Making bread and baked goods is a skilled business. Here are a few of the terms bakers use everyday, and which show the many skills and stages involved in craft baking.

Bread talk

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Flour:
Most of the flour bakers use comes from wheat but they also use flour made from other grains such as rye, spelt and barley. Bakers use their skill and experience to choose the right flours for each product. Each type of flour has a varying amount of protein (and therefore gluten) and depending on how it has been milled it will have more or less of the grain remaining. The higher the protein content, the stronger the flour and its strong flour that is used to make bread.

Increasingly bakers also use wholemeal flour – which contains 100% of the original grain, compared to white flour that is produced using about 75% of the wheat grain.

Gluten:
Many breads and other baked goods such as doughnuts, hot cross buns and teacakes rely on gluten for their light, risen texture. Gluten is formed when water is added to the flour due to the bonding together of proteins in the four. Gluten is an elastic substance that forms long chains when it is softened and stretched (kneading – see below). These elastic chains of gluten form a network that traps the carbon dioxide produced by the fermenting yeast. The higher the quality of the proteins in the grain, the more gluten the flour will contain. Strong bread flours contain up to 15% gluten.

Yeast:
Yeast is a single cell fungus that feeds on sugar to produce carbon dioxide and a small amount of alcohol. This is a type of fermentation that is critical to the rising of bread and giving it flavour. Bakers use three types of yeast – fresh, dried and ‘wild’. Understanding how yeast works is vital to successful bread and baking and can take years to master.

Working the dough / kneading:
This is when air is incorporated into the bread dough. It can be done by hand or by machine but either way it is a critical part of the bread making process.

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Proving the dough:
Once the dough has been kneaded and moulded into the required shape it is left to prove. The yeast (which is a living organism) feeds on the sugars in the flour and releases carbon dioxide which causes the bread to rise and double in size.

A starter or poolish or levain:
A starter is a fermenting dough or batter made using ‘wild yeast’, all or part of which is used to raise bread. Sour dough is the main term used to refer to breads made in this way.