Sourdough Vocabulary: What does it even mean?!

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(Last Updated On: August 27, 2023)

Are you just starting out in the world of sourdough bread and feeling overwhelmed by all the new vocabulary? I was too, just a couple months ago — but don’t worry, our comprehensive sourdough glossary will help!

From autolyse to boules, we’ve compiled a list of all the key terms and their meanings to help you navigate the world of sourdough bread-making like a pro. So grab your banneton and let’s dive in!

All-Purpose Flour: A type of flour that is a blend of hard and soft wheat and can be used for a variety of baked goods. (I love Sunrise Heritage Bread Blend flour for sourdough, but will use all-purpose in a pinch!)

Autolyse: A technique in which flour and water are mixed and allowed to rest for a period of time before adding the sourdough starter and other ingredients. This allows the flour to fully hydrate and develop gluten.

Baking Stone: A thick, flat stone used for baking bread. It helps to create a crispy crust and even heat distribution.

Banneton: A basket or bowl that is used to proof the bread dough. It is typically lined with a cloth and dusted with flour to prevent sticking.

Batard: An oval or oblong-shaped bread with a crispy crust and soft, chewy interior.

Bench Scraper: A tool used for cutting and dividing dough during shaping.

Biga: An Italian pre-ferment made with flour, water, and a small amount of yeast.

Boule: A round, ball-shaped loaf of bread.

Bread Bread Mat: A silicone or non-stick mat used for rolling out dough and baking bread.

Bread Bag: A plastic or cloth bag used for storing bread.

Bread Box: A container used for storing bread to keep it fresh.

Bread Cloche: A ceramic or clay baking vessel used to bake bread.

Bread Cloths: Linen or cotton cloths used for covering bread dough during proofing and fermentation.

Bread Flour: A type of flour that is high in protein and gluten, making it ideal for bread-making.

Bread Knife: A serrated knife used for slicing bread. It can cut through tougher outer crust without smashing the bread.

Bread Making Kit: A kit that contains all the tools needed for making sourdough bread, including a banneton, lame, bench scraper and more..

Bread Scoring Stencil: A plastic or metal stencil used for scoring decorative patterns on bread dough.

Bread Scoring Tool: A specialized tool used for scoring bread dough. Usually called a Lame or UFO.

Bread Slicer: A specialized knife or machine used for slicing bread evenly.

Bread Sling: A silicone sling used to transfer dough and bread, used  instead of parchment paper.

Brotform: A basket or bowl made of coiled cane or other natural materials that is used to hold and shape bread dough as it rises. Also known as a banneton or proofing basket.dough.

Bulk Fermentation: The period of time in which the dough is allowed to ferment and rise after the ingredients have been mixed together.

Cast Iron Skillet: A heavy skillet used for baking bread. It can be preheated in the oven and used to create steam.

Crumb: The texture and structure of the inside of the bread.

Crumbshot: A photo of the inside of the bread that shows the texture and structure of the crumb.

Digital Scale: A scale used for measuring ingredients accurately.

Dough Cutter: A tool used for cutting dough into portions and dividing it evenly. (Bench scraper or dough scraper)

Dough Proofer: A specialized appliance that provides a controlled, warm and sometimes humid environment for proofing dough.

Dough Scraper: A tool used for scraping dough out of bowls and shaping dough.

Dough Whisk: A whisk with a long handle and a wide, looped end. It is used for mixing dough and starter.

Dutch Oven: A heavy, lidded pot that is used for baking bread. It helps to create a steamy environment that is essential for a crispy crust.

Fermentation Jar: A glass jar with an airtight lid used for fermenting sourdough starter.

Gluten: A protein that forms when flour and water are mixed together. It gives bread its structure and chewiness.

Lame: A sharp tool used for scoring bread dough, controlling the rise of the dough, while creating a decorative pattern.

Levain: A portion of sourdough starter that is used to make bread dough rise. It is typically mixed with flour and water to create a pre-ferment that is added to the final dough.

Oven Spring: The sudden rise of the bread dough in the oven due to the heat and steam.

Parchment Paper: A paper used for lining baking sheets and proofing baskets to prevent sticking.

Pastry Brush: A brush used for applying egg wash or water to the surface of the bread dough.

Poolish: A type of pre-ferment made with equal parts flour and water and a small amount of yeast.

Proofing: The final rise of the bread dough before baking.

Proofing Cloth: A linen or cotton cloth used for lining proofing baskets and covering dough during proofing.

Retarding: The process of slowing down the fermentation of the dough by placing it in a cooler environment.

Rye Flour: A type of flour that is popular in sourdough bread-making due to its unique flavor and high hydration.

Scalded Flour: Flour that has been soaked in hot water before being mixed into the dough. This helps to break down the starches and make them more digestible.

Scoring: The act of making shallow cuts in the top of the bread dough just before baking. This allows the bread to expand and prevents it from cracking.

Sourdough Starter: A live fermented culture of flour and water that is used to make sourdough bread rise. It is created by mixing flour and water and allowing it to ferment for several days.

Stretch and Fold: A technique used during bulk fermentation to strengthen the gluten in the dough.

Thermometer: A tool used for monitoring the temperature of the dough and the oven.

Whole Wheat Flour: A type of flour that is made from the entire wheat kernel, including the bran and germ. It is higher in fiber and nutrients than white flour. 

Windowpane Test: A test to check if the gluten in the dough has developed enough. A small piece of dough is stretched thin and held up to the light. If it is thin enough to see through without tearing, it has passed the windowpane test.

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