June 26, 2022

Sourdough Terminology to Start

Sourdough Terminology to Start

Are you new to sourdough and wondering what on earth all these crazy words mean?   Well here's a list terminology you may come across -- and you may want to research these a bit before you dive right in!  It will make your experience significantly more enjoyable and less frustrating.

A starter is a mix of flour and water that naturally ferments. You'll refresh your starter indefinitely. When you want to make bread, feed your starter so you have enough for the recipe PLUS EXTRA. If you don't have any left your starter will be gone.  We recommend feeding your starter a ratio of 1:1:1 equal parts starter, flour and water.

Levain or Levin:
A levain is made with a small off-shoot of your starter. It's “built” to provide the dough with a starting population of yeast and bacteria. It’s an off-shoot because the levain is eventually mixed into the dough when making bread. It is always made with a portion of your starter when the starter is ripe.

Our preferred method is to use active starter directly from the jar, but you'll soon learn everyone have their own technique.

Autolyse (“auto-lease”) is a step in the baking process where only flour and water are mixed together, always at the beginning of the whole process. Not only does it initiate enzymatic activity in the dough which helps draw out sugars from the flour, but it also increases its extensibility (the ability for the dough to stretch out without tearing). some bakers skip this step, that's up to you to decide which process you prefer!

Bulk Fermentation:
This is the dough's first rise. The fermentation process during this step is critical. Fermentation continues in the main dough as bacteria and yeast (from your sourdough starter) begin to generate organic acids, alcohols, and leaven. Additionally, this is the time when you might give the dough additional strength through stretching and folding. Strength yields rise in the oven!

Proofing is typically the dough's final, or second, rise. I typically proof my dough after the final shaping for no more than an hour on my counter. Then, it goes into the refrigerator to finish with a cold proof (also called “retarding”). During this time, the divided and shaped dough continues to ferment, further strengthening the dough and leavening it.

The pattern and size of holes inside of a loaf. Artisan breads made with high hydration dough typically have an open and irregular crumb.

The ratio of water to flour by weight in a bread recipe.

Refers to the rise / height your bread gets after baking in the oven.

Stretch and Fold:
An alternative to traditional kneading used to develop gluten. This method is often used in high hydration doughs and is performed periodically throughout the bulk fermentation. The concept is to take a corner of the dough, fold it upon itself, rotate the dough, and repeat. Once all four corners of the dough have been stretched and folded, gluten development and a smooth, elastic dough are underway.

Posted in basics beginner informational