This Cooking Terms section lists terms for those not familiar with basic cooking techniques.
We won’t go over simple things like what dough or batter is.
We have tried to be as clear as we can when writing down the recipes on this site. When one of the terms on this page has been used in one of the recipes, you will see a link for it back to this page for a quick reference.
Beating is a cooking term that refers to the rapid circular motion that can be done with a fork, spoon, whisk or electric beaters. Beating also incorporates air into the mixture to help it rise.
Most recipes start out by beating room temperature butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until light and creamy. You should have your mixer on a medium-high speed for two to three minutes. You will know it’s properly mixed when the butter and sugar mixture lighten in color (light and fluffy). Speeding up the mixer to make this process go faster is not recommended since the increase in friction will cause the fats in the butter to melt.
This is one of the cooking terms used to incorporate a solid fat (like butter) into dry ingredients. The easiest way to do this is with a Pastry Blender (see image to the left). Using a fork or crossing two knives together will work also.
Dotting is a cooking term that means to distribute small pieces of butter over the surface.
Cookies are some of the baked goods that can be enhanced by a drizzle of glaze, icing, or melted chocolate. Sometimes, a baked good is drizzled with melted butter just before being baked. Drizzle means to slowly pour a very thin stream of liquid in a random pattern over the surface of the food.
Dusting is to sprinkle a light coating of powder such as powdered sugar or cocoa.
Folding is a cooking term which is best learned by watching someone do it.
Folding is required when a light aerated mixture like whipped cream needs to be incorporated into a heavier mixture to lighten it.
To fold, spoon about half of the light mixture on top of the heavier mixture. With a large rubber spatula, cut through the center of the mixture down to the bottom of the bowl, across the bottom of the bowl, and up the side and over. This should be done very gently. Continue on different sides of the bowl until both mixtures are mixed in a uniform manner.
Tempering Chocolate for Dipping
Some of the recipes on this site call for dipping them in chocolate after they have cooled. Tempering is a cooking term that refers to melting chocolate in a certain way. A potential problem when working with melted chocolate is “seizing”. Chocolate is an extremely dry food. If a little water comes into contact with melted chocolate, the sugar and cacao in the chocolate will immediately absorb the moisture and clump up. This event is called seizing.
We will discuss two ways to temper (melt) chocolate. The first and the easiest is the microwave method. This method works well for small amounts of chocolate (less than 1 pound). Start by chopping the chocolate into small pieces. Chocolate chips work well if you can find them in the type of chocolate you need for the recipe. Put the chocolate into a heat resistant bowl and microwave for 30-second bursts and stir gently in between. Stirring gently is important so that air doesn’t get mixed into the chocolate.
You won’t be melting the chocolate completely in the microwave. You are looking for the chocolate to get to the point where the pieces are holding their shape but they will be slightly shiny and mushy as you stir. It is important to stop as soon as the chocolate is about to melt. Keep stirring and allow the residual heat to melt the rest of the chocolate.
Double Boiler Method
The double boiler method uses a little more equipment but gives you the most control while melting chocolate. You can melt larger quantities of chocolate with this method and use larger pieces (up to 2-ounce blocks). Select a heat proof bowl to place your chocolate in. Put about 1/2-in. water into a pot and place the bowl on top of the pot. Make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Now you have a double boiler.
Bring the water to a boil. If you’re melting a small amount of chocolate, you can simply take the pot of water off the heat. If melting a larger quantity of chocolate, keep the pot on the heat and turn it down to a bare simmer. Put about two-thirds of the chocolate into the top bowl of your double boiler. Place the bowl of chocolate on top of the pot of hot water and gently stir the chocolate using a rubber spatula until it has melted. Be careful not to allow any steam or condensation to enter the melting chocolate or it can seize. You can remove the bowl from the pan whenever you need to slow down the heating process and place it back on to introduce more heat. This will be important while tempering. Once the chocolate is just melted, take the bowl off of the heat and add the other third of chocolate, stirring gently. The residual heat will melt the chocolate.
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