Italian buttercream.
Laminated Dough – A laminated dough is any finished dough that has been made using a process similar to the block method (also called the roll-in method or French method). This process takes a basic dough and has a large block of fat (such as butter) rolled in over and over again creating layers of fat and dough throughout the dough. Laminated doughs can be yeasted (croissants and danishes) or non-yeasted (apple turnovers). Non-yeast laminated dough is typically called puff pastry dough.
Low-Calorie Sweetener – A group of sweeteners that contribute little to no calories. Also known as supersweeteners, alternative sweeteners, high-potency sweeteners, nonnutritive sweeteners, and artificial sweeteners.
Macron – A macron is a baked good that is basically a baked meringue sandwich. It is filled with a variety of fillings such as ganache or buttercream. Macrons are sometimes called “French Macaroons.”
Master Recipe – A master recipe is typically a standard recipe that makes a very reliable and predictable product that can also be easily altered to make many different dishes. For example: A simple macaroni and cheese would be master recipe while macaroni and cheese specifically calling for bechamel sauce, goat cheese, and sausage would not really be a master recipe.
Meringue – A meringue is typically a chiffon that has been made following a certain technique or recipe although it can also be as broad as any whipped egg whites with sugar added. Though it isn’t set in stone most meringues have a 2:1 ratio of sugar to egg whites. All meringues are chiffons but all chiffons are not necessarily meringues. There are three main categories of meringue: French, Swiss, and Italian. See also Pate a bombe.
Middle notes – Middle notes consists of molecules of flavor that evaporate slower than the molecules in top notes. They are usually larger and heavier than top notes. Caramelized, cooked fruit, egg, and cream flavors are classified as middle notes. See also top notes, base notes, aftertaste, and flavor profile.
Neufchatel (Neufchâtel) - (Pronounced nuff-sha-tell) A spreadable cheese from Normandy. Cream cheese was created when Americans tried to make Neufchatel. 1/3 less fat cream cheese is actually a type of neufchatel. It’s actually much softer and spreadable than cream cheese. Try it on rye crackers with smoked salmon and cucumbers.
Olfactory bulb and cells – Inside your nasal cavity towards near the throat is your olfactory bulb which contains millions of olfactory cells. The olfactory cells (also known as smell receptors) are where aroma is detected for flavor. Olfactory cells make it possible to taste complex flavors beyond the basic tastes of sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. When aroma cannot reach your olfactory cells flavor is perceived less or not at all. That is why when you are sick with a stuffy nose food tastes less strong. See also basic tastes, aroma, and flavor profile.
Pastry Cream – A very common thick egg-based custard. Pastry cream is made from milk, eggs, sugar, flavoring and either flour or cornstarch. Pastry cream is often used in cream pies, eclairs, cream puffs, fruit tarts, and napoleons. Many bake shops find pastry cream to be very thick and dense so it is lightened with whipped cream to make diplomat cream.
Pate a bombe – A whipped egg yolk mixture following the same method of preparation as Italian meringue. Pate a bombe is heavy and rich filling and is very yellow in color. It can be made into French buttercream by adding butter – the same way Italian buttercream is made.
Petit Four - Plural: Petits Four. Literally translates to small oven. Any small tea cake or dessert that can be eaten in 1-2 bites. Petit Four can be broken into four categories: glace, sec, demi-sec, and varies.
Petit Four Demi-sec – Demi-sec mean “semi-dry.” A small cookie that has been finished in some way. Typically a variation of Petit Four Sec. Common petits fours demi-sec include two cookies with a jam sandwiched in between, chocolate dipped cookies, and jam thumbprints. Like all petits fours they can be eaten in 1-2 bites.
Petit Four Glace – A small tea cake that has been glazed with icing/glazing fondant and is typically finished with some kind of decoration. Like all petits fours they can be eaten in 1-2 bites. Typically made with 2 layers of frangipan or pound cake and filled with jam or buttercream for example.
Petit Four Sec – Sec means “dry.” Typically a small cookie. Mini chocolate chip cookies, coconut macaroons, and shortbread cookies are examples of petits fours sec. Like all petits fours they can be eaten in 1-2 bites.
Petit Four Varies – A broad sweeping category of petits fours. Anything that does not fit into the other categories (glace, sec, and demi-sec) falls under varies. Chocolate dipped strawberries, brownies, eclairs, cream puffs, cannoli, and tartelettes are all examples of petits fours varies. Like all petits fours they can be eaten in 1-2 bites.
Polyols – Is a broad term, but when used in baking it refers to a subset of polyols known as sugar alcohols. Used for sweetening, part of their structure resembles a sugar while the other part has been hydrogenated to resemble an alcohol. Polyols tend to be as sweet or less sweet than sugar and can be used for adding bulk to candies and other sweets.
Plastic Fat – A fat that is semi-solid and malleable. Shortening is a plastic fat over a wide range of temperatures. Butter is plastic at room temperature but is not plastic when chilled. Cocoa butter is not plastic at room temperature and has a very narrow plastic range.
Puree- A general term for something that has been turned into a liquid but has not had sugar added or cooked down. Very commonly used to describe a fruit sauce made only by blending it in food processor. Coulis and puree are used interchangeably however, puree is the one that can also be used as a verb.
Reduce – In culinary terms, reduce means to reduce the water content of a liquid component. This is done by boiling it on the stove for a length of time. Reducing is typically used for soups and sauces.
Reduction – A reduction sauce is typically a fruit sauce that has had been boiled down to create a deeper flavor and to reduce it. Reduction sauces typically have sugar added. Reduction sauces can apply to any sauce that has been reduced such as a wine reduction.
Sugar Alcohol – A subset of polyols where a carbohydrate has been hydrogenated so part of the structure looks like a sugar and the part looks likes an alcohol. Sugar alcohols tend to be as sweet or less sweet than sugar and can be used for adding bulk to candies and other sweets. When speaking strictly about baking/cooking, polyols and sugar alcohols are synonymous.
Sugar Bloom – A condition when water gets on chocolate. The water dissolves the sugar in the chocolate and then evaporates leaving behind sugar crystals on the surface of the chocolate. This creates a grayish film. Also see tempered chocolate and fat bloom.
Sweetener – Anything that increases sweetness in a edible good. This includes sugars, syrups, polyols, and low calorie sweeteners.
Swiss Meringue – A meringue made using a water bath. The egg whites and granulated sugar are heated on a water bath until it reaches about 120 degrees F and then whipped up. It is a strong meringue (the heating helps evaporate liquid) and is considered fool proof however it is also considered heavy and time consuming. Most bake shops would have a difficult time making large batches of Swiss meringue. Swiss meringue can be turned into Swiss buttercream but is also used to make cookies, petits fours, coconut macaroons, and baked Alaska.
Syrup – Sugar dissolved in water. Examples are simple syrup, molasses, maple syrup, corn syrup, and honey.
Tempered Chocolate - White, milk, or dark chocolate that has undergone tempering. Tempered chocolate has enough properly developed fat crystals that when the rest of the cocoa butter sets up it they will all be identical. Tempered chocolate can be a liquid or a solid. Tempered chocolate sets up stronger and faster than untempered chocolate.
Tempering - 1) A process that is used to on true chocolate to help prevent fat bloom and ensure proper set up. Typically this involves temperature regulation and constant/consistent/appropriate agitation. There are several methods of tempering. 2) A process that is used on products that contain egg. Typically when you have to boil a liquid on a stove (flan, pastry cream, custards) you slowly add it to the beaten eggs while whisking. This slowly warms the eggs up preventing them from curdling.
Top notes – Typically the smells of a food product. Top notes can be detected without even eating the product – such as the smell of bread in a bakery. When a product is said to be low in flavor it usually lacks top notes. See also middle notes, base notes, after taste, and volatile flavors.
Trans Fat – Trans fat actually means trans fatty acid. Chemically speaking, trans fatty acids are fatty acids where two hydrogen atoms bond on opposite sides of a double bond between carbon atoms. Trans fats do occur in nature in very small amounts but higher concentrations occur during the hydrogenation process as a by-product. Trans fats tend to increase blood cholesterol levels and increase the risk of coronary heart disease (the same can be said for saturated fats, including butter which contains cholesterol). Trans fats are thought to be linked to certain cancers. See also: Cis Fatty Acid, Hydrogenation
Volatile Flavors – Flavors that evaporate quickly and contribute to top notes and aroma. These flavors are typically perceived in the olfactory bulb. By contrast, nonvolatile flavors evaporate slowly or not at all.
Whipped Cream – Basically heavy cream that has been whipped up to medium or stiff peaks. There are some chefs that argue that whipped cream doesn’t have added sugar or flavoring while chantilly cream does. At the very least, all chantilly creams are whipped creams as they are both made from whipped up heavy cream. See also: Chantilly Cream
Winterized Oil – Also called salad oil. Winterized oil is an oil that has been processed so that it can remember fluid at cold temperatures. The process involves chilling vegetable oil and then removing the solid fats.