Glossary of Terms

This is not comprehensive, but intended to help a bit. I don't know everything. I may even try to keep this in some semblence of alphabetical order.

Bain Marie

A heatproof bowl on a pan of hot water. The bowl should rest on the lip of the pan, not the bottom. The pan should be on a low heat. This is used to gently melt items such as chocolate, which would otherwise scorch, or cook very delicate sauces.


This is a gentle mixing method, that tries to retain as much air in the mixture as possible. Use a large metal spoon or palette knife and slowly move it in a figure of eight motion, lifting the mixture up and onto the unmixed ingredients.


A process to make bread dough mix, become elastic and tender. It develops the gluten in the bread that traps the carbon dioxide produced by the yeast and makes bread rise. Pull the dough furthest away from you over and towards you, in a folding motion. Using your fist or the heels of your hands, push on the dough away from you so that it compresses and then stretches. Turn the dough about 45 degrees round and repeat. Continue till the dough is smooth and elastic and springs back when the surface is lightly presses with a finger. Kneading can take a while, typically 10 minutes.

Knock Back (also known as punching down)

This refers to lightly kneading bread dough after it is part risen. It is done after the first rising and before the bread dough is shaped, separated into smaller amounts or put into the tin it will be baked in. Usually there is a longer first rising before knocking back the dough, dividing and a shorter second rising. With some yeasts and recipes, there is only one rising and no knocking back. The process of knocking back is usually to stick your fist into the risen dough, so that it collapses. Then knead for about a minute until all the cold surfaces have gone and the dough feels a uniform temperature.

Palette Knife

This is a flat, generally unsharpened, thin metal blade. It's thinner than most knifes and is pretty flexible. Mine is about 6 inches long and 1 inch wide with rounded ends and a flat handle. They are useful for lifting, flipping, scraping, spreading and evening stuff. I also like to brandish mine at people I am talking at when I am cooking.


Applied to leeks and other members of the onion family, this involves placing the prepared (chopped) veg into a lidded pan, adding some butter and heating on a low heat for 5-10 minutes. Shake to make sure it doesn't stick and don't leave it alone for too long!

Tepid Water

Usually required for bread, use 1 part boiling and 2 parts cold water.

lefty writer dividing bar

This page was last updated by Mad Hatter mad hatter icon on 16th May 2001.