Tag Archives: what-is

What is cocoa butter?

Cocoa butter

In the simplest terms, cocoa butter is the fat in chocolate that makes it melt in your mouth and in your hand. It is a plant fat from the cocoa bean that has a melting point that is just around body temperature (somewhere around 95F, give or take a few degrees, actually), meaning that it is a solid at any temperature below that point and ... Read More »

What is shortening?

Crisco shortening

Shortening is a type of solid fat that is made from vegetable oils, such as soybean and cottonseed oil. Shortening seems to get its name from the fact that it shortens gluten strands in wheat by adding fat. Since it is 100%, as opposed to the 80% fat content of butter or lard, it results in a very tender baked good. It is frequently seen ... Read More »

What is arrowroot?

Arrowroot starch

Arrowroot, or arrowroot starch, is a powdery product made from the arrowroot plant, a starchy tropical root. The plant is dried and ground up to make the powder, which is primarily used as a thickener in the kitchen, much like cornstarch. Much like cornstarch, it is an excellent thickening agent. It has about twice the thickening power of regular flour. Unlike cornstarch, however, arrowroot is ... Read More »

What is buttermilk?

I often get asked questions about what buttermilk is and how to substitute for it because people don’t keep it “on hand.” The best answer to this is to say that buttermilk is a wonderful dairy product that makes for some delicious baked goods, and it should always be kept on hand if you like to bake more than just the occasional batch of chocolate ... Read More »

What is egg replacer?

Sometimes, when a recipe does not include eggs, it will call for “egg replacer” instead. This is most often found in vegan recipes, since vegan recipes don’t include animal products and never use eggs, although a search for egg-free bloggers will find you plenty of people who also don’t want to include eggs in their cooking. Egg replacer is a packaged product that is a ... Read More »

What is vienoisserie?

Croissant, laminated dough

In France, bakeries usually have signs in the windows that prominently say “Boulangerie” and “Patisserie.” A boulangerie is a bakery that specializes in breads. A patisserie is a bakery that specializes in pastries. The majority do both and offer a wide selection of both sweets and baguettes and other breads. Some bakeries also display a sign that says “vienoisserie,” usually without much explanation. Vienoisserie means ... Read More »

What is crème anglaise?

Creme anglaise

Crème anglaise is a very rich custard that is often used as a sauce with other desserts. It is sometimes described as a “pouring custard” because it is thin enough to be poured and is not, unlike some pudding-like custards, thick enough to be scooped for serving. The custard sauce is made with cream and egg yolks, lightly sweetened with sugar and lightly flavored with ... Read More »

What is puff pastry?

Puff pastry close up

Puff pastry is not just a riff on pie crust, although there are many instances where the pastry can be used in place of one. Puff pastry is a laminated dough that contains hundreds of thin layers of butter and pastry dough, which puffs up into a light, crispy pastry once it bakes in the oven. A laminated dough is one that has many layers, ... Read More »

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