Glossary

This glossary provides definitions and explanations for terms frequently used in bread making. Understanding these terms is essential for both novice and experienced bakers aiming to master the art and science of bread making. The glossary is arranged alphabetically for easy reference.

Acetic Acid

A type of organic acid produced by hetero fermentative lactic acid bacteria and acetic acid bacteria during fermentation. It gives sourdough bread its characteristic tangy flavor and helps to preserve the bread by lowering its pH. The flavor of acetic acid has a more vinegary profile.

All Purpose Flour

A general flour that’s balanced to make breads and also cakes. In Germany this is type 550.

Alpha-amylase

A type of amylase that breaks down starch molecules into shorter fragments, producing maltose and some glucose.

Alveograph

A device used primarily in the evaluation of wheat flour’s baking quality. The alveograph assesses the dough’s rheological properties, particularly its extensibility and resistance to extension, by inflating a piece of dough like a balloon until it bursts. The resulting chart, or alveogram, displays a curve that represents the balance between the dough’s elasticity and extensibility. Specific parameters derived from the curve, such as the P (pressure required to inflate the dough) and L (extensibility of the dough), provide invaluable insights to bakers and millers regarding the flour’s potential performance in bread-making. By analyzing the alveogram, professionals can make informed decisions about the suitability of a flour for certain baking applications, as well as potential blending needs with other flours.

Alveoli

(singular Alveolus) The little pockets that form the crumb, formed by the gluten matrix trapping carbon dioxide.

Amylase

An enzyme that breaks down starches into simpler sugars, facilitating the fermentation process in beer and bread making. When making beer the temperature of the brew is kept for extended periods at certain temperatures to ensure that most starches are broken down to sugars. These sugars are then consumed by the microbes during the fermentation process.

Autolyse

A process where flour and water are mixed and then left to rest before adding other ingredients. This activates enzymes such as amylase and protease. By doing so the bulk fermentation time is shortened and the final loaf will have better properties. The browning of the loaf becomes better and the crumb fluffier. An autolyse is recommended when using a high percentage of starter to inoculate the dough (> 20 %). An alternative easier approach can be the fermentolyse.

Bacteria

Unicellular microorganisms that exist in diverse forms and habitats. They play crucial roles in various natural processes, especially in food preparation like sourdough fermentation. Lactic and acetic acid bacteria, in particular, are pivotal in the sourdough process, contributing to its distinct taste and texture. Some bacteria are beneficial, aiding in digestion or producing vitamins, while others can be harmful and cause diseases.

Baker’s Math

Baker’s math is a ratio based system of sharing recipes, making them easily scalable. It’s based on the total weight of the flour in a formula, where each ingredients weight is divided by the flours weight to give a percentage. For 500 g of flour you could be using 60 % of water (300 g), 10 % of starter (50 g) and 2 % of salt (10 g).

Baker’s percentage

See Baker’s math.

Baking

The final, transformative step in bread making wherein dough is exposed to high temperatures, causing a series of chemical and physical reactions that result in a finished loaf of bread. During the baking stage:

1.
Yeast Activity & Oven Spring: In the initial phase of baking, the temperature inside the dough rises, increasing yeast activity. This results in rapid carbon dioxide production, leading to what bakers refer to as oven spring, or the rapid rise of the loaf.
2.
Protein Coagulation: As the temperature continues to climb, the proteins in the dough, primarily gluten, begin to coagulate or set, which gives the bread its structure.
3.
Starch Gelatinization: Starches absorb water and swell, eventually gelatinizing. This process contributes to the crumb structure of the bread.
4.
Caramelization & Maillard Reaction: The crust of the bread browns due to two primary reactions: caramelization of sugars and the Maillard reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars. This not only affects the appearance but also imparts a distinctive flavor and aroma to the bread.
5.
Evaporation of Acids: Some acids produced during fermentation evaporate at certain temperatures during baking. This evaporation can influence the final flavor profile of the bread, making it less tangy than the unbaked dough. By extending the baking time the acids become less concentrated and the dough can lose some of its tang.
6.
Moisture Evaporation: Water in the dough turns to steam and begins to evaporate. The steam contributes to the oven spring and also helps in gelatinizing the starches.
7.
Crust Formation: The outer layer of the dough dries out and hardens to form a crust, which acts as a protective barrier, keeping the inner crumb moist.
Banneton

A wicker basket used to shape and support dough during its final proof. The bannetons are typically made out of rattan or wood pulp. An alternative DIY solution is to use a bowl with a kitchen towel inside. While resting inside of the banneton the dough’s surface dries out and becomes easier to score before baking.

Bench Rest

A short resting period given to the dough after preshaping allowing the gluten to relax a little bit and making shaping easier. Most people bench rest for 10 minutes up to an hour. The bench rest becomes especially important when making pizza doughs. Without an extended bench rest the dough is too elastic and can not be shaped.

Beta-amylase

An enzyme that further breaks down the starch fragments produced by alpha-amylase into maltose.

Bread Flour

A flour that is perfect for sourdough bread making. It features a higher amount of gluten and can thus ferment for a longer period of time.

Brühstück

A German baking technique similar to a scald. It translates as boil piece. Hot or boiling water is poured over whole grain flour or crushed grains, then cooled and mixed with the main dough. This process helps in moisture retention and can enhance the flavor and texture of the final bread. Also see scald.

Bulk Fermentation

The initial rising period after mixing all the ingredients. The dough is typically allowed to rise until it increases to a certain volume. The volume of increase depends on the flour that is used. When baking with wheat flour the gluten amount of the flour is the deciding factor. The more gluten your flour has (protein) the longer you can bulk ferment. A longer bulk fermentation improves the flavor and texture of the final bread. It becomes tangier and fluffier. You can aim for a 25 % size increase of your dough and then slowly increase this to find your flour’s sweet spot. This is highly dependant from flour to flour. When using low gluten flour like rye you need to be careful as the longer fermentation can create a too sticky dough which collapses and does not hold its shape anymore.

Cake Flour

Cake flour is a light, finely milled flour with a lower protein content than all-purpose flour. It’s ideal for tender baked goods like cakes, cookies, and pastries.

Coil fold

A special stretch and folding technique. The coil fold is very gentle on the dough and is thus excellent throughout the bulk fermentation. By applying the coil fold the dough strength is improved by minimising damage to the dough structure.

Crumb

The inner texture of the bread, which is characterized by the size, shape, and distribution of the holes (or alveoli). It’s what’s inside once you slice a loaf of bread open. A tight crumb refers to bread with small, evenly distributed holes, while an open crumb has larger, more irregular holes.

Diastatic Malt

Malted grain that has been dried and then ground into a powder. This malt contains enzymes that can break down starches into sugars, which can be beneficial in the fermentation process for bread. When added to dough, it can improve the bread’s flavor, color, and shelf life.

Discard

The portion of sourdough starter that is removed and not fed when maintaining the starter. This is often done to prevent the starter from becoming too large and unmanageable. Discard can be used in various recipes or thrown away.

Dividing

The process of breaking the dough mass into smaller pieces, typically to shape into individual loaves or portions.

Dough Hydration

Expressed as a percentage, it’s the amount of water in a dough relative to the amount of flour. A higher hydration dough will be wetter and stickier, while a lower hydration dough will be firmer. For example, a dough with 500 g of flour and 375 g of water has a hydration of 75 %

Dough Strength

Refers to the dough’s resilience, elasticity, and structure. A strong dough can be stretched without tearing and holds its shape well. This is largely influenced by the flour’s protein content and the development of the gluten network.

Dutch Oven

A heavy-duty pot with a tight-fitting lid, often made of cast iron. It’s used in baking to trap steam during the initial phase of baking, helping to create a crusty exterior on bread.

Elasticity

A property of dough that describes its ability to return to its original shape after being stretched or deformed. It’s influenced by the flour’s protein content and the development of the gluten network.

Extensibility

Refers to the dough’s ability to be stretched or extended without tearing. It’s the opposite of elasticity and is desirable in certain types of breads, like ciabatta, that have a more open crumb structure.

Feed

The act of adding fresh flour and water to maintain a sourdough starter. Regular feeding keeps the starter active and healthy.

Fermentation

The metabolic process by which microorganisms such as yeast and bacteria convert carbohydrates (like sugars) into alcohol or acids. In bread making, this produces carbon dioxide which causes the dough to rise.

Fermentolyse

Using a small amount of starter to slow fermentation. It’s a method where fermentation and autolyse are combined. Typically around 10 % of starter is used for the fermentolyse. The flour, water and starter are mixed together. By adding the starter early the dough becomes more extensible and easier to handle.

Fool’s Crumb

A term used to describe a crumb structure that has several large pockets or holes, rather than an even distribution of smaller holes. This isn’t necessarily a desired feature, as it can indicate uneven fermentation or improper shaping techniques.

Gluten

A protein complex formed from gliadin and glutenin, found in wheat and some other grains. It provides elasticity and strength to the dough when properly aligned and developed. During the course of the bulk fermentation much of the gluten is degraded by the protease enzyme and lactic acid bacteria.

Homogenizing

The act of creating a consistent and uniform mixture. For flours like einkorn and rye, where gluten alignment isn’t the main goal, kneading ensures that the dough achieves this homogeneous consistency.

Hooch

A liquid layer that sometimes forms on top of a sourdough starter. It’s an indication that the starter is hungry and needs feeding. It acts as a barrier shield and prevents the starter from catching mold. It can be mixed right back into the starter or extracted to make hot sauces.

Kneading

The manual or mechanical process of working dough to develop gluten in wheat and spelt-based breads, or to homogenize the dough mass in flours like einkorn or rye.

Kochstück

When making a Kochstück, the flour or grains are heated together with the fluid. The mixture needs to be stirred while heating up to prevent clumping and burning it.

Lactic Acid

Another organic acid produced by lactic acid bacteria during fermentation. It imparts a mild tangy yogurty flavor to sourdough bread and, along with acetic acid, contributes to the bread’s overall acidity.

Maillard Reaction

The Maillard reaction is one of the causes of food browning during cooking. The reaction occurs between reducing sugars and amino acids, and depending on the initial reactants and cooking conditions can produce a wide variety of end products with different tastes and aromas. Maillard reactions occur readily above 150 °C, although will still occur much more slowly below that temperature. Optimal reaction rate occurs between pH 6.0 to pH 8.0, although it favours alkaline conditions.

Maltose

A sugar produced from the enzymatic breakdown of starch by amylases. It’s a primary food source for yeast during fermentation.

Non-diastatic Malt

Malted grain that has been dried at higher temperatures, deactivating its enzymes. It’s used primarily for flavor and color in bread making. Amylase and protease become degraded at temperatures higher than 50°C.

Oven Spring

The rapid rise of the dough in the oven during the early stages of baking due to the expansion of trapped gases and water.

Over Fermenting

A common problem when making wheat or spelt doughs. When the dough is fermented for too long most of the gluten in the dough is broken down. The resulting dough is very sticky. The final bread will be very flat and lose some of its typical texture. The crumb structure features many tiny pockets of air. A lot of the trapped gasses can diffuse out of the dough during baking. If you notice this during bulk fermentation it is advised to place the loaf inside of a loaf pan and then bake it after a 30 to 60 minute rest.

Over Proofing

The same as over fermenting, however happening during the proofing stage.

pH

A measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, where a pH value of 7 is neutral. Solutions with a pH value below 7 are acidic, while those with a pH above 7 are alkaline or basic. Fermented foods with a pH below 4.2 are generally considered foodsafe. A pH meter can be used to monitor your sourdough bread’s fermentation progress.

P/L Value

A critical parameter derived from the alveograph test, the P/L value represents the ratio of the dough’s tenacity (P) to its extensibility (L). Specifically:

  • P (Pressure) refers to the pressure required to inflate the dough during the alveograph test. It indicates the dough’s resistance to deformation or its strength.
  • L (Length) represents the extensibility of the dough, or how far it can be stretched before tearing.

The P/L ratio provides insights into the balance between the dough’s elasticity and extensibility:

  • Low P/L Value indicates a dough that is more extensible than resistant. This means the dough can be stretched easily, making it suitable for certain products like pizza or ciabatta.
  • High P/L Value suggests a dough that has more strength than extensibility. Such a dough is more resistant to deformation, which can be preferable for products that require good volume and structure, like certain types of bread.

The P/L value helps bakers and millers determine the suitability of a flour for specific baking applications. Adjustments in flour blends or baking processes might be made based on this ratio to achieve desired bread characteristics.

Preferment

A mixture of a proportion of the doughs ingredients which is allowed to ferment before being added to the final bread dough. These can include sourdough, poolish, biga, pâte fermentée, or a general sponge.

Preshaping

When dividing your large dough mass into smaller portions you end up having non-uniform pieces of dough. This makes shaping much harder because the resulting shaped dough will not be uniform. For this reason bakers drag the tiny dough pieces over the surface of the counter to create more uniform looking dough balls.

Proof

The final rise of the shaped dough before baking.

Protease

An enzyme that breaks down proteins, including gluten, into smaller peptide chains and amino acids. In the context of bread making, protease activity can both benefit and challenge bakers. Moderate protease activity can make dough more extensible, which can be helpful in some bread-making processes. However, excessive protease activity can weaken the gluten network, leading to doughs that are slack, sticky, and challenging to handle, and may result in breads with poor volume and structure. Factors such as fermentation time, dough temperature, and the source of the flour can influence protease activity in bread doughs. In sourdoughs, longer fermentation times, particularly at warmer temperatures, can lead to higher protease activity, as the acidic conditions activate cereal proteases. Flour from sprouted grains or malted grains can have higher protease activity due to the sprouting or malting process. Understanding and controlling protease activity is crucial in achieving desired bread quality and handling characteristics.

Pullman Loaf

A type of bread loaf characterized by its perfectly rectangular shape and soft, fine crumb. It is baked in a special lidded pan called a Pullman pan or pain de mie pan. The lid ensures that the bread rises in a perfectly straight shape, without the domed top characteristic of other bread loaves. Pullman loaves are often sliced very thin and are popular for making sandwiches.

Retarding

The process of slowing down fermentation during the proofing stage by placing the dough in a colder environment, typically a refrigerator. This aids bakers in scheduling, allowing them to have more control over when to bake their breads, especially in large-scale bakeries where timing is essential to serve freshly baked bread to early morning customers. While scheduling is the main reason, some bakers also assert that retarding can enhance the bread’s overall flavor profile.

Rye

A type of grain used in baking. Due to its low gluten content, breads made solely from rye flour tend to be dense. However, rye has a unique flavor and many health benefits, so it’s often combined with wheat flour in baking. Pure rye breads are typically made with a sourdough process to help the dough rise.

Scald

A method where boiling water is poured over flour, grains, or other ingredients and then allowed to cool. In baking, this process can gelatinize the starches in the flour or grains, resulting in a dough that retains moisture better, provides a softer crumb, and potentially extends the bread’s shelf life. Additionally, scalding can help inactivate certain enzymes which can be detrimental to the dough’s quality. The scalding technique can also enhance the overall flavor and aroma of the bread, bringing out more pronounced grainy notes and reducing bitterness sometimes found in certain whole grains.

Scalding

A method where boiling water is poured over flour and then cooled down to room temperature. This process gelatinizes the starches in the flour, resulting in a dough that retains moisture better and has an improved shelf life.

Scoring

Cutting the surface of the bread dough before it’s baked. This allows the dough to expand freely in the oven, preventing it from bursting in unpredictable ways. It also provides a controlled aesthetic to the finished loaf.

Sift

To pass flour or another dry ingredient through a sieve to remove lumps and aerate it.

Soaker

A mixture of grain and water that is left to soak overnight (or for a specified amount of time) before being incorporated into bread dough. This helps to soften and hydrate the grains, making them easier to integrate into the dough and providing a moister crumb in the finished bread.

Sponge

A type of preferment, a sponge is a wet mixture of flour, water, and yeast that is allowed to ferment for a certain period before being incorporated into the final dough.

Starter

A fermented mixture of flour and water containing a colony of microorganisms including wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria. It’s used to leaven bread.

Straight Dough

A bread-making method where all ingredients are mixed together at once, without the use of a preferment.

Stretch and Fold

S&F is a technique used during the bulk fermentation phase to strengthen the dough and help align the gluten structure. Instead of traditional kneading, the dough is gently stretched and then folded over itself. This process is typically repeated multiple times throughout bulk fermentation.

Tangzhong

A Chinese technique for bread-making, similar to the Japanese yudane method. It involves cooking a small portion of the flour with water (or milk) to create a slurry or roux. This process, which can be seen as a variant of scald, gelatinizes the starches in the flour, resulting in breads that are softer, fluffier, and have improved moisture retention. Once cooled, the Tangzhong is mixed with the remaining ingredients to produce the final dough.

Tight Crumb

Refers to a bread crumb (the soft inner part of the bread) that has small, uniform air holes.

Wild Yeast

Naturally occurring yeast, present in the environment and on the surface of grains, used in sourdough fermentation as opposed to commercial yeast. There’s wild yeast on almost any surface of plants. The wild yeasts live in symbiosis with the plant providing a shield against pathogens and receiving sugars from the photosynthesis of the plant in return. When the plant becomes weak the wild yeasts can become parasitic and consume the host.

Yeast

Microorganisms that ferment the sugars present in the dough, producing carbon dioxide and alcohol and thereby causing the dough to rise.

Yudane

A Japanese method of bread-making which involves the preparation of a starter by mixing boiling water with bread flour in a specific ratio, typically 1:1 by weight. After mixing, the paste is left to cool to room temperature and then refrigerated overnight. The next day, it is combined with the remaining ingredients to make the dough. The Yudane method, essentially a type of scald, helps in improving the texture of the bread, making it softer and fluffier while also enhancing its shelf life.