Sourdough Baking Guide

Sourdough Baking

Frequently Asked Questions

How to talk like a baker

New to sourdough baking? This glossary will help you distinguish a biga from a poolish, a batard from a boule, and slashing from scoring. (OK, those last two are different words for the same thing.)




Amylase
An enzyme that converts starches to sugars.
Autolyse
A 15- to 30-minute rest period after mixing flour and water, before adding salt and yeast. It begins gluten development and reduces kneading time. See Using The Autolyse Method for more information.
Baguette
A long, skinny loaf of French bread. Check out our Classic Baguettes blog post for a recipe and shaping instructions.
Baker's Percentage
A way of expressing formulas in which the flour weight represents 100% and all other ingredients are a percentage of the flour weight. See our Baker's Percentage blog post for more information.
Batard
An oval-shaped loaf.
Banneton
A French-style basket, similar to the German brotform, designed to hold and shape a rising loaf. When the loaf is fully risen, it's turned out of the banneton onto a pan or hot stone to bake.
Biga
An Italian term for a pre-ferment made with flour, water, and yeast. Its texture is generally stiffer than that of the typical liquid sourdough starter.
Boule
A round (ball-shaped) loaf.
Brotform
A German-style basket, similar to the French banneton, that supports a shaped loaf during its final rise. Learn more in the Tools and Supplies section.
Couche
A linen or canvas cloth used to support unbaked yeast loaves, typically baguettes, during their final rise. Learn more in the Tools and Supplies section.
Crumb
The appearance and texture of the inner part of a loaf of bread — often described as being either "open crumb" (lots of irregular holes) or "closed crumb" (fine-textured).
Discard
The portion of starter disposed of when feeding a starter as part of its routine maintenance. Use discard starter in pancakes, muffins, and other recipes as specified. Check out our collection of Sourdough Discard recipes.
Feeding
Adding flour and water to a portion of the starter to support its growth, and to maintain its balance of yeast and bacteria.
Fermentation
The process of yeast consuming sugars and producing carbon dioxide and alcohol; and friendly bacteria (lactobacilli) producing organic acids.
Gluten
The protein found in wheat and some other grains that, when combined with water, gives structure to baked goods.
Lame
A tool to score or slash dough. Check out our blog post, Bread Scoring Techniques, for more.
Levain
A French term for sourdough bread. May also refer to the sourdough starter itself, when used as a pre-ferment in a recipe.
Maillard reaction
A chemical reaction that occurs during baking, giving baked goods their golden brown color and caramelized flavor.
Maintenance
The feeding regimen used to sustain a sourdough starter for use in baking.
Naturally leavened
A term for sourdough bread that uses no commercial yeast.
Oven spring
The rapid rise of yeast bread once it enters an oven, due primarily to carbon dioxide expansion during the initial phase of baking.
Peel
A tool used to load or unload bread from an oven.
Poolish
A starter made of equal parts flour and water, with a small percentage of added yeast.
Pre-ferment
A portion of the overall flour, water, and yeast in a recipe that's mixed and allowed to ferment in advance of mixing the dough.
Proof
The final rise of dough before baking.
Retard
Slowing the fermentation process to increase flavor, usually by reducing the temperature.
Ripe
A mature starter that's ready to use in baking, characterized by lots of bubbles, increased volume, small rivulets across the top, and a fresh, clean, acidic aroma.
Scoring/Slashing
Making cuts on the surface of a proofed loaf immediately before it's baked to guide where and how the loaf expands. Slashing facilitates improved oven spring, good internal crumb structure, and appearance. See our blog post, Bread Scoring Techniques, for more.
Sourdough starter
A culture of wild yeast and bacteria that, when properly maintained, leavens and flavors bread.

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