Bakers' glossary

Getting sticker shock from $4 loaves of bread in the store? Want to get your toe in the water about baking? Lots of people stop before they get started, because the terminology that gets thrown around by serious bakers can be a barrier. For anyone who’s felt left out of the conversation or clicked elsewhere because the recipe seemed to be written in a foreign language, here are some common baking terms defined.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


Autolyse (pronounced AHH-toe-lease): A process in bread baking during which flour and water are combined then allowed to rest, usually for 20 to 30 minutes, before the remaining ingredients are added. This gives the flour a chance to absorb the water, and the gluten in the flour time to relax a bit, both of which make the resulting dough easier to knead.


Baker’s bench knife: see Bench knife.

Baking sheets: see Pans.

Baking stone: A 1/2-inch-thick piece of porous stone that, when hot, draws moisture away from the bread or pizza dough placed on it. When baked on a baking stone, hearth breads and pizza crusts acquire a crisp, crunchy crust.

Banneton: A woven wooden basket lined with linen or canvas, used for the final rising of traditionally shaped European breads. The liner, which is liberally floured before use, draws moisture away from the dough as it rises, making the bread’s lovely crust chewy.

Barley malt extract (barley malt syrup or malt syrup or malt powder): A sweetener made from sprouted barley grain.

Bench knife: A 6-inch-long rectangle of stainless steel with a handle across the top, used to divide kneaded dough into pieces and to help knead wet (“slack”) dough without adding too much additional flour. Also very useful for cutting brownies and other bars, and for cleaning crusted dough off your work surface.

Biga: An overnight starter that uses both domestic yeast and whatever wild yeast it can capture from the air as it sits. Biga is the Italian name for starter, and it can be either wet, with a consistency like pancake batter, or dry, like a stiff dough.

Biscuit cutters: One of the keys to high-rising flaky biscuits is how they are cut—honestly! Cutting biscuits with the edge of a drinking glass compacts their sides, meaning they won’t rise as well as biscuits cut with a sharper edge. Sharp biscuit cutters made from tin, stainless steel, nylon or plastic slice right through the dough and promise a high-rising biscuit you’ll be proud to serve. Make sure the cutters are at least 1 inch tall to accommodate your thickest biscuit dough. You’ll see them in round, square and hexagonal shapes; they can be used to cut cookies and scones, too, or small, personal-size cakes.

Bowl scraper: A flexible piece of plastic about 4 x 6 inches that is straight on one edge and curved on the other. Use it to scoop sticky batter or scrape yeast dough out of a bowl, cut cinnamon roll dough quickly and easily, and scrape crusted dough off the counter.

Bran: The outer coating of a wheat berry that holds it together and protects it. Bran, no matter how finely ground, has sharp edges that tend to shred strands of gluten in developing dough. This leads to a denser dough. The bran is also the part of the wheat that makes whole wheat flour a good source of fiber.

Bread machine: A great tool for kneading bread dough and for letting it have its first rise at a perfect temperature. We love bread machines for kneading—they take the guesswork out of the process. Just make sure you look at the dough as it is being kneaded to ensure it forms a smooth ball. If the dough is too wet (slack), add a bit of flour. If the dough is too dry (crumbly), add a bit of liquid, usually water. Of course you can also bake your bread in the machine, which is very convenient but doesn’t allow you to hand-shape the loaf. Still, baking in the machine can be done while you’re busy or away, and that’s a powerful attribute.


Cake pans: see Pans.

Chickpea flour: A flour made of dried chickpeas, commonly used in Indian cooking and also referred to as besan.Chilling: After cookie or pie dough is mixed, chilling firms up the fat and gives the flour time to absorb liquid evenly. This allows dough to roll out more evenly, without sticking as much, and to hold its shape while being cut and transferred to a baking sheet for cookies or a pie pan for pies.

Chocolate, melting: Chocolate scorches easily, and can seize (become hard and unmixable) if it comes in contact with water when melting. We recommend melting chocolate at medium power in the microwave, in a heatproof container. One cup of chocolate chips melted at half power should be heated for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, depending on how powerful your microwave is. Chocolate can also be melted at low heat in a double boiler set over simmering water, tightly covered so steam doesn’t come in contact with it.

Cookie cutters: Made of tin, plastic, copper or copper-plated aluminum, these should be at least 1 inch deep and have a sharp side for cutting and a dull side for holding.

Cookie scoops: Also called food dishers or depositors, these are sized-down ice cream scoops that deposit a traditional size (“ teaspoon” or “tablespoon”) onto a cookie sheet, quickly and cleanly. When a recipe calls for dishing out a rounded tablespoon or teaspoon of dough, the tablespoon or teaspoon scoop approximates that size. A teaspoon scoop will make cookies about 11/2 inches in diameter and a tablespoon scoop will make cookies about 2 1/2 inches round. These scoops come in various sizes and can be used to dish out scones and drop biscuits as well. A larger size (1/4-cup) scoop is perfect for muffins, pancakes and cupcakes. If dough starts to stick to the scoop, clean it out and spray with cooking spray (or simply dip in water) to allow dough or batter to release more easily.

Cookie sheets: see Pans, baking sheets.

Cookies, cooling: When baking whole grain cookies, especially if you like chewy ones, leave the cookies on the baking sheet for 5 minutes after you take the pan out of the oven. This gives the cookies a chance to firm up a bit before you slide a spatula underneath them. After 5 minutes, transfer the cookies to a cooling rack (see below) to finish cooling. Bar cookies should cool in their baking pans on a rack. Don’t cut them while they’re warm; you’ll make bars with very ragged edges, their texture will suffer and they’re much more likely to fall apart when you’re taking them out of the pan.

Cooling racks: If fresh-from-the-oven baked goods are cooled on or in a pan, their crusts can become soggy and, in the case of muffins, tough, due to condensation. Racks prevent this. They also are helpful when you’re drizzling icing or chocolate over pastries and don’t want the cookie or cupcake to sit in a puddle of icing. Choose racks that have a grid design rather than parallel strips of metal; a grid offers better support.

Cracked wheat: The whole wheat berry that has been broken into coarse pieces.

Cream, whipping: Whipping cream is 31.3 percent fat (compared to half-and-half, which is 12 percent fat, and heavy cream, about 37.6 percent fat). It is used in baked goods and also as a garnish. When you whip cream, you are incorporating air. If possible, keep the bowl you’re using cool so that your cream doesn’t turn to butter, which happens at warmer temperatures.

Creaming: Creaming is responsible for creating the texture of cookies, cakes and some muffins. Sugar and fat are beaten together to form and capture air bubbles, when the sugar crystals cut into fat molecules to make an air pocket. When you first start beating sugar and fat together, the mixture is thick and somewhat lumpy. As you continue to beat, the mixture becomes creamier in texture, more uniform, and lighter in color as air is beaten in.

Crêpe pan: A shallow, flat-sided sauté pan that looks like an undersized skillet. Nonstick or regular, always use a thin film of butter before adding the batter. After adding the batter, pick up the pan and swirl it around to cover the bottom of the pan with batter. This takes a little practice. Cook the crêpe on one side, turn over carefully with tongs or a thin spatula, cook on the other side, and the crêpe should slide out of the pan easily.

Cutting butter into flour: The technique combines fat and flour in a way that preserves irregular-size pieces of butter in the mixture. When these shards of butter melt during baking, they create a flaky, tender piecrust, cookie or scone. Cutting in can be accomplished with your fingers, a pastry fork, two knives, a pastry blender, a mixer or a food processor (pulsed gently). Leave the biggest pieces of butter larger than you are tempted to (we suggest the size of your thumbnail); they really do create a flake that is divine.


Diastatic malt: Sprouted grains are slowly dried and ground into powder to make diastatic malt. This process creates and preserves enzymes that turn the starch in dough into sugar, which is a fine food for yeast. Breads with diastatic malt in them may well rise higher and faster than those without.

Docking: Pricking holes in a “short” dough (one that’s high in fat and has a flaky or crisp texture after cooking) helps to vent the steam created in the oven during baking. You can use a fork or a dough docker (below) to prick small holes all over the surface of the dough. By venting the steam, docking keeps the dough from billowing or heaving as it bakes. It’s an important step for crisp crusts, cookies or crackers.

Dough, gathering into a cohesive ball: This process is usually easily accomplished by combining the ingredients, liquid and dry (see Well, below), then using your hands to shape the mixture into a ball that can be kneaded. With whole grains, dough can start out quite messy because of the flour’s slowness in absorbing the liquid. We describe on p. tk how to knead this sticky dough using a dough scraper or bench knife to fold it over on itself several times, until it starts to come together. Keep at it; with a bit of patience, the mess will become a mass that can be kneaded.

Dough docker: Looking like a small (3- to 4-inch) spiked rolling pin, the dough docker cuts even rows of holes into cracker dough or thoroughly pricks the bottom of a pie or tart shell to help vent steam.

Dough scraper: see Bowl scraper.


Eggs, adding one at a time: After creaming together butter and sugar (see Creaming, above), the next ingredient in many cookie and cake recipes is eggs. They should be added one at a time, each one thoroughly beaten in before the next is added, to allow the creamed butter/sugar mixture to most effectively retain its trapped air. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl so all the butter/sugar mixture is incorporated.

Eggs, separating: Crack the shell in the middle and use the two halves to pass the yolk from one side to the other, letting the white drip out of the shell and into a bowl. [Food-safety concerns? Egg separator preferred by people who worry about such things as the cleanliness of the shell.]

Egg whites, beating: Beating egg whites properly is the key to creating certain extra-light cookies, such as meringues or ladyfingers. Three things to remember: The bowl and beaters must be clean and grease-free. Use a stainless-steel, ceramic or glass bowl, not plastic. Egg whites will whip higher if they’re at room temperature before beating.

When beating egg whites, at first you’ll have a puddle of clear liquid with some large bubbles in it. Continue beating, and soon the whisk will begin to leave tracks in the bowl. Eventually, the whites will form stiff peaks. To test the character of your whites, pull your whisk or beaters straight up out of the foam. It’s extremely easy to go too far. When you start to see grainy white clumps, you’re beyond stiff peaks, and every stroke of the whisk or beater is tearing apart the network of air, water and protein you’ve worked so hard to create. You’ll also see a pool of clear liquid under the foam. The good news is that the foam still on top of the liquid will essentially still work. The bad news is that you can’t really fix what’s happened, other than to start over with new egg whites.

Electric stand mixer: see Mixer.

Emulsify: To mix two ingredients together that might not normally go together willingly, such as oil and water. This is done by slowly adding one ingredient to the other while vigorously mixing or whisking.


Ferment: Fermentation is fundamental to bread baking, as well as other wonderful foods, such as cheese, yogurt, wine and beer. During fermentation, yeast converts starches and sugars present in the dough into carbon dioxide, as well as alcohol and other acids, giving bread both flavor and rise.

Filling a pastry bag: see Pastry bag, filling.

Folding: When ingredients with air beaten in, such as beaten egg whites or whipped cream, are combined with other ingredients in a batter, you want to preserve as much of the added air as possible. We do this very gently with a wire whisk or spatula, because gentle combining—folding—promotes a light texture in the finished product.


Ghee (or clarified butter): Ghee is the Indian version of clarified butter, which is butter that has all the water and milk solids removed. It is 100 percent fat and can be stored for considerably longer than butter. Store-bought ghee can be stored at room temperature for many months; clarified butter that you make yourself can be stored in the refrigerator for several months.

Gluten: The elastic protein that develops when wheat flour and water are combined. Gluten gives bread its structure. Very high gluten flours make chewier breads; low gluten flours yield tender baked goods.


Hazelnuts, blanching: Unblanched whole hazelnuts have a papery skin that’s easily removed by toasting the nuts in a single layer for 20 minutes at 325°F. Remove the nuts from the oven and wrap them in a clean dishtowel. Rub the nuts together inside the towel to remove the brown skins.

High-altitude baking: Most baking recipes, including those made with whole grains, require adjustments to their ingredients when made at high altitudes. The following are general guidelines for changes to make for different types of whole grain baking recipes. Individual microclimates in the mountains can vary greatly; its best to try adjustments one at a time, and keep notes on your results.

Keep whole grain doughs and batters well covered while resting; dry air at high altitudes can draw the moisture out, leaving less water available to soften the bran.

Cakes: Increase the baking temperature 15°F to 25°F to set the batter’s structure before the gases created by leavening expand too much. You may also get better results if you decrease the amount of sugar (start by removing 1 tablespoon of sugar from each cup the recipe calls for). In very rich cake recipes (such as pound cakes) it may be beneficial to decrease the amount of fat by 1 to 2 tablespoons for each cup in the recipe. With some recipes, adding another egg will reinforce the cake’s structure.

Cookies: Try baking a little (10°F to 15°F) hotter; the dough may need an extra tablespoon of liquid to help it come together.

Quick breads: Increase baking temperatures by 15°F to 25°F. Some of the baking soda in the leaveners may not be fully used up at these faster baking temperatures; therefore decrease the amount of baking powder or soda by 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon for every 1,500 feet of increased elevation.

Yeast breads: Whole grain yeast breads take time to be at their best; the bran in the flour needs time to absorb the dough’s moisture. At higher altitudes, breads tend to rise faster, because there is less air pressure for the dough to push against. In many cases, letting the dough rise three times before baking will give it the chance to fully develop its flavor. Try putting the dough in the refrigerator for its first two rises. You may choose to use less flour, depending on the air’s humidity and the look of the dough. More about high-altitude baking…


Instant-read thermometer: Useful for lots of baked goods, these thermometers help you monitor the internal temperature of custard pies (done at 165°F), bread (done between 190°F for most yeast breads and 210°F for denser yeast breads with a higher percentage of whole grains in them), lava cake (done at 165°F) and the optimal bread-rising temperature (76°F to 78°F). They usually work within 15 seconds, and thermometers with an extra-thin probe don’t leave a noticeable hole in the item.


Kneading mat: This mat, either 100 percent silicone or fiberglass treated with a nonstick silicone, makes kneading and cleanup a snap. Sometimes marked with circle or inch measurements, it’s good for rolling piecrust, especially whole grain crusts, which tend to be a bit more delicate to due to their lower gluten content. Be sure to use only plastic utensils when working with this type of mat, as it can be cut with sharp tools.


Lactobacillus: Bacteria that are resident in sourdough starters that help give sourdough its distinctive sour flavor.

Lame (pronounced lahm): A curved razor blade set into a handle used to slash the top crust of risen country loaves and baguettes. The slash allows the bread to expand fully. A small, very sharp paring knife or serrated knife can be used instead.

Levain: French term for starter, fermented from wild yeasts, but in the form of a dough. It can take 5 to 7 days to develop a levain that’s strong enough to use for bread baking. Once you have a levain on hand, it’s a question of keeping it refreshed and happy, and baking with it regularly.

Loaf pans: see Pans.


Malt, Diastatic: see Diastatic malt.

Malt extract: see Barley malt extract.

Malt, Non diastatic: see Non diastatic malt.

Measuring: see Scale.

Measuring cups: There are two types of measuring cups—one type for measuring liquids and another for measuring dry ingredients. A liquid measure has a pouring spout and is usually made of clear plastic or glass, with clear markings on the side. Markings should include as many in-between markings as practical, such as 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 2/3 and 3/4. Some measuring cups are marked from the inside, allowing you to set the cup on the counter and read while looking down on the cup. This is quite handy. To read a regular measuring cup, fill it, place it on the counter, and crouch down to see where the top of the liquid falls, at eye level. The accurate measurement is where the line touches the side of the measuring cup. Microwave-safe liquid measuring cups are a great idea; they allow you to melt butter or warm milk right in the cup. Dry measures come in cup measurements, and a full set—while a bit of an extravagance—can be very handy. A full set includes 1/8-, 1/4-, 1/3-, 1/2-, 2/3-, 3/4-, 1-, 1 1/2-, 2- and 3-cup measures. Fill these right up to the top (if measuring flour or baking mix or pancake mix, see measuring tips) and level off with the flat edge of a knife. When measuring flour, don’t pack it in. However, when measuring brown sugar, we assume a packed measuring cup.

Measuring spoons: You would be amazed at the inaccuracy among measuring spoons. The best way to test yours is to see if 3 teaspoons add up to 1 tablespoon, or two 1/2 teaspoons equal 1 teaspoon, and so on. If you treat yourself to a new set, you might want to look for the oblong type that fit nicely into spice canisters or that can sit on a counter without spilling. Our favorites are stainless steel, but the colored plastic ones can help you identify the right size (red = teaspoon and yellow = tablespoon, for example).

Melting chocolate: see Chocolate, melting.

Mixer, electric stand: Maybe your mother did without one of these, but we see no reason you should have to. Look for one with some heft to it but that you can move around the counter if you need to. We like ones that can handle 5-quart (or greater) bowls, and the bowl should have a handle on it—this makes it much easier to scoop out a stiff or thick dough. Make sure the lowest speed is slow enough to prevent flour from flying out of the bowl when you turn on the machine. The machine should have a motor heavy-duty enough to handle 20 minutes of mixing or kneading without overheating and/or shutting down. A dough hook, whisk and flat beater should all be included with the machine.


Non diastatic malt: Malt which has been dried at higher temperature, which destroys its active enzymes; it’s used primarily for it’s subtle sweetness and malt flavor.

Nuts: see Hazelnuts, blanching; Toasting nuts.


Oat bran: The outer casing of the oat, it is high in soluble fiber and thought to be the cholesterol-lowering attribute of oats.

Oat flour: Flour that is simply finely ground groats (the oat with the tough outer hull removed).

Oats, steel-cut or Irish: Oat groats (the part of the oat berry that is left after the hard hull is removed) that have been cut in half by a steel blade.

Oven spring: The last burst of expansion in a yeast dough from the activity of the yeast and the expansion of the carbon dioxide yeast produces in the oven’s warmth.

Overnight rests: Because whole grain flours are generally more coarsely ground than all-purpose flour, they don’t absorb liquid as readily as all-purpose flour. The result? Cookies may spread too much as they bake, piecrust may be difficult to roll out and yeast dough may be challenging to knead. Some recipes advise you to give the dough a rest anywhere from half an hour to 3 days. In addition, baked goods made with whole grains may benefit from an overnight rest before serving. These extra hours allow the bran in the flour to soften, improving the mouthfeel of the baked good and making it easier to slice. This is particularly true with one-step bars (such as brownies) and quick breads.


Pans, Baking sheets: For best heat circulation around the pan, use pans that have at least a 2-inch clearance on all sides when they’re in your oven. Substantial baking sheets won’t warp or develop hot spots. Light-colored shiny baking sheets will be less likely to burn the bottoms of your cookies. Using parchment paper or a silicone liner can really make your life easier—no need to grease the pan and your cookies will not stick, period; baked for the proper time, they will not dry out and the bottoms will be just right.

Cake pans: Choose cake pans made from light-colored aluminum because cakes need quick, steady heat to rise properly, and a dark pan may burn their crust. The most popular shapes for cake pans are round and square/rectangular. Layer cakes almost always call for an 8-inch or 9-inch round pan. Make sure the pans are at least 2 inches deep, and don’t fill them to the tip-top or your cake will overflow while baking, making a terrible mess. Note: Using a 9-inch round cake pan is an excellent way to bake freeform whole grain yeast breads, as the pan gives the rising loaf the support it needs to hold its shape.

When making a single layer cake, you’ll use either a 9 x 13-inch pan or a 9-inch-square pan. You can also bake a cake in a half sheet pan (13 x 18 x 1 inch deep) using 6 to 8 cups of batter, and cut the cake into shapes or strips to create special, multilayered confections or a special shape. For best cleanup, look for pans that have inside corners that are slightly rounded to avoid trapping crumbs.

Bundt pans, tube pans or angel food cake pans are used to bake cakes a bit fancier than a layer or sheet cake. Usually these are 8- to 12-cup capacity and are made from nonstick aluminum or aluminum-steel, with Bundt pans creating lovely, fancy shapes (so nice that icing is often not required to make it look good!).

Loaf pans: These make the quintessential sandwich loaf. There are 2 popular sizes: 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch pans and 9 x 5-inch pans. The smaller pan accommodates a recipe that calls for 3 to 3 1/2 cups of flour in total. For a recipe that uses 4 cups of flour in total, use a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Using the proper size pan will give you a nicely domed loaf. For sandwich breads, we prefer dark-colored pans to promote good browning. For sweet breads, use a light-colored pan to keep the bread’s crust from burning.

Pie pans: Most recipes call for a 9- or 10-inch pie pan and the recipes in this book assume the pan is at least 1 1/4 inches deep. Cheaper aluminum pans bought in the grocery store, while convenient, may not be deep enough for the recipes in this book. Smaller-diameter pans (4 1/2 to 5 inches) are great for individual pies or potpies, too; just make sure they aren’t too shallow. Dark-colored metal pie pans tend to become hotter faster and transfer heat better than ceramic pans, though ceramic pans do look great. The point of fast heat is to firm up the bottom crust quickly so that the filling doesn’t seep through and make the crust soggy. Clear glass pie pans have the advantage of allowing you to see when the bottom crust is browned.

Parchment paper: A traditional pan liner to keep cookies, cakes, scones, etc. from sticking to the pan, these sheets are coated with silicone or vegetable oil to render then nonstick. They can be used more than once and won’t burn in a typical home oven. Parchment comes in sheets for cake pans and sheet pans, and in rolls. You can also purchase silicone or flexible fiberglass pan liners that last much longer. All of these avoid the aggravation of cookies, cakes or other baked goods stuck to the bottom of the pan, and they make cleanup a breeze. In recipes calling for a pan to be both greased and floured, grease the pan, put the parchment on top, and grease the parchment. No need to flour.

Pastry bag, filling: Most people wish they had three hands when it comes to filling a pastry bag! A tall, narrow container with a heavy base, such as a large beer mug, is a great holder to steady and support the bag as you fill it, so your hands are free to put frosting or batter into the bag. Fill the bag no more than three-quarters full. Overfilling makes the bag hard to close and hard to control. It should fit comfortably in your hands. Use a twist tie to keep the top of the bag closed, so the filling doesn’t back up onto your hand when you squeeze the bag.

Peel, pizza or baker’s: A flat, beveled-edge square of wood or aluminum (with a wooden handle) used to transfer large, flat loaves or pizzas from your work surface to a hot baking stone. If your dough sticks to the peel, place a piece of parchment on the peel, then the dough, and transfer parchment and dough to the stone all at once—the parchment won’t affect the ability of the stone to crisp the crust.

Pie pans: see Pans.

Pizza wheel: Also known as a rolling pizza cutter, it is a sharp wheel with a handle that cuts pizza, of course, but also cuts dough for crackers, lattice piecrust, dough for croissants and breadsticks. Use it whenever you want to cut a long, straight line.

Plastic wrap: Use greased plastic wrap as a proof cover for rising bread dough.

Poolish: A wet starter, made from just a touch of yeast and flour and water, mixed to a batter-like consistency.

Pre-ferment: Usually a mixture of flour, water and some yeast that is allowed to ferment before being added to the rest of the ingredients.

Proof: Two meanings for bakers. To proof yeast is to prove that it’s working. It’s the step where some yeast is mixed with liquid and sometimes a sweetener, and checked after 10 minutes to see if it’s bubbly. The other meaning : The last rise for shaped rolls or bread, before it goes into the oven. Bakeries have boxes (more like closets, really), where racks of shaped dough is kept at a specific temperature (often around 87°F for breads and rolls) and humidity (50 to 60%), for the best possible rise before baking.

Proof cover: Shaped yeast dough needs to be covered as it rises, to protect it, help keep it warm and prevent it from drying out. Choose something clear and tall as a proof cover: a large glass or clear plastic bowl, turned upside down over the dough, or the tall, clear plastic cover from a large takeout party platter.


Release cut (aka slash): Ideally, you put bread in the oven as the yeast is giving the last 20% if its rising power. When it goes into the oven, the gases the yeast generate are produced and expand rapidly from the heat. Bakers cut a slash in the top of the loaf to give the bread a place to expand into without tearing itself on the sides as it rises. This is called a release cut, and in some breads there are traditional patterns to it. Baguettes traditionally have 5 diagonal cuts across their tops. A batard has one lone semicircular slash, that curls up into an “ear”. This feature is one that judges look for in baking competitions.

Resting batter: The consistency of whole grain batters often benefits from extra time between mixing and baking. During this rest, the bran from the whole grain slowly absorbs some of the moisture in the batter. The result is a muffin or pancake with a smoother, less gritty texture, one that holds itself together better after being cooked. You’ll see many recipes in this book that recommend letting batter rest before baking; simply cover and refrigerate for the recommended amount of time before proceeding with the recipe.

Retard: To slow down. When applied to bread, it means a long, cool rest for the dough, during which it develops flavor and gluten. In bakeries, breads are often retarded at 42 to 47°F overnight before their final proof.

Rolling pin: These come in a variety of materials, especially wood and marble, but our favorite is either stainless steel or silicone-coated. Whatever you’re rolling sticks less to these two materials.

Rye flakes: These are rye berries that are steamed, then rolled into flakes, similar to rolled oats.


Sauté: To cook quickly in a small amount of fat in a skillet.

Scalding milk: Heating milk just below the boiling point; scalding retards souring and incapacitates some of the enzymes that might otherwise retard yeast growth.

Scale: All the recipes in this book contain volume and weight measurements. Weight measurements are more accurate than volume measurements, especially when scaling a recipe up or down (making it larger to serve more people or smaller to serve fewer). Look for a battery-powered digital scale with a flat platform that most of the bowls you’ll be using, such as your mixer bowl, will fit on. Make sure the switch is easy to locate and use, and that you can easily see the weight when your bowl is on the platform. Look for a scale with the “tare” feature so that you can measure one ingredient into your bowl, then reset the weight to zero, add the desired weight of the next ingredient, and so forth. Our favorite scales stay on through at least 5 minutes of inactivity before shutting off, to allow for those ever-present distractions.

Scraping the bowl: Recipes that combine creamed fat and liquids can be difficult to mix thoroughly, because the butter/sugar mixture sticks to the sides of the bowl. The only sure remedy for this is to stop mixing partway through and scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl with a rubber spatula. Separating eggs: see Eggs, separating.

Serrated knife: Serrated edges are perfect for slicing through either soft sandwich breads or crusty baguettes, especially knives with a larger “wave” serration. The blade should be 8 to 10 inches long and made of high-carbon stainless steel.

Silicone spatula: A spatula whose blade is made of, or covered with, silicone to prevent sticking.

Simmer: Bringing a cooked liquid, broth or soup to just below the boiling point. You’ll know when it reaches that stage because small bubbles appear on the surface.

Slashing: Many bread loaves, especially country or European loaves, are slashed on top with a lame just before being baked. This allows the bread to expand and gives the loaf its distinctive look.

Sponge: A beginning stage of bread, where yeast, liquid, and some flour are combined to begin working. This step adds more flavor and gets the yeast reproducing. Often sponges are used in sweet dough recipes to give the bread a boost (sugar and fat slow down the rise of sweet breads). Sponges can be left to bubble for 3 to 10 hours, depending on the recipe.

Starter: A generic term for the family of mixtures called preferments, all of which are designed to jumps-tart the first major rising (fermentation) of the dough. They all consist of flour, water and yeast, in varying proportions. In artisan breads, starters provide an opportunity for whole grains to soften and flavor to develop.


Thermometer: see Instant-read thermometer.

Toasting flour: Some flours, such as amaranth, quinoa and teff, benefit from being toasted before you bake with them. The toasting helps counteract the grassy flavor present in some of the more obscure grains. You may toast flour on a sheet pan in a low oven (300°F) until the flour begins to smell toasty and is a shade or two darker than when you began. For small amounts, it’s even easier to toast the flour in a skillet on top of the stove. Place the pan over low heat and stir constantly until the flour is evenly toasted, just a few minutes.

Toasting nuts: Toasting nuts enhances their flavor. Since nuts are high in fat, they can scorch easily. Always toast nuts in a shallow container in a single layer. A low to moderate oven (300°F to 350°F) is best. The nuts are done when you can smell their aroma and they’ve become golden brown. Remove them from the oven when their color is just a shade lighter than what you’re looking for, as they’ll continue to cook a bit as they cool. Transfer them to a cool surface immediately, to minimize this carryover cooking.

Tube pan: see Pans.


Weighing, weights: see Scale.

Well: Forming a well in dry ingredients and adding wet is a way to combine dry and wet ingredients without over-mixing and without creating lumps, useful when making pancake, muffin or cake batters. Move the dry ingredients to the sides of the bowl, leaving a depression in the center in which the wet ingredients can pool. You can do this with a spoon, a spatula or your fingers. Once you’ve added the wet ingredients, you mix them into the dry ingredients gradually, by stirring around the edges of the pool until the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Wheat flakes: This is the wheat equivalent of oat flakes—the whole wheat berry steamed, then rolled flat.

Wheat germ: The embryo of the wheat berry, which is high in fat and contains a lot of nutrients. You can buy wheat germ and add it to some baked goods. Look for stabilized wheat germ, which stays fresher longer.

Whipping cream: see Cream, whipping.

Whipping egg whites: see Egg whites, beating.