Sponge : baker’s yeast added to a mix of flour and water and fermented for several hours. Here’s some similar terms :
- Biga : italian type of sponge. It is either thick (45% to 60% hydration) or liquid and then called “biga liquida” (100% hydration). It is used in italian breadmaking such as Ciabatta.
- Poolish : originating from Poland in 1840, it was brought by bakers to France in the 1920’s. The term “poolish” comes from the old english and actually means “polish”. It is quite famous in french bread-making. It would always be 100% hydration.
- Pâte fermentée : also called “pre-fermented dough” or “fermented dough” or “old dough”, it’s a thick type of sponge commonly used in french baking. Its hydration is around 60% and the difference with the other type of sponge is that salt is added to the mix.
- Pâte fermentée viennoise : literally ” vienna fermented dough”, it’s the same mix as the “pâte fermentée” but butter is added to dough. Used in all kind of brioche and viennoiseries (croissants, vienna bread, apple turnover…).
Also called levain in French, lievito madre in Italian, masa madre in Spanish. It’s a mix of flour and water that is fermenting and fed everyday for about a week. A wild yeast called Lactobacillus is then active and ready to be used in recipes. You can use any type of flour you want, which will give a different taste according to which one you use. You can keep a starter as long as you want, some bakeries use them since generations. Older a starter is, tastier it is. Here’s different starters :
- Liquid starter : also called liquid levain in french, the mix is usually 1 for 1 or 100% hydration. It is often used in high hydration dough (70% and above).
- Stiff starter : also called hard levain, it’s a mix of flour and water, around 50 to 60% hydration. It is used for denser dough, usually containing wholemeal wheat flour or rye flour. A lot of ancient breads are using it.
Autolyse : process to mix flour and water together and let it rest for 1 hour. It will let time for the protein in the flour to get hydrated and to activate some enzymes, which will later form gluten chains. Autolyse will make a dough easier to work with, especially with wet doughs, smoother, more elastic and more flexible.
Baker’s percentage : notation method to indicate the proportion of an ingredient relative to the flour used in a recipe. For example : a dough with 70% hydration would be 700g of water used with 1kg of flour.
Dusting : the action of throwing flour on the workbench. Try not to over-dust as it will have an impact on your crust after baking.
Proving : the last fermentation after shaping. To know if a dough is proved enough, poke it and if the dough bounces back quickly, it’s not fully proved yet. If it doesn’t bounce back, it’s overproved.
Scoring : the action of cutting the dough just before baking.
Banneton : a type of basket used to prove a dough.
Baker’s couche : a hard cloth that is used to support the dough when proving. Look for 100% flax linen as it’s the best quality and won’t stick to the dough as much as cotton, usually sold on online marketplaces such as Amazon.
Lame : baker’s blade to score the bread.
Gluten : is a group of protein that is found in wheat flour and other related wheat species. This is what will give strength to the bread. I recommend using bread flour to make bread because it has more protein (12 to 14%), so more gluten.
Hydration : this is simply the amount of water used in a recipe.