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French baking terms

leucadian's picture

French baking terms

I am attempting to read Janedo's baking blog 'Au Levain', having gotten hooked on the automatic translation that kept translating 'baguette' into 'stick' or 'wand'. I always wanted to learn French, and this seemed like a good motivation. What a treat to visit Anis Bouabsa and Patisserie Poilane. Very cool. As part of the exercise, I made a list of some baking terms. I thought I'd share them here, with the hope of getting some free proofreading and editorial comments.

Stewart  (edited with new words and pronunciation hints 9 Dec 08)

  Vocabulaire du boulanger A baker's vocabulary
  Stewart Walton   9 décembre 2008
  ajouter to add ah joo TAY
  alveolée with lots of holes ahl vee oh LAY
le apprêt second fermentation ah PREH
la autolyse autolyse, enzymatic rest auto LEES
la baguette long thin loaf, 'stick'  bah GET
le banneton basket for proofing ban net TAWN
le bâtard thicker loaf, 'bastard' bah TARD
le blé wheat blay
le bol bowl ball
la boule round loaf bool
la bouillie boiled mush boo YEE
la buée steam in the oven biew WAY (first part like view)
  chauffer to heat show FAY
le chef starter, 'chief' shef
la clé seam on shaped dough, 'key' clay
la couche dusted towel for proofing coosh
la coupe cut,score coop
  croquant crisp crow CON
  croustillant crisp crew steel YAHN
la croûte crust crewt
la cuiller spoon (not a common spelling) coo YAY
la cuillère spoon coo YAY
  cuire to cook queer
la détente rest before shaping day TAHN
  diviser to divide, cut to loaf size dee vee SAY
l' eau water oh
l' épeautre spelt ('grand épeautre) eh PAW truh
l' épi 'head' of wheat eh PEE
le façonnage shaping fa sown AHJ
la farine flour fah REEN
la fermentation fermentation  fir mahn tah SEE OWN
la ficelle very thin loaf, 'string' fee SELL
le four oven foor
le frasage simple mixing of ingredients  frah SAHJ
le frigo refrigerator free GO
le gluten gluten gloo TAN
  gonfler to rise, inflate, oven spring gone FLAY
le grigne expanded slashes on loaf green
le grignon most well baked part of loaf green YON
la huile oil we
la  humidification humidity oo mee dee FEE cah SEE OWN
la hydratation hydration heed rah tah SEE OWN
le lait milk lay
la lame blade lahm
le levain sourdough luh VAN
la levée rising, proofing luh VAY
la levure commercial yeast luh VIEW(e)R
  mélanger to mix meh lahn JAY
  mettre to put, to place met ruh
la miche large round loaf meesh
la mie crumb mee
le miel honey mee ELL
  mise en forme shaping  mees on form
le pain bread pan
la pâte dough pot
le pâton shaped dough pot OWN
le petit pain roll ptee pan
le pétrin bread trough or kneading machine pet TRAN
  pétrir to knead pet TREAR
le pétrissage process of kneading  pet tree SAHJ
la pierre stone pee YAYR
le pliage degas (stretch,  fold, or punch), 'pleat' plea AHJ
le pointage  first fermentation pwahn TAHJ
la poolish high hydration yeast starter POH lish
le rabat degas (see pliage), a hunting term  'beat the bushes' rob BAH
le seigle rye SEE gluh
le sel salt sell
le sucre sugar SUE cruh
le taux ratio, percentage tow
le torchon towel tore SHAWN
le trou hole TRUE
la vapeur steam vah PURE
  Note on my attempt at phonetic pronunciation for English speakers:
  Pronouncing these words as I have indicated will bring peals of laughter from anyone who speaks French, but they should be able to understand what you are saying. The French 'r' is hard for most Americans, so don't worry about it. Try running all the syllables together, and say the word fast. The words will sound better that way. Most of the syllables have been rendered as English words or at least something that could be pronounced with English pronunciation conventions (as if there were any). If there was no close equivalent, I resorted to the following conventions:
  ah combination is always pronounced  as in 'lah dee dah'.
  oo combination is always pronounced  as in 'boot, root, scoop'.
  uh combination is always pronounced as in 'uh, I dunno', and can be dropped at the end of a word..
  ahj combination is always pronounced as in 'fusilage garage'.
  Most 'n's in French are nasal: it's the n sound in 'long' before you say the g.
  The baking process mostly from Joe Ortiz 'The Village Baker'  
le pétrissage mixing and kneading  
la repos rest to hydrate during mixing  
le pointage first rising, also called 'première fermentation'
  Donner un tour degassing, 'give a turn', same as pliage or rabat
le pésage scaling, also 'diviser' dividing  
le détente intermediate rising, 'relaxing'  
le façonnage shaping  
le apprêt final proofing, 'preparation', also called 'deuxième fermentation'
le coup de lame slashing, 'cut with blade'  
la cuisson baking  
  I started this list in order to read Janedo's blogs on and  I have gotten lots of help from friends on the Fresh Loaf.  I used Langensheidt's French Pocket Dictionary for most of the ordinary words.
  A final disclaimer: I'm learning French. I don't speak it very well. Comments and corrections are always welcome.


Janedo's picture


Here are a few comments:

it's le pétrissage (not a big deal, but it's masculine)

Poolish is really a poolish, not a sourdough starter, it is always with yeast.

Pointage - 1st fermentation also known as première fermentation

Apprêt - 2 nd fermentation also known as deuxième fermentation

(I prefer using fermentation)

Rabat / pliage - stretch and fold or simple degassing and folding

Frasage - mixing the ingredients together to form a dough, so you get frasage of the water and flour and then the autolyse is many circumstances

Diviser - cut the dough into portions to then rest and shape

Détente - rest before shaping

Clé- the point where the dough has its seam after shaping

Buée - steam (coup de buée - a shot of steam)

Hydratation - taux d'hydratation - hydration - % of hydration

There are lots more, but these are the very usual terms.

I have decided to actually work on my blog this afternoon, so off I go! Wish me luck,


leucadian's picture

Thanks for the additions, Jane. That is what I was hoping for, because these terms don't make it into the ordinary dictionary. I've had a lot of fun comparing the English and French versions of your Au Levain blog, and learned a lot in the process, in both baking and language. I've made Anis' baguettes your way several times now, and they have been big successes.

Thanks and good luck with the writing/baking.


arzajac's picture

Hi.  I noticed a few little typos.


la   cuiliére           spoon


The accent is the wrong way on the e and there should be a second l instead of an i.


It shoud be "cuillère"


Also melanger should have an accent-aigu: "mélanger"



"mots specifiques au pain"  is missing an accent: ("spécifiques")



leucadian's picture

I edited the OP, so thanks for the comments. I'm really thick skinned/insensitive about this, so any corrections are welcome. Why are there two forms for spoon anyway? Do they refer to different objects? And what exactly is a paton? A 'grande pate'?

I had to put the accents in in Word, then I copied it to the page. How do I type them in directly?

arzajac's picture

I spent 37 years in Montréal, Québec, the world's second largest francophone city and never heard of the word "cuiller" until now.  The same goes for "pâton".  Must be what we call "french from France."

My keyboard is a multilingual keyboard because we email friends in both english and french.  It was a pain to get Dell to send us a multilingual keyboard (even though we live in Canada).  Even without the multilingual keyboard, you can set your keyboard language map in your operating system.  In general, the accented letters are to the right of the keyboard.

I'm wondering too if there is any chance you would want to add pronounciation?


Janedo's picture

I read too fast to notice details. I didn't even notice the error with "pétrisser", ha ha! There are two ways of writing cuillère but this one is the most common. The "pâte" is the dough before shaping and in general, "pâton" is after shaping and rising to be baked.



Farine's picture

It is a great idea to make a list of baking terms. It will be a big help to a lot of us.

Please note that the verb "pétrisser" actually doesn't exist. The right form is "pétrir" (to knead) which you give as well. "Pétrissage" does exist and means "the action of kneading".

All the best,



leucadian's picture

Thanks for the tip, and I agree with you after doing some more looking. Pétrisser seems to be a back formation from pétrissage. It doesn't appear in any dictionary, but there are a lot of hits for it on Google, which is why I included it in the first place. Pétrir is the correct verb.

Any other additions to the list?


Rosalie's picture

But how about some pronunciation lessons?


leucadian's picture

I edited the OP to include corrections, additions, and pronunciation. I am somewhat reluctant to offer advice on pronunciation, but I made an effort to do it ujstice without resorting to the IPA phonetic symbols. Please let me know if I've mispronounced a word, missed a typo, or misunderstood a term.

In reading my copy of The Village Baker again, I see that there is a lot of good information in there, about pre-ferments, low yeast fermentation, long kneading of wet doughs. The glossary is excellent: bassiner to add water to already mixed dough, and contre-fraser to add flour to a wet dough. Maybe I'll include more of his glossary in another update.


arzajac's picture

Here are my two cents.  Québec french is different than french from France, but I tried to be neutral.  Being from Canada, my english pronounciation may also be different from some of my friends in the US.


banneton - ban-nuh-TOW

bol - buhl

cuiller - cooey-aye

cuillère - cooey-erre

détente - day-tawn-t

farine - fahr-inn

gluten - glue-ten (A difference between english and french is the emphasis.  "Gluten "is spoken with the emphasis on the first syllable in english (GLUten) whereas in french it's on the second (gluTEN).)

huile - OO-eel or wheel

pain - pay

rabat - rah-bah

vapeur - vah-purr


leucadian's picture

Thanks for the comments. This area of pronunciation is probably a minefield that others have wisely avoided, but I'm in it now, so the only solution is to ask for help and keep on going. I do appreciate your guidance (and neutrality!).

Here are the words I think should change (spelled phonetically), based on your comment: ban net TAW, cooey YAY, cooey AIR, day TAWN t, glue TEN, wheel. The ones I'm inclined to keep as is are: ball (buhl = boule, maybe bawl would be better?), fah REEN (far INN would lose the i sound), rob BAH (rah BAH would work too, but rob is a common English word with the right sound).

My intent here was not so much to get everything precisely correct as to give people some assistance in reading a recipe even to themselves. These pronunciations will always sound like an English speaker attacking a lovely language, but at least trying.

Thanks again for the assistance.


Rosalie's picture

Stewart, I sure hope you enjoyed doing this,  That was a lot of work.  But I, for one, really appriciate it.  I have a vague knowledge of French pronunciation, but I was at a loss with many of these words.  I don't expect to be going anywhere near France to try this out, but at least I can impress myself.


leucadian's picture

Hi Rosalie,

I really did enjoy this. It allowed me to read some interesting blogs, and forced me to re-read The Village Baker, which came out in 1993. I attended a class by Joe Ortiz when he was on a book tour, and his inscription was simply 'The bread will rise!' Take a look at it if you get a chance. The glossary has detailed descriptions, not just translations, and some great interviews with European bakers.

I will update the vocabulary list periodically, so check back. Thanks for the encouragement, and good baking to you.


wlundycan's picture

Good morning/Bonjour,

For those who are as obsessive about organization as I, I have created  table summarizing all of the original post, with corrections, plus any additions that were offered. Now that I am the proud owner of three bread books en français, I've had to up my own recall of words learned over  half a century ago. FYI, the original is a Google Sheet (which I guard ferociously), so if anyone has any additions, please note in the comments and I can update it and the PDF.

Pour ceux qui sont aussi obsédés par l'organisation que moi, j'ai créé un tableau résumant l'ensemble du message original, avec des corrections, ainsi que les ajouts qui ont été proposés. Maintenant que je suis l'heureux propriétaire de trois livres de pain en français, j'ai dû me souvenir des mots appris il y a plus d'un demi-siècle. Pour info, l'original est une feuille Google (que je garde férocement), donc si quelqu'un a des ajouts, veuillez le noter dans les commentaires et je peux le mettre à jour ainsi que le PDF.