Bread Bakers Glossary of Terms

Bread Bakers Glossary

Created exclusively for the members of “Baking Great Bread at Home.”


Welcome to the Bread Baker’s Glossary! This is your go-to resource for demystifying the art of bread baking. Here, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of terms and techniques that are essential for both novice and seasoned bakers. From understanding different types of flour to mastering various baking methods, our glossary aims to enhance your knowledge and skills in the world of bread baking.


  • Autolyse: Process where flour and water mix and rest before adding yeast and salt, enhancing gluten development.
  • Ash Content: Measure of mineral content in flour, determined by burning a flour sample and weighing the residue.


  • Banneton: Basket used to shape and proof bread dough, typically lined with linen.
  • Biga: Italian pre-ferment, a mixture of flour, water, and a small amount of yeast.


  • Couche: A linen cloth used to cradle and shape dough during proofing.
  • Crumb: The internal texture and structure of bread, including the size and distribution of air pockets.


  • Diastatic Malt: Malt powder used in baking, containing enzymes that break down starches into sugars.
  • Dough Conditioner: Additives used to improve bread quality and shelf life, such as enzymes and emulsifiers.


  • Elasticity: The ability of bread dough to return to its original shape after being stretched.
  • Enriched Dough: Dough that includes additional ingredients like eggs, milk, sugar, or butter for flavor and texture.


  • Fermentation: The metabolic process where yeast converts sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide, causing dough to rise.
  • Focaccia: Italian flatbread known for its high olive oil content and dimpled surface.


  • Gluten: A protein complex in wheat that gives dough its elasticity and chewy texture.
  • Grigne: The ear or lip formed on a loaf of bread from the cut made by scoring.


  • Hydration: The ratio of water to flour in bread dough, usually expressed as a percentage.
  • Hard Wheat: Wheat varieties with high protein content, ideal for bread making due to their strong gluten formation.


  • Instant Yeast: A type of yeast that can be mixed directly into dry ingredients without needing to be rehydrated or proofed first.


  • Jerusalem Bagel: A ring-shaped bread originating from Jerusalem, characterized by its sweet taste and chewy texture.


  • Kneading: The process of working bread dough to develop gluten and distribute ingredients evenly.


  • Levain: A type of pre-ferment similar to sourdough starter, used to leaven bread.
  • Lame: A razor blade tool used for scoring bread dough before baking.


  • Maltose: A sugar created when enzymes in flour break down starches, used by yeast as food during fermentation.
  • Mother Dough: Another term for a sourdough starter; a fermented dough containing wild yeast and bacteria.


  • Non-Diastatic Malt Powder: Malt powder used as a sweetener and color enhancer in bread, without active enzymes.


  • Overproofing: Allowing bread dough to rise for too long, causing the gluten structure to weaken and the bread to collapse.


  • Poolish: A wet sponge (pre-ferment) used in bread making, consisting of equal parts flour and water by weight, with a small amount of yeast.
  • Proofing: The final rise of shaped bread dough before baking, a crucial phase in developing flavor and texture.


  • Quick Bread: Breads that are leavened with agents other than yeast or eggs, like baking soda or baking powder, allowing for immediate baking.


  • Retardation: The process of slowing down the fermentation of dough by chilling it, often used to enhance flavor development.
  • Rye Flour: Flour milled from rye grains, often used in combination with wheat flour for bread with a denser texture and distinct flavor.


  • Scoring: Making shallow cuts on the surface of bread dough before baking, which helps control how the bread expands in the oven.
  • Sourdough: Bread made from naturally occurring yeast and bacteria in flour, characterized by its tangy flavor and chewy texture.


  • Tangzhong: A method involving pre-cooking a portion of the flour and water in a bread recipe, resulting in softer and lighter bread.
  • Turn: A technique in bread making, involving gently folding the dough over itself to develop gluten without traditional kneading.


  • Unbleached Flour: Flour that has not undergone chemical bleaching; retains more of its natural wheat color and flavor.


  • Vienna Bread: A type of bread that is soft and light with a crispy crust, originally from Vienna. Often made with milk, sugar, and butter.


  • Whole Wheat Flour: Flour that includes the bran, germ, and endosperm of the wheat grain, resulting in a denser and more nutritious bread.
  • Windowpane Test: A test to check the development of gluten in dough; the dough should stretch thin enough to be translucent without tearing.


  • Xanthan Gum: A polysaccharide used as a stabilizer in gluten-free baking to mimic the structure-providing properties of gluten.


  • Yeast: A microorganism used in bread making to ferment sugars and produce carbon dioxide, causing the dough to rise.
  • Yudane: A method similar to Tangzhong, involving mixing boiling water with flour to gelatinize the starches, resulting in softer bread.


  • Zopf: A type of Swiss bread, typically braided and has a soft, rich texture, often eaten on Sundays.


Common Troubleshooting Tips

  • Dense Bread Issues: Often caused by under-proofing, insufficient kneading, or too little hydration. Ensure proper fermentation time and adequate dough hydration.
  • Crust Concerns: For a crispier crust, consider using steam in your oven during the initial baking phase. If the crust is too hard, tent the bread with foil during baking.

Bread Variations and Their Characteristics

  • Sourdough Bread: Known for its tangy flavor, created by natural fermentation using a sourdough starter.
  • Whole Wheat Bread: Nutrient-rich with a denser texture due to the inclusion of the whole grain.
  • Rye Bread: Distinguished by its dense texture and deep flavor, often used in artisanal and traditional European baking.

The Science Behind Bread Making

  • Gluten Development: Gluten, formed from proteins in wheat flour, provides elasticity and strength to dough, crucial for the bread’s structure.
  • Fermentation Process: Yeast and bacteria ferment the sugars in the dough, producing carbon dioxide that causes the bread to rise and develop flavor.

Types of Yeast in Bread Baking

  • Active Dry Yeast: One of the most commonly used yeasts in baking. It’s granular and needs to be dissolved in water before use. Ideal for most types of bread and is known for its stability and long shelf life.
  • Instant Yeast (also known as Rapid-Rise or Bread Machine Yeast): Similar to active dry yeast, but with finer granules. It doesn’t require dissolution in water and can be mixed directly with dry ingredients. It speeds up the fermentation process, making it a favorite for quick bread recipes and bread machines.
  • Fresh Yeast (also known as Cake Yeast or Compressed Yeast): A block of fresh yeast with high moisture content. It’s known for its excellent fermenting capabilities but has a short shelf life and needs refrigeration.
  • Wild Yeast: Naturally occurring yeast present in all flour. It’s the basis for creating a sourdough starter. Wild yeast fermentation is slower than commercial yeast but imparts unique flavors and textures to bread.

The Magic of a Sourdough Starter

  • What is a Sourdough Starter? A sourdough starter is a fermented mixture of flour and water that houses a colony of wild yeast and bacteria. It’s a living culture that requires regular feeding of flour and water to maintain its health and activity.
  • Fermentation Process: In a sourdough starter, wild yeast and bacteria feed on the sugars in flour, producing carbon dioxide, alcohol, and organic acids. This process not only makes the dough rise but also develops complex flavors.
  • Maintenance and Use: A healthy sourdough starter can last indefinitely with proper care. Regular feeding (discarding a portion and replenishing with fresh flour and water) keeps it active. The starter is used in place of commercial yeast in sourdough bread recipes and imparts a distinct tangy flavor and chewy texture.
  • Benefits: Sourdough breads have a unique taste and texture. The long fermentation process enhances flavor complexity and can make nutrients more accessible. Sourdough is often more digestible and lower in gluten due to the breakdown of proteins during fermentation.

Advanced Techniques for Seasoned Bakers

  • Pre-ferments and Sponges: Techniques like poolish, biga, and sourdough starters enhance flavor complexity and texture in bread.
  • Artisan Scoring Techniques: Scoring isn’t just functional; it’s an art. Experiment with different patterns for aesthetic appeal and controlled expansion.

Baking in Different Climates

  • Humidity and Altitude: These factors can greatly affect baking. In high altitudes, consider increasing oven temperature and decreasing rising time. In humid climates, adjust flour and water ratios as needed.

Additional Resources

  • Books: “Dive into ‘Bread: A Journey Through History, Science, Art, and Community’ by Henry Hunter, a captivating exploration of bread making. This book blends the rich history and science of bread with personal anecdotes and community insights. It offers practical tips and deep dives into ancient grains and artisan techniques, making it a must-read for both new and experienced bakers passionate about the art of bread.” Find it here.
  • Websites: For more recipes and community engagement, join us at “Baking Great Bread at Home” online. Our group is a treasure trove of baking resources, recipes, and a supportive community of fellow baking enthusiasts. Visit us here.
  • Online Courses: Enhance your skills in community building and management with our course “Mastering Facebook Community Management.” Led by seasoned community manager Henry Hunter, this course provides valuable insights into creating and nurturing a vibrant online community. Enroll in the course.


  • A – Autolyse, Ash Content, etc.
  • B – Banneton, Biga, etc.
  • C – Couche, Crumb, etc.
  • D – Diastatic Malt, Dutch Oven, etc.
  • E – Elasticity, Enriched Dough, etc.
  • F – Fermentation, Focaccia, etc.
  • G – Gluten, Grigne, etc.
  • H – Hydration, Hard Wheat, etc.
  • I – Instant Yeast, etc.
  • J – Jerusalem Bagel, etc.
  • K – Kneading, etc.
  • L – Levain, Lame, etc.
  • M – Maltose, Mother Dough, etc.
  • N – Non-Diastatic Malt Powder, etc.
  • O – Overproofing, etc.
  • P – Poolish, Proofing, etc.
  • Q – Quick Bread, etc.
  • R – Retardation, Rye Flour, etc.
  • S – Scoring, Sourdough, etc.
  • T – Tangzhong, Turn, etc.
  • U – Unbleached Flour, etc.
  • V – Vienna Bread, etc.
  • W – Whole Wheat Flour, Windowpane Test, etc.
  • X – Xanthan Gum, etc.
  • Y – Yeast, Yudane, etc.
  • Z – Zopf, etc.

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