Photo Credit: @eatsbread

Before you try your luck at baking a loaf of bread, it’s important to get up to speed on your bread terminology. Here’s a list of some of the most elementary, but essential, terms to understand before working through a recipe:

Gluten  – The combination of proteins that contribute, particularly in wheat flour, to dough elasticity, extensibility, and strength. Gluten’s ability to trap gases encourages loaf structure and volume.

  • Gliadin: A flour protein that provides extensibility to dough; combined with glutenin, it forms gluten
  • Glutenin: A protein, found mainly in wheat flour that provides elasticity and strength; combined with gliadin forms gluten.

Yeast – Single-cell fungus, of which there are thousands of different strains. In bread making it digest simple sugars, creates alcohol and carbon dioxide as a byproduct during fermentation.

Straight Dough or Direct Dough – Mixing method where all ingredients are added together at once, and Gluten is fully developed in one step.

Bulk Fermentation – When dough rests after mixing before dividing and shaping, allows the yeast and lactic acid bacteria to digest sugars, into carbon dioxide, alcohol, heat and organic acids.

Proofing – A term denoting the rising of bread, before or after loaf shaping.

Baker’s Percentage – Standard method of calculating the ratio of ingredients in a bread formula. The flour is always standardized to 100 percent, and each of the other ingredients is expressed as a percentage of the flour weight.

Oven Spring – The rapid expansion of in volume that occurs during the first minutes of baking, when the heat of the oven causes the yeasts life cycle to rapidly increase in speed and is then killed by the heat.

Pre-ferment – A portion of a dough’s overall ingredients that are mixed together and allowed to ferment before being added to the final dough mix. Preferments can have a multitude of benefits including, strengthening dough structure and overall flavor. Types of pre-ferments include Poolish,  Biga or Pâte Fermentée.

Levain AKA Sourdough AKA Mother AKA Starter – A culture of microorganisms often perpetuated for many generations, that contains wild yeasts and bacteria. A sourdough culture provides leavening and flavor to bread.


Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman

The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread by Peter Reinhart

Sourdough: Recipes for Rustic Fermented Breads, Sweets, Savories, and More by Sarah C. Owens

Beard on Bread by James Beard

Tartine Bread Book by Chad Robinson

Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish

Rye Baker by Stanley Ginsberg


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