Glossary of Cooking and Baking Terms

One of the things I like about blogging is sharing some of the things I’ve learned about cooking and baking, including terms that can sometimes be confusing. I decided to start this glossary to collect some of these words and terms. I’ll add things here as I mention them in my blog and include links to this glossary from the blog entries, and vice versa.

There are a lot of food glossaries out there, and I have no intention of trying to make this one a complete compendium of cooking or baking terms. Rather, I want to use it to collect terms that come up in my blog posts. That said, if there are cooking terms that confuse you, drop me a line. I’ll try to add a definition.

autolyse — the process of allowing bread dough to rest for a short period of time (generally 20 – 30 minutes) after a brief initial mixing. This is usually done after mixing just the flour and water in the recipe, although many modern recipes call for an autolyse after mixing all of the ingredients. The purpose of the autolyse is to allow the flour to become fully hydrated, to begin gluten development, and to develop flavor.

baker’s percentages (or baker’s math) — in professional and artisan bread baking, recipes are conceived in ratios whereby the total flour in the recipe, by weight, is always 100%, and the rest of the ingredients are presented in relation to the flour weight. So, for example, if you are using 1000 grams of flour, and the yeast is given as 3%, then the recipe would require 30 grams of yeast.

bench (or dough) scraper — a flexible plastic or stiff metal rectangle, about 6 inches by 4 inches, used to divide dough and scrape dough remnants from bowls or the work surface.

blind baked crust — pie or tart crust that is partially or completely per-baked before being filled . This is often done when the crust will be filled with pudding or custard to keep the crust from becoming soggy, or where the filling takes less time to bake than the crust.

daube (or beef daube) — a classic French stew made of beef braised in red wine, garlic, root vegetables, and herbs.

fiori di sicilia — literally, “flower of Sicily”, is a flavoring extract with essences of citrus and vanilla. It can be used in place of vanilla and adds a wonderfully subtle flavor to sweet doughs.

French rolling pin — a French rolling pin differs from a “traditional” rolling pin in that the French rolling pin doesn’t have handles. Rather, it is esentially a smooth, solid piece of wood, often tapered at the ends. French rolling pins tend to be favored by pastry chefs, as they enable the chef to roll thin dough more evenly.

full rolling boil — often use in jam and jelly making, the term “full rolling boil” means a boil that doesn’t subside when you stir the mixture.

herringbone cut — a method for cutting a boule that results in even-sized slices. (Click on link to see a pictoral demonstration.)

hooch — the greyish, brownish liquid that forms on the top of sourdough starter when the starter needs to be fed. Hooch is a result of alcohol production in the starter fermentation process. It can be poured off or stirred back into the starter. If it is poured off, the starter may require slightly more liquid when fed.

mirepoix — known as the “holy trinity” in Creole cooking, mirepoix is a French term for onions, carrots, and celery, the aromatic vegetables used as the base of many soups, stews, stocks, sauces, and other dishes. Mirepoix is commonly sautéed in butter or olive oil, but it can also be roasted, used raw, or cooked with a roux (see below).

mise en placemise en place (pronounced MEES ahn plahs), literally “put in place” but more commonly translated “everything in place”, is a French cooking term, which simply refers to assembling all of your ingredients and equipment before you begin cooking. You read through your recipe, get out all your ingredients, measure, wash, chop, toast, bring to room temperature, etc., and get all of your pots, pans, bowls, utensils, and other equipment ready.

100% hydration — this term, used with sourdough starters, refers to the amount of water in a starter in relation to the amount of flour, both measured by weight. In baker’s percentages (see entry above), the flour is always 100%, and all other ingredients are measured in reference to the flour. So 100% hydration means that the weight of the water in the starter is equal to the weight of the flour. So, for example, if you feed your starter 50 grams of flour and 50 grams of water, the starter would be 100% hydration.

pain de mie — is a fancy-sounding name for an everyday sandwich bread. Literally, it translates to “bread of crumb”; but most online French-to-English translators will return “sandwich bread” or simply “bread”. Pain de mie can be made with whole grain, but it is usually just a simple, white sandwich bread, often enriched with milk, butter, and sugar. It can be baked in a loaf pan or a Pullman pan (see below).

proofing box — a proofing box (sometimes also called a “proof box”) is sealed space where a baker can control the temperature and humidity in order to proof dough under controlled conditions. Generally, the temperature of a proofing box is kept around 100 degrees F, and the humidity at about 85%. (See how I simulate a proofing box in my microwave oven.)

Pullman pan — so named because it resembles the shape of a Pullman train car, this lidded, rectangular pan bakes a perfect pain de mie loaf (see above). Pullman pans come in many sizes, but a “standard” pan is about 13x4x4 inches and holds about 3 1/2 pounds (42 ounces) of dough.

Roux — a mixture of flour and fat — generally butter or oil — that is cooked until the flour loses its raw flavor and takes on some color. Roux is used as a thickener for sauces, gumbos, and stews.

soaker— in making a soaker, course-ground grains (e.g., cracked wheat, course-ground cornmeal, oats, etc.) are soaked in a small amount of water or milk overnight. This serves to soften and activate the enzymes in the grains, which improves the flavor of bread dramatically.

stretch and fold (or French fold) — an alternative to kneading, in which the dough is patted into a rectangle on a lightly floured board, then gently stretched in each direction. After stretching, the dough is folded, letter style, in from each end and then from the top and bottom. Typically, the baker will give the dough three or four stretch and folds at 30- to 40-minute intervals during the bulk fermentation.

tacky vs. sticky (dough) — in bread baking, the recipe will often say that the dough should be either tacky or sticky. The easiest way to test this is to press your hand onto the dough and then lift it up. If the dough pulls up with your hand and then releases (so your hand comes away clean), the dough is tacky. If you end up with dough stuck to your hand, it’s sticky.

Twitterbake — a group of people baking the same or similar recipes at the same time and Tweeting to one another as they bake.


  1. June 11, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    […] when my friends Kayte and Margaret tweeted that they were making it, too. So we decided to have a Twitterbake and make it “together” in our separate kitchens (and separate States). It’s […]

  2. June 4, 2012 at 12:07 am

    […] took an additional 7 tablespoons of flour to get the dough to the point where it was tacky but not sticky. The recipe said to knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes. I mixed it on medium-low speed with my […]

  3. March 19, 2012 at 7:46 am

    […] light and fluffy. After beating in the eggs, I added the orange zest and extract (I substituted fiori di sicilia for the orange extract), then beat in the flour mixture. I scooped small spoonfuls of the dough, […]

  4. October 25, 2011 at 8:15 am

    […] Scrape down sides of bowl, then switch to dough hook and mix on medium speed for about 5 minutes. Stop mixer and scrape bowl once or twice while mixing. The dough will be very sticky. […]

  5. October 23, 2011 at 9:03 am

    […] address Nick Malgieri, New York, she was excited to start baking from it. So we decided to do a Twitterbake, where we would both bake the same recipe at the same time and Tweet about it as we went. Kayte […]

  6. October 9, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    […] it mainly just takes time. And once you’ve butchered and browned the duck and made your roux, most of the work is behind you. Duck fat, oil, and flour cooking away to make roux. It's not […]

  7. October 6, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    […] Switch to dough hook and knead on low speed for 5 minutes, adding flour or water, as necessary, to achieve a smooth, elastic dough that is tacky, but not sticky. […]

  8. September 23, 2011 at 7:27 am

    […] and pies for the Modern Baker Challenge and getting started on the sweet tarts and pies. And I was Twitterbaking recipes from Bake! with some […]

  9. May 4, 2011 at 6:45 am

    […] friend Kayte had a birthday recently. And in a budding Twitterbake tradition, she chose her own birthday cake from Bake! by Nick Malgieri. Kayte always has a cake […]

  10. May 3, 2011 at 7:36 am

    […] before Easter, it was my turn to choose our next Twitterbake recipe from Bake!, and I quickly decided on carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. We were having […]

  11. March 13, 2011 at 6:43 am

    […] Twitterbake from Nick Malgieri’s Bake! was chosen by Abby, although I think she may have been channeling […]

  12. March 5, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    […] a recent Twitterbake, my friend Margaret chose Danish Cheese Pockets from Bake!, Nick Malgieri’s recent book. The […]

  13. January 20, 2011 at 7:23 am

    […] made it twice — once in a regular loaf pan and a second time as a double recipe in a pain de mie pan. Milk Loaf Proofed in […]

  14. January 18, 2011 at 7:09 am

    […] was Kayte‘s turn to pick our Twitterbake recipe this week, and she surprised us all by choosing something other than a lemon-based recipe. […]

  15. January 8, 2011 at 6:12 am

    […] and ready for some savory recipes. So, of course when it came to my turn to choose a recipe for our Twitterbake from Nick Malgieri‘s latest book, Bake!, I chose pound […]

  16. December 31, 2010 at 12:59 am

    […] friend Kayte and I have been Twitterbaking from Nick Malgieri’s newest book, Bake!, for a month or so now. Margaret has joined us a […]

  17. December 29, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    […] Margaret, and I usually make the recipes “together” via a Twitterbake, but our schedules just didn’t jive this time, so we each made the tart on our own. I made it […]

  18. December 29, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    […] third recipe I made from Nick Malgieri‘s new book, Bake!, was chosen by Kayte for our Twitterbake. As she is a fan of all things lemony, I wasn’t surprised when she chose the Lemon Crumb Bars […]

  19. December 22, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    […] As Dorie Greenspan notes in Around My French Table, every chef needs a great beef stew recipe in his or her apron pocket. So this week’s entry for French Fridays with Dorie is her — and now my — go-to beef daube. […]

  20. December 13, 2010 at 7:00 am

    […] make yet. And to make it even more fun,  a bunch of the people in the cookie exchange decided to Twitterbake our cookies together the other day. So, with one recipe in hand and the other in mind, I hit the […]

  21. December 5, 2010 at 2:08 am

    […] let the dough rest again, then turned it out of the bowl, gave it a stretch and fold, and put it in an oiled bowl to […]

  22. November 14, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    […] baker’s math, I calculated the hydration of the sponge and fed my sourdough starter accordingly. I let the […]

  23. October 8, 2010 at 8:08 am

    […] for at least three hours, and once it’s panned, it has to chill another hour before it is blind baked. I made the dough a few days before baking the tart and rolled it out (with decent, if not perfect, […]

  24. October 3, 2010 at 8:06 am

    […] began by setting the chilled puff pastry on a lightly floured board, then hitting it with a French rolling pin to soften it and begin flattening it out a bit. I then rolled the pastry, giving it several 90° […]

  25. September 18, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    […] yeast, water, salt, olive oil, and sugar. I mixed the ingredients in the Kitchen Aid, let them autolyse for a few minutes, and mixed some more. After turning the dough out into an oiled bowl, I covered […]

  26. August 15, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    […] in addition to its name, has the draw of containing a full pound of butter, almost 90% in terms of baker’s percentages.  But if I was going to make such a decadent loaf of bread, I had to do it right.  This meant […]

  27. August 15, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    […] and mixed until the dough was evenly moistened. I then folded in the Lebanon bologna. After a brief autolyse, I folded the dough in the bowl with a bench scraper about 20 times. Then I put the dough in an […]

  28. August 12, 2010 at 8:12 am

    […] with the other recipes in this section, Nick Malgieri utilizes brief periods of mixing and an autolyse. The dough is mixed for three minutes, rested for 10, and mixed again for another three minutes. […]

  29. August 10, 2010 at 8:15 am

    […] with the other breads in this section of the book, this recipe utilizes minimal mixing and autolyse to develop the […]

  30. August 8, 2010 at 7:53 am

    […] this recipe has a lot of ingredients, I felt it was important to use mise en place. This was all the more true since I upped the ante by making this an 11 grain and seed bread. Nick […]

  31. August 1, 2010 at 9:08 am

    […] began by mixing two doughs. The first dough used a true autolyse, as it contained only flour and water, which were minimally mixed and then set aside for an hour to […]

  32. July 29, 2010 at 9:54 am

    […] The dough is mixed in the food processor and comes together really quickly, even with a 10-minute autolyse. Once the mixing is finished, the dough is set aside to rest for an hour before rolling out the […]

  33. July 25, 2010 at 11:45 am

    […] As with the Armenian Barbary Bread, I halved the recipe so that I would end up with just one loaf of this bread. The dough is mixed very briefly in the food processor, then placed in an oiled bowl and allowed to rest for a 20-minute autolyse. […]

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