Glossary of Baking Terms

All-purpose flour High protein flour made primarily of the endosperm part of a wheat kernel.  Good for most yeast bread.  Neutral flavor.

Autolyse Literally “self-splitting.”  Process of mixing water and flour together before adding yeast and salt.  Can vary in length.  In chemical terms, mixing the water and flour creates the conditions whereby the enzymes in the flour can break down the starch (into sugars) and the protein (into gluten), thereby improving the texture and flavor of your bread.

Banneton Floured basket made of coiled balsa or other soft wood.  Provides structure to a proofing dough and creates a pretty spiral pattern of flour on the surface of the loaf after it’s baked.

Bench rest  A 5-15 minute period where you leave the dough alone, either after you have mixed the ingredients or after you have cut your dough.  This gives time for the gluten strands to relax, making your dough smoother, stretchier and easier to shape.  A baker ninja tactic!

Bench scraper Flat tool made of metal or plastic, used to handle dough or cut it into pieces. 

Bread Flour Highest protein flour.  Results in very strong gluten formation.  Good for high hydration doughs.  Creates a bread with noticeable chewiness.

Conduction Type of heat transfer from a hot element to whatever is placed directly next to or on top of it.

Convection Type of heat transfer where warmed air moves along the surface of an object

Couche  Literally “bed.”  A floured cloth that helps keep the shape of a dough during the final rise.  The flour and airy texture of the cloth keep the surface of the dough dry, creating a skin that aids in developing a crispy crust during baking.

Crumb Interior of a baked loaf of bread.

Crust Surface of a baked loaf of bread

Dutch oven Large lidded pot, typically made of cast iron.  Used in baking to maximize oven spring by trapping steam inside the closed pot.

Endosperm Starchy nutrition source inside of a seed, also contains some oils and protein.  All-purpose and bread flour come from the endosperm. 

Fermentation Process whereby yeast eat the sugars in the dough and release ethyl alcohol, gently fermenting the dough and improving the flavor.

Gluten Protein strands formed when water is mixed with wheat flour.  The protein strands stretch and overlap, creating a tensile net that expands as the yeast in the recipe releases carbon dioxide bubbles and solidifies when baked.

Grease Lightly coat a baking vessel such as a bread loaf pan or a mixing bowl with oil or butter.

Hydration Ratio of water to flour in a recipe, usually represented as a percentage.  Most breads range between 66 – 100% hydration.

Knead Gently handle dough to coax the gluten strands to form more rapidly.

Leavening Can refer to a verb, to leaven, or the leavening agent itself.  To leaven a dough means to add an ingredient that causes it to ferment and rise.  A leavening agent is any substance causing the dough to rise.  Popular leavening agents include yeast, baking powder and baking soda.  

Mise en Place Literally “put in place,” a French term that gained popularity in home kitchens with the rise of food entertainment shows but historically used in professional kitchens.   In professional kitchens, it refers to all the dishes and ingredients being prepared in advance for the night’s dinner service.  In the home kitchen, it refers to having everything out, measured and at the correct temperature, ready before you begin.  That way you can easily and calmly add ingredients and ensure you have not forgotten an ingredient.

Oven Spring Phenomenon where the yeast in the dough, in the presence of high heat in the oven, release a burst of carbon dioxide before dying off.  The dough expands rapidly, taking advantage of any weak points on the surface. 

Proof Mixing the yeast with liquid (usually water or milk) and sometimes sugar to create an environment for the yeast to become active before adding it to the dough.

Proofing basket Basket or bowl lined with a floured piece of fabric (couche).  Provides structural support to dough as it rises, particularly high-hydration doughs.

Score Create a pattern of weak points in the surface of the dough by creating small cuts using a sharp tool such as a serrated knife, razor blade or lame.

Starter Active yeast culture made from flour and water with sacchromyces cerevisiae or other wild yeast strain, and lactic acid bacteria which give sourdough its unique flavor during fermentation. 

Stretch and fold Technique for lightly developing gluten in dough that is either high hydration or long fermenting or both. Essentially, one side of dough is collected in the hand and gently pulled and folded over the top of the dough.  The dough is then given a quarter turn and the process is repeated at least three more times until the dough is holding its round shape and the surface is smooth and taut.

Temper A cooking technique in which the temperature of a cold/room-temperature ingredient is slowly raised by adding small amounts of hot/boiling liquid. The hot liquid must be mixed in gradually to prevent the cool ingredient, for example eggs, from cooking further.

Wheat bran Protective outer coating of a wheat seed.  Contains fiber.  Found in whole wheat flour.

Wheat germ  Part of the wheat seed that germinates to create a new plant.  Full of nutrients and protein.  Found in whole wheat flour.

Whole grain The entire kernel of a cereal plant that contains all the essential parts (bran, germ and endosperm) and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed in their original proportions. 

Whole wheat flour Flour that contains all parts of the wheat kernel: endosperm, bran, and germ.  Contains more fats and is more perishable than all-purpose or bread flour which are primarily endosperm.