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Glossary of Pastry Terms

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a coulis and ganache? Our glossary offers you mouth—watering definitions of the most delectable words you’ll need the next time you want to sample the crème de la crème of French pastries.

Image of  French pastries

Image of pastries from (c) Flickr/Xiaozhuli/ Creative Commons

Biscuit : A batter made of egg whites and yolks that are whipped separately, then folded together.

Blown sugar: Pulled sugar is placed on a pump that is then used to blow air into the sugar in a process much like glassblowing; as air is being pumped, the sugar is sculpted into the desired shape and rotated to keep it from becoming misshapen. Fans are used to cool the blown sugar in order to avoid cracking.

Brioche : A yeast bread enriched with eggs and butter; brioche is created in various shapes (from rings to tall cylinders) in different regions of France, and it may also be stuffed with various items, such as nuts, raisins, other dried fruit or cheese.

Coulis : Fruit purée strained to a thin consistency and sweetened with sugar syrup.

Crème patisserie : Custard made from eggs, milk, sugar and cornstarch or flour and then enriched with butter and flavored with vanilla; most often used in fruit tarts and cream puffs.

Dacquoise : Type of meringue from Dax, France that incorporates flour and nut meal (typically hazelnut and/or almond) and is frequently used to make cakes and pastries.

Fondant: Mixture of water, sugar and glucose that is brought to a boil, then worked into a white paste; rolled sheets of fondant typically cover cakes and may help them stay fresh longer.

Ganache : Filling or coating made from heavy cream and sometimes butter; created in Paris around the 1850s, this versatile, velvety ingredient can range from thin to firm and can be flavored with liqueurs, pastes, extracts or infusions.

Macarons : Not to be confused with the American macaroon (a very sweet, rich,moist coconut concoction), this is a sandwich cookie made with two feather-light meringues held together by ganache, buttercream or preserves. The meringues for macarons are generally made with almonds, egg whites and sugar, and they may be accented with a range of flavors, which are generally reflected in their pastel coloring. According to legend, Catherine de Medici's Italian pastry chefs brought a type of macaron to France when she married Henry II in 1533; in the 17th century, members of the Dalloyau family, whose descendants run a storied restaurant/tea room chain, served them to Louis XIV at Versailles. The sandwich-style macarons served today were invented in 1930 by Pierre Desfontaines, whose descendants founded the Ladurée patisserie in Paris, now a chain with stores all over the world that sells 15,000 macarons a day.

Marzipan: Mixture of almond paste, sugar and corn syrup molded to make candies and ornaments or rolled into a sheet and used to cover cakes.

Meringue : Made by beating sugar and egg whites until they become stiff; variations can be achieved by adjusting the proportions and the temperature of the ingredients (to change the consistency from soft to firm) and by adding flavorings.

Mousse : Smooth preparation made by combining aerated eggs with flavorings, fruit or chocolate, then folding in whipped cream.

Nougatine : Sliced almonds combined with a sugar syrup and allowed to harden into a crispy confection that can be cut or molded into different shapes or crushed and incorporated into buttercream, ice cream and pastries.

Pâte à choux : Pastry dough prepared by boiling milk and butter with a bit of sugar, then adding flour and eggs; when the dough is baked, the outside becomes crusty and the inside soft and chewy; also, air pockets form, leaving room for fillings, as for cream puffs and éclairs. More elaborate pâte à choux pastries include the religieuse, a vertical, éclair-like concoction intended to resemble a nun's habit; the croquembouche, a tower of filled puffs held together with hard caramel; and the Paris—Brest, a praline cream-filled pastry created in honor of the Tour de France and made to resemble a bicycle wheel.

Patisserie : The trade of making pastries as well as a shop where pastries are sold.

Praline : Roasted almonds or hazelnuts combined with caramel that can be pureed or crushed and folded into mousse, buttercream, ice cream and chocolate fillings or used to decorate cakes and other pastries.

Pulled sugar: Sugar mixture is boiled and then combined with food colorings; this mixture is then kneaded to create a dough. Air introduced during the kneading makes the sugar shiny. Once the desired consistency is achieved, the sugar is molded and left to air dry.

Streusel: Crunchy topping of butter, sugar and flour used on various pastries; optionally, may contain nuts, oats, spices and other items.

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The sandwich-style macarons served today were invented in 1930 by Pierre Desfontaines, whose descendants founded the Ladurée patisserie in Paris, now a chain with stores all over the world that sells 15,000 macarons a day.”

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