Baking is at times as much a science as it is an art. Just a pinch of certain ingredients can have a major affect and greatly improve the taste and texture of baked goods. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most common and important items to keep in the pantry.
Almond Paste: A smooth, heavy dough made of ground almonds. Used in candies and pastries.
Ammonium Carbonate: (Baker’s Ammonia): A powder used as a leavening agent in baked goods.
Baker’s Chocolate: Also called baking chocolate or unsweetened chocolate. Cacao content of 100% and no sugar added.
Baking Emulsion: Preferred choice in baking over extracts because it has a potent, robust flavor that won’t “bake-out” when exposed to heat. Water-based.
Bittersweet Chocolate: The darkest chocolate with the highest cacao content. Will have at least 70% cacao content.
Buttercream: A popular ready to use, fluffy white icing. Great for icing and decorating. Will crust on the outside, but remain creamy on the inside.
Candy Coatings: Chocolate flavored candy, which eliminates the tempering process necessary for real chocolate, uses cocoa powder but vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter.
Candy Crunch: Bits of candy that come in a wide variety of flavors that are ready to be mixed into chocolate, cookies or barks.
Candy Clay, Chocolate Leather: A chocolate dough that can be molded and sculpted.
Caster Sugar: Pulverized granulated sugar.
Caramel, Non-Flowing: Firm caramel, good for candy centers, caramel apples, or other desserts.
Chocolate Chips: Chocolate drops that are made to hold their shape when baked. Not ideal for candy making.
Citric Acid: Used to give a sour taste to cooked candies. Add citric acid after the hard candy has cooled to 265° F. (Higher temperatures will ruin the citric acid’s strength.)
Clear Jel: Use to thicken pie fillings.
Cocoa Butter: Used to thin real chocolate.
Coconut, Raw Chip: Unsweetened coconut in wide strips, used to make excellent brittle.
Confectioners Glaze: A non-toxic clear glaze for food products to enhance the look of the finished product. It will affect the flavor and may also slightly yellow white pieces.
Course Sugar: Colored sugar crystals that add a bit of crunch. Large grain that is about the size of pretzel salt.
Desiccated Coconut: A finely cut, dry, unsweetened coconut.
Dry Egg Whites: Pasteurized. For liquid egg whites: use 1 tablespoon dried egg white to 3½ tablespoons water. Two tablespoons of mixture equals one egg white.
Dusts; Luster, Pearl and Petal: A type of decorating powder used in cake and candy decorating to add color and/or sparkle. Dust comes in a wide variety of colors. Some are edible, while others are for display purposes only.
Dragees, Metallic: Small decorative balls. Should be removed before serving.
Fondant: A creamy, white sugar-based candy center that can be flavored and colored. Fondant can be made from scratch or from a commercial dry fondant mix. In cake decorating, rolled fondant is an icing rolled and smoothed over a cake. Rolled fondant is a different recipe from the fondant that is used in candy making.
Filbert Paste: Also called Hazelnut Praline. A smooth, heavy paste made of ground hazelnuts. Used in candies and pastries.
Flavoring, Concentrated: May be artificial or oils. Use with hard candy, cooked candy. Three times stronger than extracts. If using in a recipe calling for extract, use 1/3 as much.
Flavoring, Extract: Strong flavors diluted in alcohol that cook out of candies at 120° F. Not for use in chocolates, coatings or cooked candies.
Gelatin: A key ingredient used in many jelly or chewy candies as well as in homemade marshmallow recipes.
Glycerine: Soluble in both water and oil products for many uses; used as a preservative for fudge. Used to moisturize dried paste food color.
Glitter, Edible: Flakes of glitter that sparkle under light.
Glucose: Very thick, concentrated corn syrup.
Gum Arabic: Used as an emulsifier, thickening agent or stabilizer.
Gum Paste: Edible clay to make porcelain-like pieces. Ready-made, or in powder form (just add water).
High Ratio Shortening: Commercial-quality shortening. Produces good taste and high quality icing.
Hi-Sweet: A corn sugar which replaces corn syrups.
Icing Fruit: Concentrated fruit with real fruit pulp to add flavor and fruit to icing, candy centers, confections or cakes.
Invert Sugar: Cane sugar in liquid form. Improves the quality and keeping properties of candies and cookies.
Invertase: A yeast derivative, used in fondant centers to make them creamier as the fondant ripens.
Isomalt: Used to create edible gems and cake accents. Also a sugar substitute.
Jimmies: A classic rod shaped sprinkle that can be used on cookies, donuts, cakes and other sweet treats.
Lecithin: A soybean oil used as an emulsifier in chocolate and candies. Stabilizes fat drops and keeps them from congealing and separating.
Marzipan: A thick, clay-like candy made from almond paste that can be molded and sculpted. Most popular uses are for making molded fruits.
Milk Chocolate: Chocolate with 30 to 49% cacao content.
Meringue Powder: Treated dry egg whites. When used for royal icing, icing can be rewhipped later.
Nibs: Cocoa beans that have been roasted and chopped into fragments. They add a strong taste and crunch to candy centers.
Non-Pareils: Tiny balls with vibrant color that add dimension and brighten up treats.
Pan Grease: Release agent for cake pans. Eliminates the need to grease and flour pans. Apply with pastry brush.
Paramount Crystals: Oils in solid form to thin chocolate candy coating.
Piping Gel: Used to write on cakes or attach edible items onto a cake. Can be tinted any color using regular icing food color.
Perma-Ice: A non-edible, artificial permanent icing for decorating show cakes, ice cream displays and more. Ready to use. Handles like buttercream icing.
Preserve-It Antioxidant: Formulated to reduce rancidity when oxidation begins in high fat candies and baked goods. Use in recipes using butter, creams, nuts or other “fats” for a longer and fresher shelf life.
Preserve-It Mold Inhibitor: Formulated to lock in freshness and prevent mold-growth resulting from improper packaging or storage, and to prevent fermentation.
Pure Vanilla Extract: Most common form of vanilla. A solution containing a minimum of 35% alcohol and 100g of vanilla beans per liter. Made by macerating and percolating vanilla beans in a solution of ethyl alcohol and water.
Real Chocolate: Chocolate made with cocoa butter. Must be tempered for dipping and molding.
Rolled Fondant: A sweet icing that is rolled out with a rolling pin, draped over the cake, and hand smoothed. Fondant gives a silky, smooth, porcelain-like finish. Ideal for molding.
Royal Icing: Commonly used as a “glue” in decorating assembly. Icing gets very hard. Excellent for premade flowers, gingerbread houses, and flowers, but much too hard for icing on a cake to be served.
Sanding Sugar: Colored sugar. Slightly coarser grain than granulated sugar to reflect light and sparkle.
Sugar Pearls: Colorful balls that add a fun texture. Can be pearlized or shiny in varying sizes.
Tylose: Serves as a binder and thickener for sugar paste.
Vanilla Bean Paste: A rich, concentrated paste that can be used in place of an extract. A versatile alternative to whole vanilla beans.
Vegetable Gum: A less expensive substitution for Tragacanth Gum when making gum paste from scratch.
Wafer Paper: An edible paper, usually made of rice or potato flour used to create pictures, flowers, and other designs.
Whipped Icing: A light icing with a subtle sweet flavor. Usually not strong enough for elaborate piping.
White Chocolate: White chocolate is not technically chocolate, but it is made with cocoa butter. The cocoa butter is mixed with milk products, sugar, and vanilla. Cocoa powder is absent.
Xanthan Gum: Promotes a good rise in gluten-free baked goods. Also thickens and stabilizes salad dressings and dairy products, including ice cream.