Welcome to the world of sourdough baking, where the magic of wild yeast and fermentation transforms humble ingredients into tantalizing loaves of sourdough bread.
If you're a newcomer to this captivating craft or simply looking to brush up on your sourdough knowledge, you've come to the right place.
In this article, we present to you a comprehensive sourdough glossary, designed specifically for new bakers, to demystify the terminology and help you navigate the enchanting realm of sourdough with confidence and ease.
From levain to crumb, proofing to autolyse, this glossary will serve as your trusty companion, ensuring that each step of your sourdough journey is filled with understanding and success. Let's dive in and uncover the secrets of sourdough together.
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- Activation in sourdough refers to the process of revitalizing and energizing a dormant sourdough starter by feeding it with fresh flour and water. This encourages the growth and activity of wild yeasts and bacteria, making the starter ready for baking by enhancing its leavening power and flavor development potential.
- An active sourdough starter refers to a live culture of wild yeasts and lactobacilli that have been regularly fed and maintained. It is characterized by its ability to ferment and leaven bread dough effectively, exhibiting robust activity and a distinctly sour aroma, indicating a healthy microbial community ready for baking delicious sourdough bread.
- Autolyse is a technique in sourdough bread making that involves combining flour and water and allowing them to rest before the addition of other ingredients such as yeast or salt. During this resting period, gluten formation begins, and enzymes naturally present in the flour break down starches, resulting in improved dough hydration, gluten development, and overall bread texture.
- A baguette is a classic French bread known for its long, slender shape and crisp crust. It is typically made from a simple dough with a high hydration level, resulting in a light and airy interior with a distinct chewiness.
- Baker's percentage, also known as baker's math or baker's formula, is a way of expressing the ingredient proportions in a bread recipe based on the weight of flour used as the reference point. It is commonly used in professional baking to ensure consistent results and easy scaling of recipes. In the baker's percentage, the weight of the flour is always considered 100%, and all other ingredient weights are expressed as a percentage of the flour weight.
- A banneton, also known as a proofing basket, is a specialized basket used in bread baking to support the dough during its final rise. Made from natural materials such as cane or rattan, its spiral or ridged pattern provides the dough with structure while allowing air circulation to create a desired shape and texture.
- A batard is a type of bread commonly found in French baking, characterized by its elongated, oval shape. You can see an example with our jalapeño cheddar sourdough bread.
- Bench rest, in the sourdough process, refers to a period of time during which the dough is allowed to rest after the initial mixing and before shaping. This rest allows the gluten in the dough to relax and develop, making it easier to shape and resulting in a better structure and texture in the final loaf.
- A bench scraper is a versatile tool used by bakers for various tasks. It typically consists of a rectangular metal blade with a handle and is used to divide, lift, and shape the dough during the bread-making process. It is particularly handy for scraping dough off the work surface, dividing the dough into portions, and assisting in shaping and transferring the dough to baking vessels.
- A boule refers to a round or ball-shaped loaf of bread. It is typically characterized by its domed top and rustic appearance, achieved through a combination of proper shaping techniques and final proofing in a round container.
- Bromate is a chemical compound, specifically potassium bromate (KBrO₃), that has been historically used as a dough improver in baking. It enhances dough strength and elasticity, leading to improved bread volume and texture. However, due to potential health concerns associated with bromate consumption, its use has been restricted or banned in many countries.
- Bulk ferment, in the sourdough process, refers to the initial stage of fermentation where the entire batch of mixed dough is allowed to rise in a bulk form. During this period, the yeast and bacteria in the sourdough starter metabolize the sugars in the dough, producing carbon dioxide gas, which helps to develop flavor, structure, and texture in the final loaf.
- Cold retarding, in the sourdough process, involves placing the shaped dough in a cold environment, typically in a refrigerator, to undergo a prolonged fermentation at lower temperatures. This technique allows for a slower fermentation process, which results in enhanced flavor development, improved texture, and increased convenience for bakers as it allows for extended fermentation times and flexibility in baking schedules.
- A couche, in the baking context, refers to a fabric or linen cloth used to support and shape proofing bread dough. It is typically made of natural, unbleached material and is used to separate and provide structure to individual portions of dough, preventing them from spreading and sticking together during the final rise.
- The crumb refers to the internal texture and structure of a baked loaf of bread. It is characterized by the distribution of air pockets or cells within the bread, resulting from the fermentation and expansion of carbon dioxide produced by yeast and bacteria during the proofing and baking stages.
- A Danish whisk is a specialized tool used for mixing and incorporating ingredients when preparing sourdough or other doughs. It features a unique design with a long handle and a series of sturdy wire loops, which efficiently blend the ingredients together, helping to develop gluten and ensure thorough mixing without overworking the dough.
- Discard refers to a portion of the sourdough starter that is removed and not used in a recipe. It is typically done during feeding or refreshing the starter to maintain its balance and prevent excessive growth. Discarding a portion helps control the overall quantity of starter and allows for regular feeding and maintenance.
- Dough refers to the mixture of flour, water, salt and sourdough starter that undergoes fermentation and proofing to create bread. It is during this stage that the yeast and bacteria in the sourdough starter interact with the dough, producing carbon dioxide gas and developing gluten, resulting in the characteristic texture and flavor of sourdough bread.
- A Dutch oven is a heavy, lidded pot typically made of cast iron or ceramic that is used for baking bread or cooking. It provides a closed and steam-filled environment during baking, which helps create a desirable crust, oven spring, and moisture retention in the bread, resulting in a professional-quality artisan loaf.
- An ear refers to the characteristic crust feature found on certain bread loaves. It is an elongated or pointed protrusion that forms along the score lines on the surface of the bread during baking, resulting from the expansion and splitting of the dough under high heat, creating a visually appealing and textured crust.
- Einkorn flour is a type of ancient grain flour derived from the einkorn wheat variety (Triticum monococcum). It is known for its distinct nutty flavor and is considered one of the earliest cultivated forms of wheat, dating back thousands of years. Einkorn flour is valued for its unique nutritional profile, including a high protein and lower gluten content compared to modern wheat varieties. This recipe for einkorn sourdough bread is our favorite!
- Elasticity refers to the ability of the dough to stretch and recover its shape after being manipulated or stretched. It is a desirable quality that indicates the presence of developed gluten, allowing the dough to hold its structure and retain gas produced during fermentation, resulting in a lighter and more airy texture in the final bread.
- Enriched dough refers to a type of dough that contains added ingredients to enhance its flavor, texture, and nutritional value. These ingredients commonly include fats such as butter or oil, sugar, eggs, milk, or other enriching elements, resulting in a softer, richer, and more tender final product, such as sourdough biscuits or sourdough cinnamon rolls.
- The extraction rate for flour refers to the percentage of the whole grain that remains in the flour after the milling process. It is a measure of how much of the bran, germ, and endosperm are included in the final product, with a higher extraction rate indicating a greater proportion of the whole grain and a potentially higher nutrient content in the flour.
- Feeding refers to the act of refreshing or replenishing the sourdough starter with fresh flour and water to maintain its vitality and activity. This regular feeding provides the yeast and bacteria in the starter with fresh nutrients, allowing them to multiply and continue the fermentation process necessary for leavening bread.
- The final shape refers to the specific form given to the dough just before it goes into the oven for baking. This shaping step involves carefully manipulating and molding the dough to achieve the desired loaf shape, ensuring proper tension, and creating surface tension to support optimal rise and structure during the baking process.
- The float test is a method used to determine the readiness of a sourdough starter or dough for baking. It involves placing a small piece of the starter or dough into a bowl of water, and if it floats, it indicates that the fermentation is sufficiently active, with enough carbon dioxide produced by the yeast, indicating that the starter or dough is ready to be used.
- Flour is a finely ground powder made from grains, legumes, or tubers, commonly wheat, that is used as a primary ingredient in baking and cooking. It provides structure, texture, and bulk to various recipes, acting as a binding agent and a source of carbohydrates and protein.
- Gluten is a protein found in wheat and related grains, such as barley and rye. When flour is mixed with water, gluten forms a network of elastic strands that give the dough its stretchiness and allow it to trap and hold carbon dioxide produced during fermentation, contributing to the structure and texture of baked goods.
- Glyphosate is a widely used herbicide and the active ingredient in many commercial weed killers. It is known for its effectiveness in killing a broad range of plants by inhibiting an essential enzyme involved in plant growth, and its use has been a subject of debate due to potential environmental and health concerns associated with its long-term exposure.
- Green flour refers to flour that has recently been milled.
- Hard red wheat is a variety of wheat known for its robust flavor, high protein content, and reddish bran color. It is commonly used for making bread due to its excellent gluten-forming properties, which contribute to good dough elasticity and structure in baked goods.
- High extraction flour refers to a type of flour that is milled to retain a significant portion of the bran and germ components of the wheat grain, resulting in flour with higher nutrient content. It typically has a coarser texture and a more pronounced flavor compared to refined flours, making it popular among bakers seeking to incorporate more of the whole grain into their products.
- Hooch refers to the liquid layer that forms on top of a neglected or hungry sourdough starter. It is a byproduct of the fermentation process, consisting primarily of alcohol, indicating that the starter has not been fed and is in need of refreshing.
- Hydration refers to the ratio of water to flour in a dough or sourdough starter. It is expressed as a percentage and determines the overall moisture content of the dough, affecting its texture, elasticity, and handling characteristics. Higher hydration results in a wetter and more extensible dough, while lower hydration yields a drier and stiffer dough.
- Kneading is the process of working and manipulating the dough by hand or with a stand mixer to develop gluten and create a smooth, elastic texture. It involves a rhythmic folding, pressing, and stretching motion that helps distribute yeast and fermentation byproducts, ensuring proper fermentation and the desired structure and texture in the final bread.
- Knocking back refers to the technique of deflating the dough after its initial rise or fermentation. It involves gently pressing down or punching the dough to release excess gas, redistribute yeast and bacteria, and create a more even texture before shaping and proceeding with further fermentation or proofing.
- Lactic acid is a byproduct of the fermentation process carried out by lactic acid bacteria present in the sourdough starter. It contributes to the distinct tangy flavor of sourdough bread and helps regulate the pH levels in the dough, creating an environment that promotes the growth of beneficial microorganisms while inhibiting the growth of harmful ones.
- A lame is a small, handheld tool used for scoring or slashing the surface of bread dough just before baking. It typically consists of a handle and a sharp blade or razor, allowing bakers to create precise cuts that help control the expansion of the dough during baking, promote proper oven spring, and give the bread an attractive appearance.
- Lean dough refers to bread dough made with minimal additional ingredients beyond the basic components of flour, water, salt, and sourdough starter. It is often used to produce rustic loaves of bread with a simpler flavor profile, showcasing the natural fermentation and characteristics of the sourdough culture.
- Levain refers to the portion of the sourdough starter that is used to leaven or raise bread dough. It is a mixture of flour and water that has undergone fermentation, capturing wild yeast and lactobacilli cultures, which provide leavening power and contribute to the unique flavor and texture of sourdough bread.
- Low extraction flour refers to flour that has been milled to remove a significant portion of the bran and germ components of the grain, resulting in a lighter-colored and more refined flour. It typically has a lower fiber and nutrient content compared to whole grain or high extraction flour and is often used in recipes where a lighter texture and milder flavor are desired.
- The mother, in the sourdough process, refers to the original batch of active and mature sourdough starter that serves as the foundation for future batches. It is a well-established culture of wild yeast and lactobacilli that imparts flavor and leavening properties to the sourdough, and it is regularly fed and maintained to keep it healthy and active.
- Naturally leavened refers to the method of bread-making that relies solely on wild yeast and lactobacilli present in a sourdough starter for fermentation and leavening, without the use of commercial yeast. This process allows for a slower and more complex fermentation, contributing to the distinct flavor, texture, and rise of naturally leavened sourdough bread.
- Oven spring refers to the rapid rise and expansion of the dough that occurs during the early stages of baking in a hot oven. It is a result of the trapped carbon dioxide gas expanding due to increased heat, creating a burst of upward movement and giving the bread an open and airy crumb structure.
- The poke test is a method used to determine the readiness of a dough for baking. It involves gently pressing a finger into the dough, and if the indentation slowly springs back, it indicates proper fermentation and readiness, while a quick recovery suggests more time is needed. If the indentation remains, it suggests has over proofed.
- Pre-shaping refers to the step after bulk fermentation and before the final shaping of the dough. It involves loosely shaping the dough into a ball in preparation for the final shaping, which helps maintain the desired structure and achieve a well-rounded loaf.
- Proofing refers to the final stage of fermentation after shaping the dough. It is a period of rest and rising, allowing the dough to undergo its final fermentation, develop flavor, and increase in volume before being baked, resulting in a light and airy texture in the finished sourdough bread.
- Scoring refers to the act of making deliberate cuts or slashes on the surface of the shaped dough just before baking. These cuts serve multiple purposes, including controlling the expansion of the dough during baking, creating an aesthetically pleasing pattern, and allowing steam to escape, promoting an even rise and a desirable crust formation in the finished bread.
- Shaping refers to the process of giving the dough its final form and structure before it undergoes its final rise and baking. It involves carefully manipulating and stretching the dough to create tension and to shape it into desired shapes, such as boules, batards, or baguettes, ensuring proper rise and creating an appealing appearance in the finished bread.
- A sourdough starter is a mixture of flour and water that has been fermented by wild yeast and lactobacilli cultures. It serves as a natural leavening agent, providing the necessary microorganisms for the fermentation process and imparting the characteristic tangy flavor and unique texture to sourdough bread.
- Stretch and fold is a technique used to strengthen the gluten structure in the dough during bulk fermentation. It involves gently stretching the dough, folding it onto itself, and repeating the process multiple times at regular intervals, improving dough strength, redistributing yeast, and fermentation byproducts, and enhancing the overall structure and texture of the final bread.
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