Notes, Abbreviations, etc.


I've used this site primarily for my own reference, but I've been asked to elaborate on my abbreviations a few times, so here's a list of the notations I've used. I hope I covered them all, but I'll add to this post as necessary.

Click through for the details.

ST: starter (I use this to note that I used the sourdough culture directly)
LE: leaven/levain (fresh/young leaven made specifically for each loaf - more notes below)

Y: packaged dry yeast (those little satchels you buy at the supermarket)

WA: water
SA: salt

W: white flour
SP: spelt flour
WM: wholemeal flour
RY: rye flour

Terms & Usage:

sourdough: Americans have a funny relationship with this word, since most of us have been raised only eating one sort of sourdough - which is a sour, white bread we associate with San Francisco. wheat, white, dark, light, rye, spelt, pumpernickel, and so on.. all of it can be sourdough. What makes it a sourdough bread is that you use natural/wild yeast as your leaven (i.e. not baking powder or commercially produced yeast - that includes both dry granules and that cheese-like "fresh" yeast you get at fancy markets). So you'll see a variety of breads which I'll call different things on this blog, but chances are it's a sourdough loaf.

starter: my sourdough culture. technically, the starter is a leaven, but for ease of reference, I use this term to differentiate it from when I use "leaven" 

leaven: a leaven is anything that makes bread rise (sourdough starter, packaged yeast, baking powder, etc) - but that's not how I use this word in my notes. if I'm not impatient, I'll create a *young* sourdough culture using my existing starter to make bread; that's what I'm calling a leaven. This happens anywhere from 6-12 hours before I start mixing anything to create a dough. In theory, this produces a more milder, sweeter bread than using the starter itself. 

autolyse: this refers to a resting period after first mixing flour, water, and leavening agent. it refers to autolysis (self-digestion) - in the case of bread, the enzymes in flour break down the carbs and protein to help gluten development. autolysing your dough also gives it time to soak up the flour. To autolyse is to let your dough sit around for a while. I do this as long as my patience permits - generally 20 - 60 minutes. This makes the dough easier to handle and super gluten-y. yepp. 

fermentation: letting your dough rise. Generally, you just let it sit somewhere warm if you're trying to get things moving. 

bulk fermentation: the first fermentation. initial rise. 

bench rest: letting your dough sit after the first shaping (10-30min). I've read that this *relaxes* the gluten to make it easier for shaping - usually, the dough will sort of droop during the bench rest before you do a final shaping and put it away for a its last fermentation. I don't usually find that this makes it any easier to handle for the final shaping, but it doesn't hurt - mainly because it gives you an idea of the surface tension you've got in your dough (based on how much it loses form during the bench rest) and lets you adjust. For my wetter doughs I skip this step because it seems fruitless. 

note: in a commercial bakery, this step makes a lot more sense because there huge batches of dough that you need to divide, and shape into different forms before you give it its final rest. By the time you're done dividing, it's usually been about 20-30 minutes since you shaped your first loaf so you can give it a final shaping before putting it into a container for its last fermentation.

banneton/brötform/proofing basket: this is where you put the bread after it's been shaped, if you've got one. The dough sits in the banneton for its final fermentation. This both gives the bread its form (they come in different shapes and sizes) and also wicks moisture from the crust. In a pinch, use a mixing bowl or a loaf tin with some thin cloth (I think linen is preferred). Cling-film/Saran-wrap does a good job of not sticking to the dough, if you don't have a suitable cloth around. 

proofing/proving: final fermentation before baking. after this, the dough goes straight into the oven for baking. Can be anywhere from 1-26++(?) hours. More below. 

retard: this refers to the speed of the final fermentation. By storing dough at a colder temperature, the yeast development is retarded (slowed down). The longer a dough is kept in cold storage, the flavors get more complex and also more sour (because the lactic acid bacteria from your starter stays a bit more active than the yeast - it feeds on sugar and produces acid). 


A lot of what I do is heavily informed by online reading (you'll find my three favorites in the sidebar  - Apa. Faina. Sare., Tartine Bread Experiment, and Ploetzblog), trial and error, and a lot of late nights obsessively watching/smelling/poking my doughs as they fermented. And two books: the River Cottage Bread Handbook, and the Tartine book. This isn't a food blog in the traditional sense, as all my errors are on display here. Let me break down some basic stuff I do

ratios: my so-called recipes in each blog post are listed in grams (weight is always more accurate than volume) and I sometimes reference a baker's percentage or hydration percentage, which indicates the relationship between the amount of water I use relative to the amount of flour (e.g. 50g water, 100g flour would be a 50% hydration dough)

starter: mix flour and water, let it ferment. feed when it peaks. I do a 100% hydration starter, meaning I use the same amount of water and flour. when I feed the starter, I discard all but 70g - it's fed at 1:1:1 flour/water/starter. So after each feeding I have 210g of starter if I haven't been careless. A lot of people are picky about what kind of water they use to feed their starters.. I pretty much always use tap water unless I'm having trouble starting up a sourdough. In any case, i haven't read up enough to know what sort of water works best. 

note: Frankie Olives of Tartine Bread Experiment has a really great detailed post about starting your own sourdough culture, feeding it, and making a fresh leaven before baking. awesome photos over there, too. 

Hope to add to this later. Any questions?


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