Baking Glossary

Some bread baking definitions to help you on your artisan way

Autolyse: a technique for improving gluten development without heavy kneading. Combine the flour and water from your recipe in a bowl and mix until the flour is fully hydrated. Cover the bowl and let the flour hydrate for 20 minutes, then mix in remaining ingredients. The result is development comparable to a dough that has been kneaded for 5 or 10 minutes with less oxidation (which leads to a yellow crumb).

Baker’s percentage: Also called formula percentage. A convention for listing the ingredients in a dough in which the quantity of each ingredient is expressed as a percentage of the total amount of flour. Example: 1000g flour, 660g water, 20g salt, 10g yeast is expressed in baker’s percentage as 100% flour, 66% water, 2% salt, 1% yeast. Note that this always adds up to more than 100%. The “percentage” is in fact a ratio where the mass of the ingredients are expressed in terms of the mass of the flour used (that is, the unit mass). For example, if a recipe calls for 10 pounds of flour and 5 pounds of water, the corresponding percentages will be 100% and 50%. The baker’s percentage enables the user to more accurately compare recipes (i.e. which is drier, saltier, sweeter, etc.).

Banneton: A woven basket, sometimes lined with linen, used to hold a shaped loaf while it is proofing.

Batard: A loaf of bread that has an oval or oblong shape.

Benching: Also called resting or intermediate proofing, during which time the gluten relaxes.

Biga: A type of pre-ferment used in Italian baking. Many popular Italian breads, including ciabatta, are made using a biga. Using a biga adds complexity to the bread’s flavor and is often used in breads which need a light, open texture with holes. Apart from adding to flavor and texture, a biga also helps to preserve bread by making it less perishable. Biga techniques were developed after the introduction of baker’s yeast as bakers in Italy moved away from the use of sourdough and needed to recover some of the flavor.
A biga is usually very firm, between 50 and 60% hydration. The firmness gives the biga a nutty taste.

Boule: A round loaf of bread (meaning “ball” in French).

Bulk fermentation: See Primary fermentation.

Couche: Heavy linen fabric used to hold formed loaves for proofing. The fabric can be pleated around the loaves to help them hold their shape.

Crumb: The soft inner portion of bread also referring to the pattern of holes inside.

DDT or Desired Dough Temperature: The ideal dough temperature for optimal fermentation for most bread dough is around 24 degrees Celsius / 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ears: The result of scoring the top of the bread, which, when baked, produces lifted pieces of crisp crust that look like ears and make for an attractive appearance.

Elasticity: The property of dough to retract to its initial position after being stretched.

Enriched dough: Also called rich dough because it contains enhancements such as eggs, butter, sugar or cream

Fermentation: The process by which yeast metabolizes sugars to produce carbon dioxide and alcohol.

Folding: One of the best ways of encouraging gluten development in slack doughs. Folding the dough consists of taking a wet dough out of the bowl, spreading it out a little on a clean, well-floured surface, folding it in thirds like a letter, rotating it 90 degrees and folding it up again, picking it up and dusting the loose flour off of it, and then returning the dough to the bowl and covering it again. Like punching down, folding degases the dough some, but it also encourages gluten development.

Gluten: “A strong elastic protein of wheat flour that gives cohesiveness to dough.” Gluten is what allows bread dough to develop those long, beautiful strands and create large open pockets of air (think about the inside of Ciabatta). Bread flours tend to be made from hard wheats that are higher in protein than regular flour, providing more gluten.

Grigne: La Grigne [pronounced (very roughly) la green-yeh], noun: In baking terms, this refers to the little lip of crust that pulls away from the body of the baking loaf right along the score-marks slashed in the surface. In french, this literally means “the grin.”

Hydration: The ratio of liquid ingredients (primarily water) to flour in the dough. A dough with 500g of flour and 310g of water has a hydration of 62% (310/500).

Lame: A double-sided blade used to slash the tops of bread loaves in artisan baking. A lame is used to score (also called slashing or docking) bread just before the bread is placed in the oven. Proper scoring allows the baker to control exactly where his or her breads will open or bloom. Scoring also creates varieties in forms and appearance. It brings out the bread baker’s artistic talent and marks his or her own signature.

Levain: A leavening agent or bread starter, also known as sourdough, leavening, wild yeast or a chef It is frequently used in place of yeast to rise dough. It’s French in origin, but people have been using these types of leavening agents for thousands of years.

‘Mise en place’: Putting everything ‘in its place’ before you start with the bread making.

Pâte fermentée (aka prefermented dough): A type of preferment in which the ingredients (flour, water, yeast, salt) are mixed in the same proportion as (usually) a basic white bread dough at about 65% hydration. Basically it’s a piece of dough that is reserved after mixing and incorporated into the next batch of bread.

Poolish: A type of sponge. Typically quite wet, an equal weight of water and flour with an extremely small amount of yeast. Mix it, cover the bowl, and leave it at room temperature overnight.

Primery fermentation: Traditionally, bread is fermented twice, before and after the loaves are formed. The first cycle of fermentation is called “primary fermentation”. This process is also called bulk fermentation. It is the stage in which most of the flavor of the bread is determined.

Proof or Proofing: (1) The final rise of the shaped loaves before baking (2) the hydration of dry active yeast in water before it is added to the dough. Also called secondary fermentation or final fermentation.

Score (aka slash or dock): To cut the surface of the loaf prior to baking. This provides for controlled expansion of the loaves during baking so they do not “break” undesirably. Scoring is also used to enhance the appearance of the bread. It is usually done with a lame or bread scoring tool (see also Lame).

Sourdough: A preferment that is a culture of wild yeast and bacteria that is perpetuated by the periodic addition of flour and water, or a bread leavened in whole or part by this culture.

Sponge: Also known as a “preferment,” a sponge is a portion of the ingredients that is mixed ahead of time, typically overnight. Using a sponge extends the fermentation process longer and generally releases more complex flavors in your loaf. It can also be used to soften dry ingredients (such as whole grains) and release sugars from the grains.


Pastry / Patisserie Glossary

Bain-marie: A water bath, used to control the cooking of custards etc., and to keep delicate sauces warm. A bowl over a pan of simmering or hot water functions as a bain-marie on the hob; for the oven a baking dish may be placed in a roasting pan containing hot water.

Bake blind: To bake empty pastry cases, either partially or fully, before adding the filling. Line the pastry case with greaseproof paper and fill with ceramic baking beans or dried pulses before baking.

Blanch: To plunge an ingredient briefly into boiling water, usually for 30-60 seconds, then refresh in cold water to preserve their colour or parcook them.

Butter, clarified: To prepare, melt butter very gently in a saucepan and then bring it to the boil. Ladle the clear butter through a muslin-lined sieve, leaving the milky deposit in the bottom of the pan.

Caramelise: To heat sugar until it dissolves and forms a caramel. Also used to describe cooking foods until their natural sugars or a sugar topping has browned.

Chinois: A conical strainer used to sieve a mixture to make it smooth.

Coulis: A thin purée, usually of fruit mixed with a little sugar syrup, of a pouring consistency.

Crimp: To pinch up the border of a tart with a pastry crimper or between your index finger and thumb.

Eggwash: An egg yolk lightly beaten with 1 tbsp milk, used to lightly brush dough before baking.

Foncer: To line a mould or tin with rolled-out pastry.

Glaze: To brush or dust pastry or a tart filling with a mixture to give colour and shine. Eggwash is often used as a glaze. Icing sugar may be sprinkled over puff pastry, then caramelised in a hot oven to glaze.

Knock back: To return risen dough to its original volume by lifting it with your lightly floured hand and quickly flipping it over 2 or 3 times.

Reduce: To boil a liquor steadily to reduce and thicken it by evaporating some of the water.

Refresh: To immerse food in cold water after blanching to stop the cooking process, preserving colour and texture.

Toasting nuts: Place the nuts on a baking tray in the oven at 180°C/ Gas 4 for 10 minutes or until evenly coloured, shaking occasionally.

Zest: To pare orange, lemon or lime zest with a zester very thinly, leaving behind all the bitter white pith.

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