Welcome to our sourdough glossary! Your guide to sourdough terminology. If you're new to the world of sourdough bread baking we are so glad you are here!
You'll find easy to understand explanations for common words and phrases used in sourdough bread baking and sourdough recipes.
If you don't see something on our list, leave us a comment and we will make sure to add it!
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Active sourdough starter
Active sourdough starter is starter that has been fed and allowed to rise in order to use in a sourdough recipe. It is also referred to as "fed sourdough starter".
Autolyse is the stage in sourdough bread making where water and flour are mixed together and then allowed to rest before adding other ingredients. During this stage, the flour becomes fully hydrated by the water.
A baguette is a long, thin loaf of bread. A true baguette only contains flour, water, salt and yeast with no enrichments of oil or fat.
Baker's percentage refers to the ratio of flour to all of the other ingredients in a sourdough recipe. The flour is always calculated at 100%, by weight, and the other ingredients are a percentage of that.
For example, in our sourdough country loaf recipe, the bakers percentage of water is 72%. There are 500g of flour and 360g of water. 360 divided by 500 is .72, making it 72%.
A banneton is a proofing bowl made from rattan or cane and is used to hold the dough during the final rise. The shape of the bowl can be oval or round. The bowl provides structure to the dough during the final rise so that it holds it shape as it rises instead of becoming flat. The bowl can be dusted with flour or lined with cloth to prevent the dough from sticking.
Any bowl can be used as a proofing bowl as long as it is not too big or too wide. Look for a bowl that is no wider than 9" in diameter at the top.
A batard is an oval shaped loaf of bread. You can see an example of a batard loaf with our jalapeño cheddar sourdough bread.
A bench rest is a period of time that is given to the dough in order to relax and spread. A bench rest is needed after the dough is pre-shaped and before the final shape.
A bench scraper is a tool that is used to manipulate and handle dough. It is typically made of stainless steel and has a rectangular shape. It can be used to pick up dough, keep it from sticking to the work surface and to divide dough into portions.
A boule is a round shaped loaf of bread. The word "boule" is French for "ball".
Bromate is a chemical substance that is added to some flours to improve the results of baked goods. Bromate has been banned in certain countries, so for that reason we choose to use brands that do not contain bromate.
The bulk fermentation stage of sourdough bread baking is the first rise of the dough. This stage starts after the ingredients have been mixed and ends when the dough is shaped for the second rise.
Cold retarding of the dough is the process of slowing down the fermentation process. This is done by placing the dough in the refrigerator until ready to bake. The cold temperature allows the dough to develop deeper flavor and for you to have a more flexible baking schedule.
A couche is a piece of linen cloth that is used to support dough that is proofing such as baguettes.
The crumb refers to the texture inside the sourdough bread. An "open crumb" is a bread with large holes.
A Danish whisk is a specially shaped dough whisk. The whisk consists of three circular coils that glide through thicker doughs and batters.
Discard is the portion of the sourdough starter that is discarded when it is fed or refreshed. This discarded portion of the starter is not active. To avoid food waste, it can be used in sourdough discard recipes, instead of being thrown away.
Dough is a mixture of flour and liquid, and sometimes other ingredients, used for baking bread and pastry.
A dutch oven is a large, heavy pot with a lid, used to cook and bake with. They can be made out of a variety of different materials including cast iron, metal or glass. A dutch oven is the perfect baking vessel for sourdough bread because it traps moisture inside like a commercial steam oven. This moisture helps create a better oven spring during the first 20 minutes of baking.
A sourdough ear is the flap on the top of the loaf that appears after the bread has baked. This ear forms where the dough is scored before baking.
Einkorn is the oldest form of wheat and is often referred to as an ancient grain. It is the only wheat that has never been hybridized. It has a yellow color and a delicious flavor. This recipe for einkorn sourdough bread is our favorite!
The elasticity of the dough is effected by the type of flour you are using. The higher the protein percentage, or more gluten, the more elastic the dough will be. This is why it's important to use bread flour for best results in sourdough bread recipes.
"Extraction rate (ER) is the amount of white flour that is extracted from a given weight of clean and conditioned wheat. It's expressed as a percentage of the wheat entering the first break rolls in a roller milling system." ~ Bakerpedia
A feeding refers to refreshing your sourdough starter if you need to create a levain for a recipe, to build the volume of the starter or if it's been a while since you've baked and it needs to be refreshed.
The final shape is the last shaping of the dough before the final rise.
A float test is a way to determine if your sourdough starter is ready to bake with. A small portion is placed into a jar of room temperature water. If the starter floats, it's a good indication that it is ready. If it sinks to the bottom, more feedings are necessary before it is strong enough to bake with.
Flour is the product of grinding wheat berries into a fine powder.
Gluten is the protein in wheat that gives the dough its elasticity.
Glyphosate is a herbicide that is found in some commercially grown wheat flours. For this reason we choose to use organic flour. We encourage you to do your own research on glyphosate.
Green flour refers to flour that has just been milled.
Hard wheat refers to wheat berries with a high gluten content.
High extraction flour
High extraction flour is flour with most of the germ and bran kept after it has been milled. This is most commonly known as whole wheat flour.
Hooch is the dark liquid that forms on the surface of your sourdough starter when it hasn't been fed in a while and is hungry. Hooch is perfectly normal. It can either be poured off before feeding the starter or stirred back in. It will give the starter a more "sour" flavor.
Hydration refers to the percentage of water in the dough compared to flour. The flour is always calculated at 100% with the flour being a percentage of the flour. This is explained in more detail in the baker's percentage section.
Kneading involves working dough with your hands or a stand mixer to develop gluten strands. It builds structure and texture in the dough.
Knocking back the dough is a term used for deflating the dough after it's first rise.
Lactic acid is a type of bacteria found in sourdough which contributes to the flavor.
A lame is a tool that holds a razor blade that is used for scoring or slashing the top of the dough before baking.
Lean dough is made from flour, water, salt and yeast. Our sourdough bread for beginners is an example of a lean dough.
A levain is a mixture of flour, water and a portion of sourdough starter. This mixture is allowed to double is size and then used in a sourdough recipe.
Low extraction flour
Low extraction flour is flour that has most of the bran and germ removed after milling. This is commonly known as white flour.
The Mother refers to the sourdough starter. Portions of the "mother" are taken and fed in order to create a levain and used in recipes.
Naturally leavened bread is bread that has been made without commercial yeast. Sourdough bread is considered naturally leavened bread because it is made with sourdough starter.
Oven spring refers to the rise of the bread during the first several minutes baking.
The poke test is a way to see if the dough is ready for the oven. Use your fingertip to gently make an indention in the dough. If the indention pops back out quickly, the dough is under-proofed and needs more time to rise. If the dent stays, the dough is over-proofed. If the dough pops back slowly and leaves just a slight indention, it is ready to bake.
Pre-shaping is the stage is the sourdough process that is after the bulk fermentation, but before the final shape.
Proofing is referred to as the final rise in sourdough bread baking. It occurs after the final shape and before baking.
The word SCOBY stands for a "symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast". A sourdough starter is essentially a SCOBY.
Scoring or slashing
Scoring or slashing the dough with a lame or sharp knife before baking, allows the dough to expand in a controlled direction. If the cut is not made, the dough will expand at its weakest point. This can result in a "blow out" on the side of the dough as it bakes.
Shaping sourdough is the process of forming the dough into your desired loaf shape.
A sourdough starter is a mixture of flour and water that attracts wild yeast and bacteria found in the air, on the surface of flour and even your hands. This mixture becomes a food source for the yeast.
Stretch and fold
The act of stretching and folding the dough helps to develop the gluten which helps to strengthen the dough.
To perform a set of stretch and folds, while the dough is still in the bowl, pick up one side with a wet hand. Pull it up and over itself. Turn the bowl and repeat this action on 4 sides of the dough until the bowl has come full circle.