The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

TLA's, jargon... and the newbie?

xx's picture

TLA's, jargon... and the newbie?

After reading the forum for a week I'm more than a little confused by the jargon/terminology whatever you want to call it, that's in regular use.

I appreciate that abbreviations and other terms fall into regular use quite quickly, but it may be offputting to a newbie.

I might suggest that some of the 'old hands' collaborate and create a sticky post, or perhaps even a separate node for the jargon that appears on this forum? Even if a term has several meanings, as with many languages, there's no reason to retain confusion?

Just an idea.


pmccool's picture

As a matter of fact, the list is already started.  Click on the Handbook link at the top of the page, then on the Glossary link in the TOC (Table of Contents).  You will find a few TLAs there.  If there are others you have seen that are unexplained, please list those you are aware of. People will jump in with explanations and someone can update the Glossary.

BTW, welcome to TFL!


xx's picture

Hi Paul.
Ah, yes.... (handbook!) How to point to it for newbies?

As for more entries. Yes please?

TLA's? Almost any that come along. I'll collate some over the next few days.


Starter? Difference/similarity to yeast?
Sourdough? Who wants bread that is sour? Seemingly lots of readers!
The 101 different types/even generic types, of bread? Not even sure how they might be grouped? Being greedy, alongside a photo of a typical one? (I ask, since contributors seem keen to offer images - mostly really tempting!)

Possibly the same with flour types? quite bewildering to me.

How about the similarities/differences across the Atlantic?
Another odd one for me,which half makes sense...
the use of weights rather than volumetric measurement for liquids? Useful for scaling up/down?

If it's of use, being new, I'll add stuff to this thread as I come across them on RSS.

Thanks, Dave

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

:) just kidding     ...but I did have to look it up  (we are all newbies at one thing or another)

Three Letter Acronym   or  Abbreviation

I didn't think it was the Texas Library Assoc.    Welcome to TFL!

A starter is an appetizer.  :)

xx's picture

Hi "Mini Oven"
"An appetizer?" Not in this forum it would seem.
Open to quite a few threads!


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

is a sort of appetizer.  When I get a good whiff of my "starter,"  it wets my appetite for the the next loaf I'm about to put together.  We bake a lot here with sourdough cultures or "starters" and also with different kinds of yeast.   I keep a rye fed sourdough culture also known as a rye starter or a rye sour.  I prefer it with my rye breads, very traditional here in Austria.

Dave, where would you like to start?   


xx's picture

How about less confusion?

levain ? What is it.
Sourdough? Accept the wikipedia defn.
Now how does it fit with breadmaking?
Relationship of ??? definition of starter (as used here,
not your inference) to levain?

AFAIK the 'starter' kind of replaces yeast in
the bread recipe?


Ford's picture

Here are some definitions that I have compiled from various sources.  I hope this is of help to you.




Active Dry Yeast-------Tiny dehydrated granules of yeast that are in a dormant phase until they are exposed to water.  This product was developed by the Fleischmann's Yeast lab in Peekskill, New York for use by the armed forces during World War II. 
Alcohol-------One of the two major by-products of yeast fermentation, the other being carbon dioxide.  Most alcohol in bread dissipates during baking but a slight amount of alcohol remains in a loaf of bread.
All-purpose Flour-------In the US: a blend of soft and hard wheat flours with a medium amount of gluten, suitable for most baking purposes including conventional hand-made yeast breads.  This flour is not usually recommended for use in bread machines because it may yield inconsistent results.  In Canada: hard wheat flour suitable for baking bread by hand and in the bread machine.
Altus-------Old bread added to the dough to give improved flavor and/or texture to the new loaf.  Usually the old bread is soaked in water for several hours then the water is squeezed out and the bread is added to the dough. This technique is used especially in making rye bread and other sourdough bread.  The word derives from the Latin adjective (altus) meaning high or deep.
Amaranth-------A seed that can be crushed or ground to flour and added to breads.  Amaranth does not have significant amounts of gluten and no more than 1/2 cup per loaf should be added.
Amylase, alpha-------An enzyme that breaks down the starch molecular chains into smaller pieces.
Amylase, beta-------An enzyme that breaks maltose units off the ends of starch molecular chains.  Together the two enzymes are more effective than either would be separately.  Both forms are found naturally in wheat flour.
Anfrishsauer-------A German term for the first stage of the traditional German sourdough baking process made from Anstellgut, water, and flour.
Anstellgut-------A German term for the inoculants to the first stage in the three-stage sequence of elaboration of a leaven for the traditional process of German sourdough.  It is a portion of the ripe sourdough leaven saved from the previous day's bake and corresponds to the French term "chef.”
Autolyse-------(Pronounced ah-toh-leez)  Yeasted recipes - A short rest called an autolyse comes right after mixing the flour, yeast, oil, and water.  It cuts down on your kneading time and allows the dough to bake into a lighter bread with a more open crumb.  Here's how an autolyse works.  • It allows the flour time to fully absorb the water, so the dough is less sticky when you knead it.  • It helps the gluten to both bond and break down, resulting in a dough that's quicker to knead and easier to shape.  • It gives the yeast time to rehydrate fully so you don't end up with yeast bits in the dough.  You'll notice in the recipe that the salt usually is added after the autolyse.  This is because salt causes gluten to contract and toughen, preventing the gluten from absorbing as much water and thus the dough fails to fully benefit from the autolyse.
Baba-------A rich rum or kirsch-soaked yeast cake with currants or raisins, traditionally baked in a cylindrical mold.
Babka-------A Polish sweet bread, traditionally made with rum, almonds, raisins and orange peel.
Bagel -------A traditional, doughnut-shaped roll with a characteristic dense texture achieved by a short rise, followed by boiling and then baking the product.  Bagels have become quite popular and are now made with a wide variety of savory and sweet ingredients, and used as bread for sandwiches or topped with plain or flavored cream cheeses, lox, etc.
Baguette-------A long, thin, cylindrical loaf of French bread.  The baguette has a crisp, brown crust with a chewy interior and is traditionally made from only flour, salt, water, and yeast.
Bake-------To cook food in an oven with dry heat.
Baker’s Percentages -------The baker’s percentage is based on the total weight of flour in the recipe.  Thus, the percentage of total flour is always figured as 100% and the other ingredients are based on the weight of that ingredient divided by the weight of the total weight of all the flour used, and, of course, multiplied by 100.  A French style bread dough might contain 15.7 oz. white flour, 2.6 oz. whole-wheat flour, 12.2 oz. water, 2.1 oz salt, and 0.05 oz yeast.  There is 18.3 oz. total flour and that is called 100%.  The other percentages are:  white flour 15.7x100/18.3 = 85.8%; whole-wheat flour 2.6x100/18.3 = 14.2%; water 12.2x100/18.3 = 66.7 %; salt 2.1x100/18.3 = 11.5%; and yeast 0.05x100/18.3 = 0.3%
Baker’s Yeast-------Yeast used for raising bread, typically from the taxonomic group Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
Baking stone, a. k. a. pizza stone------- It's a ceramic slab, usually 1/2-5/8" thick.  Free-form loaves can be baked directly on it.  A baking stone can hold heat very well, unlike a baking sheet.  Also, unlike a baking sheet, it's preheated before the risen loaf is placed on it.  It's particularly useful when a high temperature is desired.
Banneton  -------French name for the proofing basket.  It may be cloth lined or bare, but either way, it is dusted with flour prior to use.  The rising dough conforms to its shape and is then tipped out before baking.  A banneton is thought to provide good air circulation and even temperatures during the rising.
Bannock ------- A traditional Scottish cake, sometimes made with yeast, and often baked on a griddle.
Bap-------A soft yeast roll with a floury finish, popular in Scotland as a breakfast roll.
Barm-------A British term for a yeast leaven.  In brewing, the term "barm" refers to the foamy yeast residue from the fermentation of ale, and then used to leaven bread (different strains of S. cerevisiae are used to ferment both bread dough and beer wort).  Today some Americans (including some San Francisco bread bakers and instructors) use the term "barm" to describe a natural leaven started with whole-wheat flour or grains.  A barm started from whole-wheat grains or flour is a mix of natural or "wild" yeast and lactobacilli originating from the grains.  As a by-product from brewing yeast, barm makes a bitter tasting bread.  As a natural leaven from whole-wheat flour and/or grains, barm produces a mild, fruity, buttery flavored bread.  Lactic acid contributions from the lactobacilli are not necessarily sour.
Barm Brack------- Irish bread, sometimes made with yeast, and is buttered and served with tea.  Barm Brack typically contains candied fruit peel and raisins or currants.
Bâtarde-------A traditional loaf of white bread, larger than a baguette.  it is French for bastard, neither boule nor baguette.
Bath Bun------- A sugarcoated bun originating in Bath, England, usually studded with candied fruit, currants or golden raisins.
Baton-------A white loaf of bread somewhat smaller than a baguette.
Batonnet-------A white loaf of bread somewhat smaller than a baguette.
Batter Bread-------A yeast bread that is not kneaded but stirred vigorously.  The very thick but pourable batter produces a coarser crumb than kneaded bread.
Bench Scrapers------- A kitchen tool useful for scraping dough off a kneading surface.
Bialy-------A Jewish-American yeast roll that is dense and chewy, topped with sautéed onions.  It is related to the bagel.
Biga -------An Italian word for a yeasted starter.  To make a biga, a tiny amount of commercial bakers yeast is mixed with water and flour to a dough-like consistency and fermented for a long period of time, 12 to 24 hours or more.  It is then mixed into bread dough for leavening, often with the addition of more commercial bakers' yeast.
Bleached Flour-------Flour processed with a "bleaching agent.”  Fresh ground wheat flour does not result in consistently good products.  Over time, flour ages and whitens and within several months, it produces a better product.  To hasten the improvement process, modern flourmills bleach and age flour chemically through the addition of tiny amounts of a bleaching agent.
Bloom-------Bloom refers to the way the top of bread opens up during baking along the cuts made in the top crust.  The cutting creates "ears" (flaps of dough that rise up from the loaf and crisp up).
Boule-------A round loaf or ball of dough.
Bread Flour-------A special flour, higher in gluten than all-purpose flour, which can be used for making yeast breads by hand; recommended for use in a bread machine.
Bread Machine Yeast -------   A Fleischmann's Yeast product especially developed for use in the types of doughs most commonly made in bread machines.  It is also called instant yeast.
Break and Shred-------The portion of the loaf between the top and the sides that shreds somewhat during baking.  Ideally, it should be even around the loaf.
Brewer’s Yeast------- An inactive yeast product that is a by-product of beer making and is specially processed to be a nutritional supplement for humans.
Brioche-------A soft, light bread from France.  Rich in eggs and butter, it is often baked in small or large fluted pans but can be used to enclose other foods such as sausage or cheese.
Brotform-------German word for proofing basket.  It is the same as a Banneton.
Brown and Serve-------A method used in preparing breads where the dough is shaped, raised and baked at a low temperature until it is cooked all the way through.  This is also known as parbaking.  It is then cooled, wrapped, and refrigerated until close to serving time.  Then it is baked again at a high temperature for a short time until brown.
Buckwheat-------A seed of a small plant, ground into light or dark flour.  Although both are whole buckwheat, the light flour has less fiber and a milder flavor.  Kasha is roasted, hulled buckwheat kernels.  Since buckwheat flour can be difficult to find, kasha can be processed in a food processor for about 3 minutes to create an acceptable substitute.
Bundt Pan------- A special tube cake pan with fluted sides.  Must be well greased to prevent sticking.
Chef------- A French word for a natural leaven starter which is retained and used from bake to bake.  Sometimes it refers to a piece of old dough saved for the next bake, sometimes to a starter in its first stage, either a batter- or dough-like consistency.
In classic French baking a "chef" is "built" (or "elaborated") into a "levain" (a firm dough-like consistency) that is again built (or elaborated) into leavening for final bread dough.
Compressed Yeast-------Fresh (not dried) yeast that is extruded and cut into a cake form.  It must be refrigerated at all times and has a relatively short shelf life of 4-6 weeks.
Convection Oven -------This oven has a fan built into it that circulates the air and cooks the food more evenly than conventional ovens.  It does not require preheating and uses conventional cookware.  Strictly speaking, all ovens are convection ovens – without the circulating fan, heat convection is accomplished by gravity.  The cooler air, being denser, falls while the warmer, lighter air rises.
Coolrise Dough -------A kneaded and shaped dough that is formulated especially to rise in the refrigerator over night.
Couche-------A large piece of linen or canvas used to wrap dough for rising.  It is seasoned by dusting it with flour.  It need not be washed but can be hung out to dry and later the dough crumbs should be scraped off.
Coulibiac -------A French dish of salmon, rice, hard cooked eggs, mushrooms, shallots, and dill, encased in dough (usually a brioche) and baked.
Croissant ------- A French classic roll, crescent shaped and made from buttered layers of yeast dough much like a puff pastry.
Crumb------- Term referring to the interior texture, gluten network, tenderness, and general feel of a bread.  Desirable crumb size and texture varies depending on the product.  Kneaded breads are generally fine and even, although when using sourdough starters the product may contain large bubbles.  Batter breads generally contain a coarse crumb.
Crumpet-------A British yeasted product made from a batter poured into a ring mold on a stovetop and cooked until is brown on the bottom and riddled with small holes on the top.
Culture------- A stable symbiotic mix of microorganisms in a medium such as liquid and grain (i.e., water and flour) also referred to as a "natural leaven starter."
Dark Rye Flour-------A coarse rye flour ground from the whole rye grain.  It bakes into a dark loaf and is best suited to rustic black breads and dark pumpernickels.
Desem-------A Flemish word for a natural leaven.  A slowly fermented desem starter enhances the wheat flavor and creates a fruity, wheat bread full of complex flavors.  To make a desem, a small amount of freshly milled whole wheat flour is mixed with some chlorine-free water, then buried in a 10 pound bag of whole wheat flour, kept at cool temperatures (65 degrees F or lower) and allowed to ferment.  It is refreshed every day or two for about 7 days until it is ready to make into bread.  Burying the dough ball in the bag of flour allows the leaven to develop from only those yeast and lactobacilli, which inherently thrive on the grain, and avoids the introduction of other microbes.
Detmolder Three Stage Process-------This is a process for refreshing sourdough particularly for rye breads.  It was developed in Detmold, Germany by researchers at the German Federal Institute for Grain, Potato, and Fat Research (Bundesanstalt fuer Getreide, Kartoffel, und Fettforschung, BAGKF).  The classic process is given below, but in practice, individuals have modified the stages to suit their convenience.  See Samartha Deva:, Mike Avery:, and also Jeffrey Hamelman, Bread, A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes.
Stage 1: 2 to 4 hours, 100 to 180% hydration at 80 – 84°F to promote yeast and lactobacteria multiplication.
Stage 2: 5 to 12 hours, 70 to 90% hydration at 76 – 80°F to develop acid.
Stage 3: 2 to 3 hours, about 100% hydration to develop all microorganisms.
The process can be used to develop wheat starters as well as rye starters. 
Diastatic Malt-------Diastatic malt powder is powdered malted grain, usually barley, but wheat, and rice may also be malted.  Having some around in long fermented breads is very important.  Today's bread flours, as well as having uniformly high gluten content (typically 13%), also contain diastatic enzymes and dough conditioners.  "Diastatic" refers to the diastatic enzymes that are created as the grain sprouts.  These convert starches to sugars, that yeasts metabolize.  Maltose, a simple sugar that yeast can digest is usually made in abundance by the enzymes.  Malt can be diastatic or non-diastatic.  Non-diastatic is simply added as a sweetener, diastatic malt breaks down the starch in dough to yield sugars on which the yeast can feed, allowing the bread's rise to go on much longer than otherwise would be expected.  Dough conditioners can have profound effects towards helping the gluten to hang together long enough to support a phenomenal rise.
You can make your own: sprout a cup of wheat berries by covering them with water in a jar for 12 or so hours, dump out the water and rinse with clean water, and place the jar in a darkish, warmish, place.  Rinse the berries every day with clean water and return to their place.  In 2-3 days, they will begin to sprout.  When the sprouts are as long as the berries, dump the sprouted berries out on paper towels, dry them off, and set them on a cookie sheet in the sun for a day or so to dry out.  Then put the cookie sheet in a 100°F oven for an hour or three.  Do not let the temp get above 130°F or the enzymes will be denatured and thus the malt will be a non-diastatic malt.  Then grind the dried malted berries into flour, and use it in your favorite recipe at a rate of approx. 1 teaspoon per loaf.
Docking (Slashing)-------Slitting a loaf with 1/4" - 1/2" cuts, for the purpose of guiding the bloom of the loaf so that it swells where the baker wants it to and for decorative purposes.
Doubled in Size-------The point to which most doughs are allowed to rise.  When a dough has doubled, it is full of air pockets and the gluten has become strong and elastic.  The fermentation has generated heat and moisture and has allowed flavors to develop.  To test whether a dough has doubled in size, use the "finger-tip test."
Dough Enhancer------- Additive to the dough that is acidic, such as citric acid or ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and/or something to aid yeast in getting the simple sugars (monosaccharides) they need for food such as diastatic malt (for maltase).  Other additives may improve the keeping properties of the bread, such as fat, dried milk, and whey.
Dry Scalding-------Dry scalding is a convenience product used by bakeries in Sweden.  Originally the  purpose of scalding flour was to be able to have more water in the dough and it still not be too wet.  There are three kinds of scalding.  Each may be dried after the scalding – “hence dry scalding,” or may be used without drying.
#1 Pour 100g of boiling water over 50 grams of flour and mix well  Temperature is 70°C.  Beta-amylase is denatured but the alpha-amylase is not.  Allow the mixture rest for 24 hours – the starch hydrolyses to sugars.
#2 Pour 100g of 75°C water over 50g of flour and mix well.  Allow to stand for 24 hours.  Both the alpha and the beta amylase will survive.
#3 Pour 150g of boiling water over 50g of flour and mix well.  The temperature will be about 85 – 90°C and both forms of amylase will be denatured.  This is ready to be used as soon as the temperature drops low enough so as not to harm the yeast.
Peter Holmsten ( via
Egg Wash -------Egg yolk and/or white mixed with a small amount of water or milk and brushed over dough prior to baking.  An egg wash gives color and gloss to the product.
Eggs-------Eggs in yeast breads provide added leavening, color, soft texture, and richness.
Ears ------- Raised edges of a slash, after baking, when the slash is made at a shallow angle to the surface of the dough.  Some recommend a curved lame for this.Election Cake -------Rich yeast cake developed in the 18th century to celebrate election day.  It contains nuts, candied fruit, and sherry-soaked raisins.
Emulsifier-------A chemical that has the ability to bind together two incompatible things, for example water and oil.  Eggs contain the emulsifier lecithin.  Fleischmann's Yeast is processed using the emulsifier sorbitan monostearate.
English Muffin-------A yeasted roll, made by cooking a highly hydrated shaped dough on a heated griddle.
Enriched Flour     Flour with added niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, and iron to compensate for some of the nutrients lost during the milling process.  Effective January 1997, the addition of folic acid will also be required.
Enrichment-------Ingredient that may be added to the bread dough to increase the range of flavors and textures that can be achieved through using only the four basic ingredients, i. e. flour, water, leaven, and salt.
Enzymes------- Enzymes are proteins that assist in hydrolysis of other molecules such as starches (α and β−amylase), sugars (maltase and invertase), and proteins (protease).  These are found naturally in wheat, yeast, milk, and other bread ingredients.
Fermentation (of bread)-------The process by which bread is leavened, also known as "rising.”  As the simple sugars are broken down from starch in flour, the microorganisms in a bread dough feed and then release various metabolic by-products (carbon dioxide, alcohol, organic acids and organic volatiles) that flavor the bread and cause it to rise.  “Beer is liquid bread and bread is solid beer.”  P. Reinhart, Crust and Crumb.
Ficelle-------A long, very thin loaf of French bread about 1/2 the size of a baguette.
Finger Tip Test-------A method used to test if a dough that has risen has "doubled in size.”  The tips of two fingers are pressed lightly and quickly 1/2 inch into the risen dough.  If the dents stay, the dough has doubled in size.
Flat Top-------A loaf of bread with a dome that does not hold up so the dough flattens during baking.  Usually caused by too much yeast, too little flour, or excess rising time.  Salt rising bread has a flat top because the gluten has been greatly weakened.
Flying crust-------This is the name for what happens when the entire upper crust of a loaf of bread rises and detaches itself from the rest of the loaf while baking.  It usually occurs because of insufficient or no slashing (see slashing).
Focaccia-------An Italian flat bread, thick and not usually kneaded, traditionally brushed or drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt.  Modern bakers make a variety of additions to this traditional snack bread.
Food Processor-------A kitchen appliance designed to chop, dice, puree, and slice a wide variety of foods.  Larger models can also be used to knead bread dough.
Fountain Process-------Mixing method where the dry ingredients are placed in a mound on the worktable and a cavity is made in the middle.  The liquid is poured into this cavity and the dry ingredients are gradually mixed in until the dough is formed.
Freezer Dough-------Dough specially formulated to be frozen for later use.
French Bread -------Traditional French bread is a crusty loaf of white bread with a chewy interior.  The bread is usually made from flour, salt, yeast and water.  It is made in many different shapes.
Genus-------A taxonomic category that ranks below family and above species.  The genus of our (Fleishman) yeast is Saccharomyces.  (This means sugar eater.)
Gluten-------A protein in wheat flour that is created when the flour is mixed with water.  The two proteins gliadin and glutenin combine to form gluten through disulfide links.  When the bread dough is kneaded, it becomes an elastic web that traps the carbon dioxide produced by the yeast (or chemical reactions, in quick breads).  The more the gluten is developed, by handling the dough, the chewier the bread is.  This is why it's so important when making pastry not to handle the dough too much.  If you did, you would get tough pastry instead of flaky pastry.  When baking sourdough bread, however, it's important to fully develop the gluten.  Wild yeasts don't always produce a whole lot of carbon dioxide, and you want to be sure that none of it that is produced is lost.  Yes, this means that the bread is chewier than the commercial bread you buy in plastic bags, but that can only be an improvement.  Using bread flour, which has more gluten than all-purpose flour, which in turn has more than pastry flour, is important, if you want your bread to rise well.
Grain Mill -------Machine designed to grind wheat and other grains to make flour.
Grigne-------When the dough is slashed just before baking, the slash, or score is made at an angle, lifting up an “ear”.  The under part of this is lighter in color and shows webbing of the crumb. “As the loaf bakes, it will spring in the oven, releasing some of the trapped gas through the weakest points, the cut points, causing the loaf to open in what the French call la grigne, or "the grin", and we call the bloom." (Peter Reinhart, Bread Baker’s Apprentice)
Grundsauer -------A German term for the second stage of leaven elaboration of German sourdough.
Hard Wheat -------Wheat, generally grown in northern climates, that is especially suited to bread making because of a high level of the wheat protein, gluten.
Herman Starter -------Is a colloquialism (of unknown origin) for a honey- or sugar-sweetened starter used primarily for sweet bread.  It should be refrigerated and can be stored this way indefinitely as long as it's replenished every 2 weeks.  Before using or replenishing, it should be brought to room temperature.  If a starter turns orange or pink and develops an unpleasantly acrid odor, undesirable bacteria have invaded it and the mixture must be discarded.  Two cups of the foamy starter mixture can be substituted for each package of yeast called for in a recipe.  From THE FOOD LOVER'S COMPANION, 2nd edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst.
Honey-------Natural sweetener made by honeybees from the nectar of flowers.  The nectar is ripened into honey by the inversion of the disaccharide sucrose into the monosaccharides levulose (fructose) and glucose with the reduction of the water content.  Besides fructose (38%) and glucose (31%), there is the disaccharide, maltose (7%) and a residual of sucrose (1%).  Honey is slightly acidic, pH ~4, and contains about 17% water. 
Hooch or Refrigerator Hooch-------Hooch is the same as refrigerator hooch.  When the starter goes quiet (this tends to happen faster in the refrigerator, whence 'refrigerator hooch') the mixture separates, with the liquid rising to the top.  You have a layer of flour with miscellaneous yeast and bacteria and a layer of water with a touch of alcohol (hence 'hooch') and other fermentation byproducts.  Some bakers pour it off or stir it back into the starter.  Mix the hooch in with the layer of flour when you feed your starter otherwise you will change the water/flour ratio of your starter.
Hot Cross Buns -------A traditional yeast-raised bun usually containing raisins, currants or chopped dried fruit, made for Good Friday-------It is slashed with a cross and confectioners sugar icing is put over the cross after baking.
Hydration-------This is the ratio of the weight of water to the weight of flour expressed as a percentage.  At 100% hydration, there are equal weights of water and flour.  Assuming a cup of flour weighs 4 1/4 ounces and a cup of water weighs 8 ounces, then with equal volumes of water and flour, the dough has 188% hydration.  (100x8÷4.25=188.23)  American style bread dough is about 60 to 62% hydration, French style bread dough between 62 to 65%, and Italian style (ciabatta) bread dough 65% and up.  Dough containing bran (e. g. whole wheat flour) usually has a higher hydration than one that does not contain bran.  Rye bread also usually has a higher hydration.
Incubate-------In context here, to allow a starter to sit in conditions which favor the growth of its microorganisms.
Inoculate -------In context here, to introduce microorganisms (or a substance upon which or in which microorganisms exist) into a mix of flour and water in order to cultivate the microorganisms.
Inoculum    In context here, what is used to inoculate a fresh mix of flour and water, such as an amount of existing starter or bits of fruit, vegetables, spices, or water containing desirable microorganisms.
Instant Yeast-------Instant yeast is a specially processed form of Active Dry Yeast that can be mixed into a dough dry (rather than dissolved) and reduces rising time up to 50 percent.  It was developed in the 1980s.
Italian Bread-------A simple bread similar to French bread but typically shorter and plumper.  It is typically made from four, salt, water, and yeast.
Invertase-------An enzyme that aids in the hydrolysis of sucrose into glucose and fructose.  It is found naturally in yeast.
Kamut-------A variety of high protein wheat that has been used in bread baking, pasta and cereals.  It is considered one of the original strains of wheat used in ancient times for bread making.
Kasha See buckwheat.
Khachapuri-------A Russian bread similar to a calzone, it is filled with cheese and baked until the dough is done and the cheese is melted.
Knead-------Kneading is a process that develops and strengthens the gluten in dough.  It's important to knead bread dough well in order for it to rise well, assuming that the bread in question isn't a quick bread.  To knead dough flatten into a disk shape, fold it toward you, using the heels of your hands, push dough away with a rolling motion, turn dough a quarter turn and vigorously repeat the fold, push, turn steps.
Kolacky-------A sweet bun claimed by Poles and Czechs.  It is filled with poppy seeds, nuts, mashed fruit, or jam.
Kuchen    Fruit or cheese-filled, yeast-raised cake that originated in Germany.
Lactobacilli -------These are bacteria that exist in a symbiotic relationship with the wild yeast.  During fermentation, they produce lactic and acetic acids along with CO2, creating the sourdough flavor.  Lactic acid-producing bacteria are often referred to as "friendly bacteria.”
Lactobacillus sanfranciscans -------This is a particular strain of lactobacilli that is found in the San Francisco area of California.  It's what gives San Francisco sourdough its unique taste.  Without this kind of lactobacilli, you cannot make San Francisco sourdough bread.
Lame------- A French word for a tool used to slash (dock) bread loaves.  Some of these look like a long-handled knife, others like a double-edged razor on a stick.
Leaven------- As a verb, to cause to rise.  As a noun, an ingredient incorporated into bread dough that causes the dough to rise through the release of CO2 through either a chemical process (as baking powder and/baking soda) or through a metabolic process of fermentation.
Leavener -------The same meaning as leaven.  A substance used to make baked products lighter by helping them rise.  Yeast, baking powder, and baking soda are the most common leaveners used by the home baker.
Levain -------A French word for a natural leaven mixed to a dough-like consistency.  A levain is made by adding flour and water or just flour to a "chef.”  This process is referred to as "building" or "elaborating" the next stage of the leaven.
A levain or levain bread dough is generally fermented at cool temperatures.  The firmer consistency and cool temperature fermentation of a levain promotes the development of lactic rather than acidic acids, and a bread leavened with a levain (Pain au Levain) has a rich, complex flavor and is generally not sour.
Lievito Naturale------- Classically, an Italian word for a natural leaven.  Today some Italian bakers use the terms biga and Lievito Naturale interchangeably.
Light Rye Flour-------Rye flour ground from the rye endosperm.  It does not include the bran or germ of the grain.
Liquid-------The ingredient in bread used to dissolve and re-activate dry yeast and/or mix with flour to form the gluten network.
Maltase -------An enzyme that assists in the hydrolysis of maltose into two glucose molecules.  It occurs naturally in yeast.
Medium Rye Flour -------Rye flour ground from the endosperm of the rye grain.  It has part of the germ and bran removed prior to milling.
Miche-------Large boule, 4.5 lb, 2 kg., about 4 inches thick and 12 inches in diameter.  Lionel Poilâne of Paris calls his naturally fermented country bread, miche.
Microbe, Microorganism-------In context here, microscopic organisms such as the yeast and bacteria that inhabit a culture.
Millet-------A tiny yellow seed that lends texture and flavor to breads.  Millet flour is nutritious but low in gluten.
Monkey Bread-------Bread that was formed into small balls and dipped into butter sometimes rolled in a spicy or flavorful topping, and then baked in a tube pan.
Mortar and Pestle-------A kitchen tool that consists of a bowl (mortar) and a bat-like tool (pestle) that is used to grind spices, herbs, and other foods.
Mother-------This is a batter like starter of flour and water that is unrefreshed.  See also sour.  Mother = chef - it only depends on the consistency (chef dough-like, mother batter-like).  Most people here in the US just call this starter.  Also known as mature starter.
Mother Starter-------Same as Refrigerator or Storage Starter.
Muffin-------A small cake-like bread (generally, but not always, a quick bread) made with a variety of flours, fruits, and nuts and baked in a muffin pan.  A muffin pan has a number of cup shaped depressions to hold individual portions of batter.
Naan-------East Indian flat bread, baked in a tandoor oven and leavened with wild yeast.
Nan -------See Naan
Nitrogen Packed-------Modern yeast is often packed in a nitrogen-filled bag to avoid the effect that oxygen has on the product.
Non-diastatic Malt-------Malt that has been heated above 130°F and thus denaturing the enzymes.  This malt is of use as a sweetener and flavoring.
Old Dough (Pâte Fermentée or Vielle Pate)-------A piece of final dough saved from one bake to the next.  It differs from a starter only in that it is saved after the final dough has been mixed and therefore contains salt, and any enrichments. 
Old dough can be used to leaven fresh dough.  Depending on its age it may need to be either refreshed in order to strengthen its leavening ability or additional leavening may be used along with the old dough.
Oven Spring -------The last, quick rise bread goes through when risen dough is first placed in a hot oven.
Overproof-------Bread that has risen too much.  It may not hold its dome top or shape and may develop "off" flavors.
Parbake------- This means to partly bake.  It is the process that is used in the “brown and serve” bakery products.  The product never has a chance to fully develop the flavor, and rebaking does not give the same flavor as fully baked bread.  Reheating a loaf that has been fully baked, cooled, and quickly frozen usually produces better results.
Pâté Fermentée------- The French equivalent of the Italian biga.  It is a stiff dough starter for bread made from flour, water, and yeast.  Sometimes it contains salt.  See also old dough.
Peel------- A large wooden tool used to transfer dough to and from a baking stone.
Pita -------Round Middle Eastern flat bread, leavened with yeast, is split horizontally and filled with various sandwich filings. 
Pizza-------A round savory tart made with yeast dough and covered with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and a variety of other ingredients that may include meats, vegetables, and other cheeses.
Pizza Stone-------A slab of stone used to simulate the baking qualities of brick ovens.
Polenta-------Coarsely ground, whole corn meal.  It should be refrigerated to preserve freshness.
Poolish------- A French term for a sponge, a mixture of yeast, water, and flour.  Usually a wet mixture rather than firm.  Classically the water and flour are in a 1:1 ratio by weight although in common use the term now equates to "sponge.”
Pre-ferment-------This term refers to any mix or starter that is allowed to ferment and build its leavening ability prior to being incorporated into final bread dough.  This includes a yeasted or a naturally leavened sponge, a biga, a levain, a barm, a batter-like starter, old dough, etc.  However, some preferments do not have yeast or other leaven, but the flavor of the bread is still improved due to the action of the natural occurring enzymes in the flour.  A pre-ferment contributes leavening and flavor to bread by allowing the dough longer periods of fermentation that enhances the texture and flavor of the bread.
Proofing -------The term proof in bread baking has two meanings -- one having to do with yeast and the other having to do with dough.  1) Yeast is proofed in water and a small amount of sugar to determine whether it is active before using.  Fill a small glass with 80 to 100° F water (subtract the amount used from the recipe), add 1/2 teaspoon sugar for each tablespoon of yeast, and mix until combined.  Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the water and whisk again.  If active, the yeast should begin to foam and swell in 5 to 10 minutes.  If it doesn't, it's time to throw it out.  If it does, it's safe to proceed with the recipe; 2) Proofing also denotes a stage in the rising of the dough.  After its first rise, the dough is punched down and shaped in its final form.  It is then set out for its final rise, known as "proofing.”
Proofing the Starter-------To proof a starter, you take a portion of it out of the refrigerator and feed it for 8 to 24 hours to get a foamy "proof" that the yeast are active.
Protease -------An enzyme that aids in the hydrolysis of proteins including gluten.  A little of this process is beneficial and will soften the dough making it easier to knead.  Too much of this action will destroy too much of the gluten.  It occurs naturally in wheat and in milk.
Pueblo Bread -------This bread, which originated in Native American communities, is made with unbleached flour, salt, water, yeast and lard or shortening (sometimes sugar or eggs) and baked in an adobe oven.  A hot fire is started in the oven and allowed to burn out.  The bread is baked in the hot ashes.
Pullman Pan------- A Pullman pan is a loaf pan with a lid that slides across the top to seal the dough inside.  The dimensions are usually 13x4x4 inches.  The bread is generally compact since it is trapped within the pan.  It makes good slicing bread for sandwiches.
Pumpernickel Bread -------Heavy dark bread made with a high proportion of rye to wheat flour and frequently with molasses to add color and flavor to the loaf.
Pumpernickel Flour-------A coarse rye flour ground from the whole rye grain.  It bakes into a dark loaf and is best suited to rustic black breads and dark pumpernickels.
Quick Bread------- Any bread product leavened with a chemical leaven (baking soda and an acid, such as buttermilk, or baking powder) rather than yeast.  This category includes muffins, biscuits, popovers, pancakes, and the like.
Quick-Rise Yeast------- An "instant" yeast produced by Fleischmann's in Canada and sold in Canada.  It is designed for dry mix methods of baking but can be used in any method.
Rapidmix Yeast-------A yeast produced by Fleischmann's Yeast and sold in Canada.  It is similar to Fleischmann's Active Dry Yeast sold in the United States; however, it is somewhat more finely granulated so that it can be mixed directly with dry ingredient.
Rapidrise Yeast------- An "instant" yeast produced by Fleischmann's Yeast and sold in the United States.  This yeast is suited to the quick, one-rise mix method of making yeast breads.
Refrigerator Dough------- A dough that is not kneaded and is similar to a batter bread except it is risen in the refrigerator.  During this time, the flour absorbs the liquid to form a batter/dough.  The refrigerator dough makes a soft textured, light bread.
Refresh-------"Feeding" a starter, adding nutrients in the form of flour and water to reactivate the starter and bring its leavening and flavoring microbes to peak levels of activity.
Refrigerator (or Storage) Starter------- A starter that is stored in the refrigerator most of the time and is taken out, refreshed, and fully activated prior to mixing final bread dough.
Relax------- When kneading bread, the gluten can get very stiff.  By allowing the dough and the gluten to relax for a few minutes, it becomes easier to knead the bread, and the risk of tearing the gluten is reduced.
Retard-------Place the dough into a refrigerated space to stop or retard the fermentation.  This improves the crust, structure, and the flavor of the bread.  This also gives the baker scheduling flexibility allows him to bake when it is convenient, and, more importantly, improves the flavor and structure of the bread.
Rise-------A stage in the process of making yeast breads where the dough is set in a warm, draft-free place for a period of time (usually an hour or so) while the yeast ferments some of the sugars in the dough, forming carbon dioxide.  This causes the bread to grow.  A rising period usually lasts until the dough doubles in size.
Room Temperature -------For sourdough breads, a room temperature is usually 70 to 80 degrees F.
Salt Rising Bread------- A bread that was traditional before modern yeast made with a fermented mixture of cornmeal, salt, sugar, flour, and water.  It is smooth textured and has a tangy flavor and aroma.
Sauerteig-------A German term for sourdough.
Savarin-------A large rum-soaked yeast cake baked in a ring mold and filled with pastry cream, crème chantilly, or fresh fruit.
Savarin Pans-------A special ring mold used for making a savarin. 
Scald-------Heat liquid to just below the boiling point, 190°F.  Scalding denatures enzymes in milk that help breakdown protein (e.g. protease) or starch (e. g. amylase).  Un-pasteurized milk needs to be scalded prior to baking with yeast.  Many bakers believe all milk should be scalded before being used in yeasted doughs. 
Slack Dough-------A dough that contains more liquid than the more firm and elastic doughs, that is, it has a high percentage of hydration.  The bread produced has a more open structure and is typical of artisan breads.
Slashing, Scoring, or Docking    Cutting the top of a loaf to allow for expansion of the bread while in the oven.  This allows the loaf to bloom as it goes through oven spring at the beginning of baking.  It also allows the crust to have more crisp folds of dough and lends aesthetic appeal to the loaf by the design of the cuts.
For a tutorial see:
Slow Rise------- A method for bread baking that uses several slow rises at room temperature.  Fans of this method say it allows for the most flavor development in the bread.
Soft Wheat------- A general term for varieties of wheat that contain relatively small amounts of gluten.
Sorbitan Monostearate-------An emulsifier used in yeast manufacturing to aid in the drying process. Sorbitan monostearate protects the yeast from excess drying and also aids in the rehydration of the yeast cells.  It is also found in many other commercial products.  It is considered safe and can aid the body in fat absorption. 
"Sour"    A mother that has been refreshed with flour and water.  As a noun, a starter used to build a sour-flavored bread dough, commonly used in commercial baking, for instance a "rye sour.”
Sour Bread------- A bread dough that has an acid pH and a sour flavor caused by either natural leaven fermentation (sourdough) or through the addition of souring agents such as yogurt, vinegar, or various souring salts, e.g. citric acid.  Sour bread is only sourdough bread when it has been leavened by a sourdough (natural leaven) culture of wild yeast and lactobacilli.
Sourdough Bread------- that has been leavened by a sourdough starter.  Sourdough bread may or may not have a sour flavor depending on the acids produced by the specific strains of lactobacilli that are involved in the fermentation process.  Sourdough bread is not necessarily sour bread, although it can be.
Sourdough Starter-------A stabile culture of natural yeast and lactobacilli maintained over time, propagated, and continued for the purpose of leavening.
Sour salt-------Citric acid
Species-------A group of taxonomic classification consisting of organisms that can breed together.
Spelt-------An ancient wheat variety, native to Southern Europe.  It can be used in equal quantities to replace wheat flour in recipes.
Sponge -------A pre-ferment of a wet rather than firm (dough-like) consistency.  A mixture of only part of the bread's ingredients, generally all the water and part of the flour, plus a yeast type leaven.  The ingredients are mixed prior to the final bread dough and allowed to ferment anywhere from a few minutes to 24 hours (or more).  Used to improve the flavor and texture of bread dough and to build leavening strength, meaning better flavor, and better rising - up to a point.  If a sponge ferments too long it will create bread that's so sour that it tastes bad, and won't rise properly.
Starter-------A mixture of flour and water, as in a sourdough, or also incorporating a culture of wild yeast and lactobacilli, called a sponge, used as leavening in the final dough.  The term generally refers to either batter-like or dough-like consistency mixes that are retained from one activation or bake to the next.  Some starters also contain potatoes, milk, yogurt, fruit, and many other things.  I personally haven't tried to use those.
New Starter: Any starter started from any dry source (commercial or homemade) that has not yet qualified as "fresh starter.”  This is not the same as "old" or "dead" starter, because these two conditions do not generally follow the same sequence of recovery stages.
Fresh Starter: Starter that has been recently demonstrated to be vibrant and active.  Starter in this category can raise plain white (French or white bread) dough to a "more than doubled" volume in less than 2 1/2 hours after a single proofing (feeding) period, i.e. remove the starter from the refrigerator and proof once, then try using it.  Starter that has been refrigerated for less than 5 days or so that was "fresh" before refrigerating is also fresh starter.
Old or Dead Starter: Starter which has been previously demonstrated to be "fresh" but which is no longer fresh since it cannot be demonstrated that it can raise dough after a single proof as described above.  Risings that take longer than 2 1/2 hours indicate a starter that is either "new" or "old" depending on the prior life history of the starter.  Note that in very nearly all cases of "old" or "dead" starters, that they can be revived back into "fresh" starters using the techniques described below.  I have heard of starters that haven't been fed for six months being successfully revived using the given technique.
Non-Standard Starter: Starter that contains ingredients other than wheat flour and plain water.  Some starters do use blends or alternative flours, and that's ok.  Some starters use other ingredients such as a spoon of sugar (ok, but not suggested).  Some starters also use alternative liquids such as potato water or milk.  These would all be labeled 'Non-Standard Starters' in this document.
Polluted Starter: Starter that contains ingredients added by you or by nature, which are not normal to your starter.  Examples include baking powder, salt, oils, eggs, or any other baking ingredients.  Also, molds and other dark-colored microorganisms not normal to the natural symbiotic relationship that your starter normally maintains.  These other microorganisms usually affect appearance, smell, and (especially) flavor.  Normal ingredients are flour(s), water, potato water, or potatoes, and possibly milk or milk products.  Ingredients other than flour and water change the habitat you are maintaining for your sourdough microorganisms and may or may not be wanted according to the characteristics you want your starter to exhibit.
Straight Dough-------A single step method of mixing a dough in which all the ingredients are mixed into a single batch and mixed to develop dough.
Stretch and Fold (S&F)-------A means of developing gluten without the usual kneading process.  It involves stretching out the dough by pulling the sides out and then folding it back on itself as in folding a letter; then folding the dough, letterwise, in the other direction.  Repeat this 3 or 4 times with half hour waiting periods in between.
Strain-------A sub group of a species in taxonomic classification that has a common ancestor with distinctive characteristics but is not different enough from other organisms to be a separate species.
Sweetener-------Any food that adds a sweet flavor to foods.  This group includes natural sweeteners such as sugars, corn syrups, honey, molasses, and the like, as well as the artificial sweeteners.  Yeasts ferment natural sweeteners to raise bread.  Artificial sweeteners cannot be fermented by yeast.
Teff Flour------- Teff is the smallest of grains and therefore has a high ratio of bran and germ.  Teff flour has been used in Ethiopia for centuries and has recently been grown in Idaho for the American market.
Thwack-------The hollow sound of a perfectly baked loaf just out of the oven.
Traditional Active Dry Yeast-------Active dry yeast produced by Fleischmann's in Canada.  This yeast should be dissolved before using for best results.
Unbleached Flour-------White flour without bleaching or aging agents added to hasten the aging process.  This flour whitens as it ages.
Underproof-------Under risen.
Unleavened-------Bread or dough product containing no yeast or chemical leaven.

msbreadbaker's picture

I have one question, did you type all of that information into this thread? What a great amount of info, but how much time did it take? And it is so neat. Thanks, Jean P., (VA)

xx's picture

Wow. Thanks Ford. Fantastic build on the glossary.
Next question, how to get this into the main glossary!

Very helpful. (note a couple of markup bugs? Especially the url? Search for 'Peter Holmsten'. Looks like base64.


Ford's picture

I thought I had corrected this one, BUT --  Peter Holmsten reference, for some unknown reason, will not reproduce here!    This is found under "dry scalding".   I will give it one LAST try.  Peter Holmsten (  via  bakingfun@mail,   )

I once took a course in accounting, because I wanted to understand what my accountants were telling or asking me.  They were not going to learn my language (science, especially chemistry).  I had to learn their language!


PS:  I had to rewrite this reference in this note, because it was jumbled when I pressed "Save".

Ford's picture

I did at one time type it all into the personal cookbook that my wife and I wrote.  However when I tried to "copy" and "paste" on to the note here. it did not work so well and I had to do a lot of editing to make it readable.  I still missed a few corrections.  Please note, Dave, that the words "copy" and "paste" are "jargon" for the computer "geeks."


EvaB's picture

but for me bannock is made with flour and water and a little lard or bacon grease, maybe some soda and cream of tarter or baking powder. Its made like biscuit dough without the fancy cutting in process (bacon grease is more liquid and you can sort of just stir it in) and then turned out and shaped and cooked on the stovetop or over a bed of coals in a campfire, in a cast iron frying pan (or my brother used to do it on a camp stove with a teflon pan) and carefully turned to bake the other side. My mother made them for quick bread when the oven quit in the stove we had. Ate lots of it, not specially thrilled with it but its a taste of home. I prefer baking powder biscuits.

G-man's picture

And that's why a one-size-fits-all glossary doesn't seem practical for experienced bakers. There are so many terms, and even those terms mean different things to different people!

A baker's dictionary seems appropriate, but that would have to look something more complicated than a regular dictionary, with cross-referencing and everything since different words mean different things to different people in different contexts! Quite the undertaking.

EvaB's picture

this list made 12 pages in my word programme! So if you typed it by hand, hope your fingers have recovered!

Salilah's picture

Ford - that is the most amazing list - thank you so much!!

Ford's picture


You are most welcome.  I will happily send a copy as attachment in Microsoft Word format by e-mail should you or anyone  request it.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

that simple. 

Yerffej's picture


I am in total agreement with you as I often encounter these abbreviations that are puzzling and I am not new to the baking world.  Using complete words just works so well.


clazar123's picture

How else would we get a fresh perspective on ourselves! I often have to look terms up. Even if I look something up in one source, there is no guarantee that it fits what the poster was talking about. Being a world-wdie forum, there are many terms used never heard before in another part of the planet. Don't be afraid to ask but don't get too impatient! There are strings of posts that are lovely conversations starting with terminology. It becomes clear how difficult communication can be until a common ground is found but sometimes that takes work and that is the real beauty of this forum! Our common passion is all things bread-whether it is made with levain,yeast,starter or sourdough! Or how about WW,wholemeal,whole wheat,atta,strong flour,bread flour,AP,soft or hard flour,maida? The important thing is not feeling excluded but interested in continuing the conversation.

Have delicious fun!


xx's picture

Yes. Point well made Clarar.

I guess the list will be never ending, but each journey begins with ... etc?


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

bread baking experience.   

                So... go bake a loaf of bread no matter how small.   I suggest using all purpose wheat flour (AP) because most conversations will somehow be compared to that standard.  Fluffier than...  drier than...  wetter than... more absorbant than...  darker than...  healthier than...  etc.   

Vocabulary is one aspect, method is another and we spend a great deal of discussion on just how  flour, water and leavener are  combined to reach a desired outcome or particular bread.  There is no one particular bread or method that works perfectly for every flour, every person,  every oven and every taste bud.   That would make bread baking far to simple.  There are some bread basics but the variables, the things that change from house to house and country to country are the joy of this site much to the frustration of the home baker.   Frustration might even be damaging if discussion could not ensue.    The exchange of problems and ideas and experiments has always made up the bulk of the site.  If one thing doesn't work... try another.  There is always something more to learn.  So...

Never be afraid to jump over that road block in your journey through life, be it a bread block in a baking journey or anything else.    

GregS's picture

Just a few more that might puzzle beginners:

KA----Can refer to King Arthur brand flour, popular with American bakers; or KitchenAid, a substantial (and substantially expensive) mixer brand.
BBA----The popular book The Bread Baker's Apprentice, by Peter Reinhart
"Hamelman"----Jeffrey Hamelman, author of Bread, A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes
S&F----"Stretch and Fold" a way to strengthen the gluten in doughs with high hydration. Videos on You Tube.
Tartine---{ can somebody fill this in? I'm not up on it.}

We do need a quick way to jump to a list like Ford's encyclopedia above. Great work!

xx's picture

And a starter for ten with TLA's. Great.

Another post today
"Rather than using preferments (that always made matters worse for me) I prepared a straight dough with this ingredients:"

What's a preferment please?


pmccool's picture

A preferment is a small amount of dough that is mixed (usually contains flour, water, yeast but may also include other materials) some time prior to mixing the final dough for the bread.  The standing time for the preferment from initial mix to inclusion in the final dough may be as little as an hour to as much as a day or more, depending on temperature and other factors.  The pre-fermented dough is then mixed with the final dough ingredients and the entire mass is allowed to ferment.  The primary objective of a preferment for most bakers is additional flavor.  A preferment can also improve (increase) the extensibility of the final dough, when compared to an identical dough made without a preferment.  It can also reduce the amount of yeast required in the final dough because the preferment is, in essence, a yeast farm.

Different types of preferments include:

- Biga: an Italian term for a stiff dough preferment.  Maybe made with either commercial yeast or natural yeast (biga naturale - think sourdough).

- Levain: a French term for a preferment that may range from a soft dough to a thick batter to a thin batter, depending on hydration levels.  More often refers to a preferment made with natural yeast but can also utilize commecial yeast.

- Sourdough: a preferment made with a culture of naturally occurring (as opposed to commercially produced) yeasts and bacteria which is maintained by the baker to provide leavening and flavoring for the bread.  Essentially the same as a levain, with a different name.  You often see references of "building" a starter from a small quantity of the seed/mother/chef/storage starter to achieve the required quantity by feeding the small quantity (sometimes called inoculant) with flour and water.

- Sponge: typically a thick to very-thick batter consistency preferment, more often leavened with commercial yeast.

- Old dough (pate fermentee, in French): a portion of dough that is saved from a previous bake and used to leaven the next batch.  Since it contains salt from the final dough, it typically ferments at a slower rate between bakes than the generally unsalted preferments listed above.

I hope that helps.


xx's picture

Thanks Paul.
Nother new term :-)

Not a 'starter' then? Or another term for the same thing?

I'm now curious whether your use here (the stuff to add to
the main bread mix (flour water sugar... ) is in addition to, or as a replacement for, yeast, since it seems as lively as yeast?


pmccool's picture

And I'm just as guilty as the next party.  Mea culpa.

Anyway, no, a starter and a preferment are two different things.  In the US and Canada, the term "starter" generally refers to the sourdough culture which is continuously maintained to leaven successive batches of bread.   A preferment, on the other hand, is a dough (you may even see the term pre-dough being used) that is prepared in advance for eventual inclusion in the final dough of a single batch of bread, without regard to the source of leavening.  However, you will see any number of bakers utilize the word "starter" when they refer to other things, including preferments made with commercial yeast.  And that leads to confusion. 

Although the term "preferment" could be a bit awkward (one might think that you are speaking of a preference), I like the fact that it is neutral regarding the source of leavening.  If I sprinkle in some commercial yeast, or if I stir in a blob of sourdough starter, the resulting preferment is still a preferment. 

The answer to your second question is "both".  The preferment may be the sole source of leavening for the final dough.  Or, additional yeast may be included in the final dough, over and above the yeast that is already in the preferment.



xx's picture

Thanks Paul. I can see those two being quite readily mixed up! The real nit picker (Mmmm me?) would then start to define something and say 'US based' or Canada based!

So the preferment may come from your starter, may be the sole rising agent, or may be combined to form a part of the rising agent for a bake!

[Heck, I even start to become suspicious of 'yeast' now, since some bacterialogical base could have arisen from grape skins or (almost) any other natural source :-) ]

The mist clears... a little.


G-man's picture


I think perhaps a better way to refer to yeast would just be to use the word "leaven". Most bread recipes, it seems to me, can be made with different types of leavening as long as the procedure is modified to account for the differences in how the types of leavening react. You're right to be suspicious of "yeast" in my opinion :)

Terminology is always a little confusing and will probably stay that way forever. Baking is a fairly arcane science to begin with. To complicate it further, every baker has their own quirks and habits, and those who teach others pass on those quirks. I've been reading TFL for well over a year, much longer than I have been posting, and there are still some terms that I'm not clear on. TFL is a rich resource, but we also have our own terminology and methods that aren't necessarily widely adopted outside this forum and its regulars.



Salilah's picture

This got me for a while - Extra Virgin Olive Oil!

xx's picture


A small opening
oven venting
double letter folds
open crumb
0.6% yeast
" I must shape tighter"
skinning over
a couche

And that's just from one post on the forum!

I could make silly comments, but I shall resist... yes.


Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Hardly, I suppose.

In Germany I did part time kitchen fitting for some years.

Having moved to the UK I went to a plumbing shop to get some basic fittings - no chance. I couldn't express myself.

When you go to a big DIY market to buy stuff they have leaflets that explain to you what it is you want.

Entering this site is to some extent like going into that plumbing shop - jargon all around, because there are hundreds of tools and techniques. It's important to aquire some of the language if the trade, otherwise you'll never get that sink connected.

And most "customers" have probably picked up a leaflet in form of a book at some time - I can recommend Dan DiMuzio's Bread Baking - An Artisan's Perspective. Somewhat technical, but great recipes and a huge glossary.

The recipes are free for download on Wiley's website.

Looking forward to seeing you use the jargon!


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

In need of a trip to the library to check out a basic baking book.  I would like to hear about or see your first bread loaf!   I get the feeling you came here more to edit critique language than to bake bread.  Sorry, I don't mean to offend.  Yes, I know we are all writing here, but it's just the way you're coming across.  

xx's picture

That would be in 1971. We spent fifty UK pounds on a Kenwood Chef and spent twenty years making bread for our family.
Just bread. Loaves, buns. White.

No criticism intended.
Once I'm using the jargon I won't be in a position to pick it out as esoteric?


Chuck's picture

From a newbie's point of view, I remember how at first trying to "understand" all this stuff wasn't a whole lot of fun.

But from the different point of view that I have now: If I tried to write a decent post without using any of those terms, it would either be completely incomprehensible to anyone, or be far too long and wordy for anybody to read (or maybe both).

I don't like the term "jargon" because it mixes up two different things.

  1. One is specific terms for that area. Some kind of reasonably short, widely accepted terminology is necessary for communication. That's why for example waitresses assign numbers to all the tables in a restaurant - it would be slow and cumbersome and inaccurate to try to say something like "the table second from the end by the front window". Saying "table 3" is a lot shorter and more accurate.
  2. The other is obscure language used by some professionals to exclude everybody else. For example when physicians converse they might talk about a "cerebral infarction", leaving me to wonder what the heck is going on. Why can't they call it a "stroke" like everybody else?

To me, the second is distasteful and should be denigrated. If there's a more convenient, clear, more universally understood way to express something, by all means everybody should use it, and those that don't should be called to account.

But the first is just the price of admission. If you can't suggest a replacement wording that's equally clear and brief, learn the word everybody else uses. Learning baking language is sort of like learning Swahili - one shouldn't expect to understand everything right off the bat.


xx's picture

" If you can't suggest a replacement wording that's equally clear and brief, learn the word everybody else uses. Learning baking language is sort of like learning Swahili - one shouldn't expect to understand everything right off the bat."

No problem with that. That's what I was asking for in my first post.

Where would you expect to have that [insert your own term if you don't like jargon] collated if not on such a forum as this?

Swahili, Accountancy, Software. Any arena has it's own jargon for just the purpose you say.

Seems the price of admission here is to accept the position of newbie without assistance.
I'll try elsewhere.


G-man's picture

You've been given a few posts full of terms you can read through at your leisure. If that isn't enough, google is an amazing resource and any term we use here is very likely to appear elsewhere, if not in precisely the same context then similar enough to infer any additional meaning. Many of us have answered your questions regarding specific terms and nobody is saying it's time to stop asking.

The problem is that you don't seem willing to meet anyone halfway. There is no confirmation of understanding, just more (increasingly insistent) demands for information.

I don't mean to sound as though I'm being hostile, and I hope you don't take this post as such. I am genuinely interested in helping you. What more we can do to make these forums more available to you or to let you know that we're on your side?

varda's picture

of these terms are defined in a good, modern bread baking book like Hamelman's Bread.   Perhaps you could buy it or take it out of the library and after you've put in some time learning modern bread baking vocabulary you would be able to get more out of this forum.    That's what I did a year ago and it worked just fine.  -Varda

Salilah's picture

My OH (other half) laughs at me as most of my learning (baking bread, cooking in general, growing veg) comes from books - I'm a book addict (though not as bad as one lady on the BBC Baking competition who I think said she had 700 cookery books!)

I've found a few books (BBA defined above, La Brea Sourdough, Dan Lepard's Handmade Loaf) have really helped in terms of understanding some of the technical terms - for example, over-proofing to me is not really "jargon" as such, it's more understanding part of the process of learning about making bread, that sometimes it will end up like a cowpat!

I've also at times found some posts confusing - to be honest, though, I just assume it is that I need to learn more, and I use the search, google etc to see what else I can find out. And yes I love Hamelman's Bread book - great for a technical explanation! I also think most posts here (especially the blogs) really give good examples of how others go about what they do, and I'm learning so much - thanks and thanks again TFL!

HeidiH's picture


As a relative newbie, duffer, approximate cook, I've found y'all very helpful and welcoming.

'Nuff said.

highwaymanco's picture

what a great conversation...

as a newbie to bread (I have wanted to bake bread most of my life and just now have arrived at a place where i could do that)

i am checkin this site regularly...

(learnin a ton on each visit and lookin up "the jargon" a part of learnin)

mark twain...paraphrased

["if God had meant us to do more talking than listening...he'd have given us two mouths and only one ear"]

that said...

it is a new generation that expects immediate gratification and everything "put i a pan FOR them"...sorta speak

again...enjoyin this place immensely !!!

G-man's picture

As a member of the "new generation" raised with information (via internet) at my fingertips, I find that searching for myself generally gets my questions answered faster and more to my satisfaction than demanding someone else tell me what the answer is.

It's how I found this forum.

I'll put it in the pan for myself, thank you. :)

highwaymanco's picture

i began fly fishin and fly tying at the age of six...

i learned thru a old gentleman (sage of the sport)


and experience (lots of trial, error and successes)

i am not sure

i could have learned from a forum and all the acronyms...woulda been very frustrating (to a point)

that said...

WF always was a weight forward line


BWO always was a blue-winged olive