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Cooking and Baking: What's the Difference?

You've probably heard some of your friends who are whizzes in the kitchen say something along the lines of "Oh I bake but I can't cook" or "I can cook but I can't bake." Have you ever wondered what the difference was?

To put it simply, baking is fully cooking food in an oven. Just about anything can be baked, including bread, desserts, fish, poultry, meat, and vegetables. However usually when people say they are bakers or that they like to bake they're often talking about desserts or bread. While anything cooked in an oven is technically baked, colloquially speaking, baking generally isn't referring to meats or vegetables. Read more...

Cooking

Dictionary of Cooking Terms

Many terms are used exclusively in cooking. You need to know what they mean in order to understand even basic recipes. Some of the most common are defined here.

  • Al dente: Pasta cooked until just firm. From the Italian "to the tooth."
  • Bake: To cook food in an oven, surrounded with dry heat; called roasting when applied to meat or poultry.
  • Baking powder: A combination of baking soda, an acid such as cream of tartar, and a starch or flour (moisture absorber). Most common type is double-acting baking powder, which acts when mixed with liquid and again when heated.
  • Baking soda: The main ingredient in baking powder, baking soda is also used when there is acid (buttermilk or sour cream, for example) in a recipe. Always mix with other dry ingredients before adding any liquid, since leavening begins as soon as soda comes in contact with liquid.
  • Barbecue: To cook foods on a rack or a spit over coals.
  • Baste: To moisten food for added flavor and to prevent drying out while cooking.
  • Batter: An uncooked pourable mixture usually made up of flour, a liquid, and other ingredients.
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New to Cooking? Check out this 5-Step Guide to Learning How to Cook.

Baking

Watch Conversations @ Westport Library as Programming Coordinator Jennifer Keller interviews Katherine Alford and Kathy Gunst, authors of Rage Baking: The Transformative Power of Flour, Fury, and Women's Voices. 

Follow Every Baking Rule

When it comes to baking, we play by the rules. Baking is a science that requires precision, and often doesn't allow for creative liberties. For flakier pie crusts, moister cakes, and chewier cookies, there are just some rules that can't be broken. Follow these 11 tips to be a way better baker:

  • Use Room Temperature Ingredients - Many baked goods start by creaming together butter and sugar, which is made infinitely easier with gently warmed ingredients.
  • Invest in Quality Bakeware - Flimsy, thin pans and sheet trays won't conduct heat efficiently, causing your cake, pie, cookies, or pastries to bake inefficiently.
  • Butter and Flour your Pans Generously - Your batter or dough has the potential to bake on and adhere to the pan, so butter it up. Consider every nook and cranny that could get sticky, and be generous and thorough with your application.
  • Weigh Ingredients - Successful baking means eliminating as much potential for error as possible, and that means making sure your measurements are exact.
  • Toss the Old Stuff - The majority of ingredients used in baked goods—like baking soda, baking powder, yeast, and even flour—have a relatively short shelf life.
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