If some of you are new to baking, you may not be familiar with all the "baking terms" that people, or myself, may use. In this post I decided to go through some popular ones and explain exactly what they all mean. If you familiarize yourself with these terms, you'll find reading recipes to be so much easier and then, of course, more fun.
Sift We use the term "sifted" all the time. For example, "85 g. organic Dutch cocoa, sifted". You will see this term used most when talking about powdered sugar, cocoa and flour. If you don't have a Sifter, it is a great baking tool that you must go out and get, and they are very inexpensive. If you don't have one, you could use a mesh strainer in a pinch. Sifting your dry ingredients helps remove any clumps and it will make your batter or frosting smooth. If you have had powdered sugar or cocoa in your pantry for a little while, it can tend to clump depending on your climate. Sifting it will help break up all those clumps. This will prevent any clumps of powdered sugar or flour from not incorporating completely into your recipe. Sometimes when you have clumps, you'll want to keep mixing in order to combine them, but that can make you over mix. That's why sifting certain dry ingredients is very important. If you don't have a sifter and you're going to purchase one, I highly recommend buying the old fashioned kind with the turn and crank option instead of the newer ones that you can click or pinch. I have tried both and found the older models tend to last longer. I have the same sifter at the bake shop that I grew up baking with.
Cream the Butter When a recipe says to "cream the butter" or cream the butter and sugar, that means mix on low until the butter is smooth and there are no chunks at all. You want to keep mixing (or stirring) on low and not turn it up to high because you can over mix it this way. If you are creaming butter for anything, your butter should be soft to begin with. We use this technique in almost all of our cookies.
Cube the Butter If you're making pie dough or certain kinds of shortbread, a recipe may ask to cube cold butter. That just means to cut it in cubes, as small as you can. I like to cut each stick of butter in half, and then in half again. Then cut those long pieces into small tiny squares.
Whip the Butter If a recipe says to whip the butter, that means you will whip it using your stand mixer with paddle attachment or whisk (or even a hand mixer). Start on low and then whip on high so that you add air into the butter and it also creates more volume. You should whip butter for at least 1 minute or until you notice it is light and fluffy, and it helps to scrape down the sides of your bowl a few times to get all the butter stuck on the sides so it all gets whipped. We use this technique all the time when making buttercream frosting.
Stiff Peaks If a recipe says to whip until you have stiff peaks, it's probably talking about egg whites. This means to whisk eggs whites on low and gradually increase speed to high until you have "stiff peaks". The egg whites are considered stiff when they stick straight up in the bowl and don't fall over, or if you hold your whisk and they don't droop or move. Just like the photo below.
If a recipe says to beat eggs, that just means to stir them up with a whisk or a fork even so you break the yolks and you have a yellow liquid. Think if you were going to make scrambled eggs, you beat the eggs before adding to the pan.
Double Boiler A double boiler is an actual kitchen tool you can purchase. But, it's also really easy to just make one by using a pot and bowl. This is what I do at the bake shop and it works just fine. When creating your own double boiler, you need a pot and a heat proof bowl (such as metal or glass). You fill up the pot with water, then place the bowl over the top. But, the bowl should not be touching the water, so your pot should only be about half full. Turn your stove top to high heat and once the water is boiling below, you have a double boiler. This is common for melting chocolate.