Bread Baking Terms....
What does THAT mean?

Understanding some of the bread baking terms that you find in bread recipes will make baking less of a mystery. These basic (and some not so basic) bread baking terms will help get you started.

ACTIVE DRY YEAST-- The yeast preferred by most bread bakers. It may be purchased in small (one tablespoon) packets or in a larger jar in any grocery store or in two packs of one pound bags in the big box membership stores. The yeast has been dried to increase useful life. We purchase the pound bags and store it in the freezer.

ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR-- This is the general purpose white flour milled from the wheat berry. The bran and wheat germ are removed and it is whitened with a chemical process. It may be bleached or un-bleached. The un-bleached has a creamier color. This flour may not have enough gluten for best results in bread baking. ALSO SEE: Bread Flour.

BAGUETTE-- a French word for a long, thin, round loaf usually scored or slashed on the top before baking to allow the escape of gasses.

BEAN FLOURS-- are made from several types of legumes and are used to add flavor and nutrition to breads. If you try these, make sure you watch to see if extra water needs to be added to reach a proper dough consistency.

BOULE-- Another French term for a round loaf often scored with the bakers’ signature mark.

BREAD FLOUR—- is milled from high protein, hard wheat berries and is often labeled as “High Gluten.” Bread made with this flour will generally rise higher and faster, and produce a larger loaf.

BREAD MACHINE YEAST-- Vitamin-C, or ascorbic acid, is added to aid dough in stretching and is formulated to work well in the one-hour cycle of some machines.

BROWN RICE FLOUR-- is milled from the whole (brown) rice kernel in much the same way as whole-wheat flour made from wheat berries. Rice flours have different characteristics than wheat and may be particularly useful in formulating recipes for special diets and for those with food allergies.

BUCKWHEAT-- is a seed of the rhubarb family. Used primarily in pancake batter, but also in some breads to add taste and texture.

CRUMB-- is simply the inside of your loaf. Creamy in color if you are using unbleached flour and more on the white side if bleached. Crumb, in baker’s language, is not the small pieces of crumb and crust that fall off the loaf.

CRUST-- the harder crisp, golden to dark brown outside coating of your loaf gives your bread real character.

GLUTEN FREE FLOURS-- usually special diet flours that are made from plants other than wheat, barley, oats and rye. So that they will rise – expand – they are bonded with xanthan gum which produces an elastic dough that accepts the yeast necessary to building the bread structure.

GLUTEN-- is the substance that results when water is added to wheat, rye, barley and oat flours. The gluten is what makes the dough pliable when kneading and allows the formation of bubbles or air pockets in the dough allowing bread to rise.

KNEADING-- the process by hand or machine of working bread dough into a smooth and elastic state. For more information on this bread baking term see: Kneading Bread Dough

LEAVENING-- any agent in the baking process that places air in the dough and bread. Baking powder and baking soda are such agents and are used in “Quick Breads.”

OATMEAL-- both raw and cooked oatmeal are used in breads to add a sweetness and body to the crumb. Sprinkling raw oatmeal on loaf tops before baking adds an interesting appearance. Don’t try using more than a couple or a few tablespoons of oatmeal in your dough/batter because it will not fully integrate in your dough and may decrease elasticity.

PROOF THE YEAST-- means to dissolve the yeast in a little warm (not hot!) water, possibly with a touch of sugar, and let it sit until it starts to bubble. This way you know that your yeast is alive, and you haven't used too hot water.

RICE FLOURS-- are milled from the rice kernel after the rice bran has been removed. In other words, the rice is pulverized after the brown hull is taken off.

RYE FLOUR-- Although some bakers use straight rye in breads, it is usually mixed with white flour with about 25% rye and 75% white because rye flour has less gluten than wheat. However, rye does contribute to a good rise since it works well with yeast and improves texture. The rye flour used in pumpernickel is milled from the whole kernel and produces a much darker loaf. Medium rye flour is available in most large groceries. The darker rye may be harder to find, so look for it in specialty shops such as health food markets.

SEMOLINA FLOUR-- is not suited to bread making by itself. The primary use is in making pasta. Used in combination with “high gluten bread flour,” it adds a nut-like flavor and golden brown color to the crust.

SMOOTH AND ELASTIC-- this describes how the dough should feel after being kneaded. It won't be sticky and when you push on it, it will pull back into shape.

SOURDOUGH-- The term sourdough, and the breads made with it have been around for a loooong time. Perhaps as long as 10,000 years. Basically, sourdough and sourdough starters are a marvelous substitute for yeast in the bread making process. The result is a wonderful tangy taste and texture.

SOY FLOUR-- is important to people with Celiacs disease – characterized by a strong negative reaction to gluten. Small quantities of this heavy and nutritious flour are used in gluten-free breads.

SPELT FLOUR-- comes from an ancient grain and is the root of our hybrid wheats. It is high in gluten and reacts well with yeast. It can be successfully substituted for whole wheat flour in your recipes.

VARIETIES OF WHEAT FLOUR-- There are literally tens of thousands of varieties of wheat grown in the U.S. alone. The hard varieties have a high protein content and are used for yeast breads. The softer wheats are low protein and are best for cakes and pastries.

VITAL WHEAT GLUTEN-- is used in small quantities – about one teaspoon to a full cup of flour – to improve texture, volume and elasticity. Largely used by commercial bakeries, this additive is said to improve the amateur’s breads to a professional level. It is somewhat pricey, but we’ll probably try it ourselves some day soon.

WHEAT BERRY-- the kernel that is milled or ground to make flours. It is composed of the bran, germ and endosperm. We often toast wheat berries in a dry frying pan and then grind into flour for a distinctive taste and texture.

WHEAT BRAN-- is simply the outer skin of the wheat berry. It is available where special flours are sold. We find it useful to sprinkle in the hot wrought iron covered pot which we use to bake no-knead breads to prevent sticking. It is a good substitute for cornmeal for this use.

WHEAT GERM-- is the sprouting part of wheat seed and contains most of the vitamins in wheat. It is removed when making white flour. Added back in when making bread, it provides good fiber and a mild nutty flavor. Packages need to be refrigerated once opened. You can find raw wheat germ in health food stores and toasted wheat germ in supermarkets.

WHITE WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR-- this flour has most of the properties of the regular whole wheat flour on your grocer’s shelves. It has all the nutrients found in darker whole wheat but it is lighter in all respects than it’s cousin, below.

WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR-- is milled from the entire wheat berry. Many breads made from this flour are much more firm and dense than those made with white flour. It is harder for gluten (elasticity) to develop in these breads. So, a bread made entirely with whole wheat flour will seem to be dryer and less well held together. To avoid these less attractive characteristics, most whole wheat recipes call for combining white and wheat flours.

XANTHAN GUM-- Used with alternative or non-wheat, rye, barley and oat flours to make up for their deficiency of not holding moisture and tending to break down. This gum works to make up for the absence of friend gluten in the dough.

YEAST-- is a wee one cell plant that, when combined with warmth and sugar, converts to carbon dioxide gas. This is the stuff that causes bread dough to rise by forming bubbles within the gluten. The process is fermentation and will produce unpleasant results if allowed to continue for too long.

Most baking terms are used the same way regardless of the type of bread you are baking. However, some terms, such as kneading, have a slightly different meaning when baking quick breads. We note those different meanings for baking terms in that section.

If there are other bread baking terms that you would like information about, or if you have bread baking term you would like to add, please contact us on the following form.

Other Bread Baking Terms

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