A Few Baking Facts

(WARNING: The images below might make you hungry. Sorry about that.)

I am a fan of cooking shows, particularly baking shows like Sugar Rush (and its various forms like Sugar Rush Extra Sweet and Sugar Rush Christmas), Baking Impossible, and Zumbo’s Just Desserts. The shows I watch via Netflix are filmed in the States and in other countries, and often involve terms and techniques with which I am not familiar since baking and I are seldom on speaking terms. (Though baked goods and I are old friends.)

On the shows, the why behind an action—i.e., why do you need to temper chocolate? What exactly does that mean?—isn’t given because the contestants are supposed to know this stuff. So I’m faced with a choice each time: watch in a state of semi-confusion or look stuff up. I decided to do so and found stuff like:

The why behind tempering chocolate. According to the Ghirardelli website, tempering chocolate is “heating and cooling chocolate to stabilize it for making candies and confections—gives chocolate a smooth and glossy finish.” If you want to know how to do that, go here.

Tempering chocolate

Buttercream choices. Love frosting on cakes, cupcakes, and other baked goods? Did you know there are several different types of buttercream? Swiss meringue, American, German, French, Italian meringue. For more on that, go here.

Swiss meringue buttercream

The difference between a macaron and a macaroon (besides the extra O). The Food Network site helped me out here. A macaron is a “French cookie that’s made of finely ground blanched (peeled) almonds suspended in a meringue.” Comparatively, a macaroon is a coconut cookie.



Crème Pâtissière. This is pastry cream bakers use in eclairs, tarts, and other pastries. It is made with milk, eggs, sugar, and cornstarch. This site talks about why cornstarch is preferred over flour.

Maybe you already know all of this. Or, maybe you’re wondering: Why go through the trouble of looking for that information? Well, besides natural curiosity, looking up information is a habit, really. Whenever I write a book, an article, or curriculum, I have to do some research. And whenever I edit a book, I have to check every fact.

When you hear a new term or are made aware of information you don’t know, do you search a library or search online to gain more knowledge? Do tell in the comments below.

Macarons from WallpapersHome. Macaroons from the Food Network. Show logos from somewhere on the internet, via Bing.com. Tempering chocolate photo from Real Simple. Crème Pâtissière found at idee-cuisine.fr.

30 thoughts on “A Few Baking Facts

  1. I remember running into that Macaron vs Macaroon issue a few times. Mostly because people thought they were the same thing, but a spelling variation. Becomes a big issue if you’re getting cookies for someone with a nut allergy.

  2. I look stuff up all the time. About baking, especially, when I watch cooking shows. I also have a Baking with Julia cookbook that explains lots of these things, too. I confess that I love macaroons but have never eaten a macaron.

  3. As for the M&M question – I love them both! HA! And buttercreme frosting? Oh yes….my personal fav take on it is the version with cream cheese….
    As for looking stuff up: of course! Doesn’t everybody? (said quite innocently even though I know the real answer).
    One of the easiest ways is to use the old fashioned Dictionary…the hardcopy one especially. Although I do like the instant results I can get online for synonyms/antonyms when searching word definitions.
    I’m always amazed at how much info there is in that handy dandy hard copy reference book. Why the hard copy? Well, I learn even more by all the words surrounding the actual entry I’m looking up…kind of like the old fashioned card catalogue. I’d find all sorts of related stuff and/or subjects of interest surrounding what ever I was looking up!
    Digital has always been way too myopic for me as a learner, but then times change and I’ve adjusted.
    BTW: your warning is a bit lame…I mean warning or not, I’m dying for some carrotcake with creme cheeze frosting right now…just sayin’…

    • I have a hard copy of the dictionary. But since I sometimes have to copy definitions into comments, I use the online version.
      Carrot cake would be good right about now!

  4. I watch cooking shows on occasion and wonder about those same things. Thanks for doing the research for me. 😉 The only things I like to bake are cookies and cakes, preferably with chocolate.

  5. Google is my best friend – well, at least it’s the friend I spend most time with! But I rarely look up practical stuff like baking terms. It’s usually book, film, history or news related info for me. However, I’ve recently become addicted to watching cookery and baking videos on youtube, and I often think I must actually try some of the recipes some day… but I won’t! Anyway, looking at food is less calorific than eating it… 😉

    • It certainly is less caloric. But there are some baking shows I can’t watch without a having at least one baked item nearby.
      I also look up things often on Google. I’m glad to be able to do so, though some searches have been fruitess.

  6. Before Google, I don’t think I used to look up information just for curiosity’s sake. I guess I just assumed there would be things I wouldn’t know, and most of those things wouldn’t really matter anyway. Now I find myself looking things up multiple times a day–just because I’m curious. Much of it may just be a waste of time, but now it’s hard not to look.

    We had several kinds of cake for our joint May birthdays party. One cake had a delicious frosting I didn’t recognize. Someone said it was buttercream, but it wasn’t like any butter cream I was familiar with. I didn’t have my computer with me, though. Now I think it was Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

    • Sounds delicious! I like a light amount of frosting on cake. Some cakes have way too much!
      By the way, have you been keeping up with the kerfuffle about VCFA?

  7. Food is fun!

    And I like searching for answers too . . . it can be amusing. As a kid, I used World Book and Britannica as my “go to” source. Now, it’s a paper dictionary or the internet.

    • We used to have a set of encyclopedias at home when I was a kid. We also frequented the library and the Childcraft books in the children’s section. I Used to love those books.

  8. I’ll answer your question but first I have to register my shock that there are several different types of buttercream. WHO KNEW THIS? This has rocked my world.

    When you hear a new term or are made aware of information you don’t know, do you search a library or search online to gain more knowledge? Yes… but I don’t always remember what I learned… because my brain is a colander at this point, not everything stays in it.

    • Ally, I didn’t know there were so many varieties until I the cooking shows mentioned some of them. And then looking at the article and learning there were even more was eye opening!

  9. L. Marie, I did not know that macarons and macaroons were different! Egad, how many times have I unknowingly embarrassed myself by using the wrong word 😦 But, that is why I also look things up a lot, especially when I’m writing for the public. (My mistake with macaron vs macaroon was because I didn’t know I was making a mistake … lol). You’ve provided a lot of interesting information. By the way, I’m not a baker either. I can’t even bake a decent tray of cookies!

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