Good In Bread's Sourdough Glossary

We've put together an alphabetical list of the Sourdough bread-maker's most common vocabulary for all of the bread-lovers and bread-curious minds out there. Take a look below! 

Crumb: the texture of the inside of a loaf of sourdough bread. Often based on the size of the holes produced by the carbon dioxide or the hydration levels (or lack thereof) in the loaf.

Dough: dough is a mixture of water, flour, salt and sourdough starter, that is generally stiff enough to be worked by hand. 

Elasticity: The ability of a dough to hold its shape or return to its original shape after a fermentation period. Elasticity is dependent on the level of protein or gluten in the flour as well as the amount of fermentation that has taken place. 

Gluten: A mixture of two proteins found in grains such as wheat, rye, barley, spelt, and einkorn. Gluten gives traditional breads their elasticity, trapping carbon dioxide that makes the bread fluffy and light. 

Hydration: The ratio of water to flour in a sourdough starter or bread dough. The hydration is calculated by dividing the total amount of water by the total amount of flour.

Lactobacilli: The good bacteria present in many fermented foods that produce lactic acid and which gives sourdough bread its characteristic tang. Lactobacilli are also responsible for raising the bread through the production of carbon dioxide, a by-product of the fermentation process.

Leaven / Levain: a sourdough leavening agent made from a sourdough starter. This technique is often employed to boost the yeast activity of the sourdough starter by feeding a small amount of starter a larger quantity of flour and water.

Oven Spring: refers to the final burst of expansion of a dough once it is introduced to a hot oven. At approximately 140 degrees the yeast is killed off but up until that point, a dough can expand in the oven in the first phase of baking. Many factors can impact oven spring including the length of fermentation, the gluten development, and the hydration of the dough.

Proofing: This is the final rise of the bread before it sees the oven. It generally, but not always, happens after the final shaping of the loaf.

Sourdough: A type of bread made from a natural leaven also known as a sourdough starter. Sourdough is given that tangy character by the lactobacilli present in the sourdough starter.

Sourdough Starter: A mixture of flour and water used to leaven bread that contains bacteria, yeast, and organic acids. 

Slashing/Scoring: Cutting the outside of the dough with a very sharp razor or knife just before baking. This practice accomplishes two things. First, it can be used as a decorative element on breads. Secondly, slashing is used to help a bread expand in the oven without exploding, cracking, or creating uneven bulges.