Baking Glossary

Baking tips and questions for our professional bakers


  • All Purpose Flour
    All Purpose Flour is a versatile, general-use flour, usually milled from a hard wheat or a ratio of hard and soft wheat. It can be used for making many types of baked goods, such as bread, biscuits, pizza, cookies, muffins. All Purpose Flour is often seen as the US equivalent of Plain Flour in the UK, though Matthews has a true Regenerative All-Purpose White Flour that matches the American version much more closely.
  • Endosperm
    The largest portion of a grain kernel formed of protein and carbohydrates, but only small quantities of vitamins and minerals. For many types of grain products, the endosperm is the only part of the grain that is used.

  • Granary
    Granary is a registered trade name of Rank Hovis Ltd. It is used to describe their malted wheat grain flour, which contains malted wheat flour that gives the flour a characteristic texture. Read the blog here.

  • Durum
    Durum or Semolina wheat, is a hard wheat milled specifically for making pasta. During the milling process, some of the starch content is damaged and durum wheat lacks the D-genome, as a result it produces a dough with high extensibility.

  • Crumb
    Crumb refers to the size and pattern of the holes in a loaf of bread.

  • Spelt
    Spelt is a fine, smooth ancient grain flour, which can be substituted for an all-purpose flour. It is lightweight so produces a good rise, with a distinctive flavour.

  • Rye
    Rye is a heavy, ancient grain, packed with core vitamins and minerals. It creates a dense dough, with a lower gluten content than more commonly used bread flours.

  • Germ
    Wheat germ is the embryo of the wheat kernel. It has high nutritional value and a distinctive nutty flavour and crunchy texture.

  • Rollermilled
    Rollermilled refers to the method by which the flour is milled. It is  a process used to separate the anatomical parts of grain kernels—like the bran, aleurone layers, germ and endosperm—and grind them down into fine flour particles. Instead of the traditional flat millstones, the flour is milled using 2 parallel cylinders. The flour passes through the rollers more quickly and the process is generally considered to be more efficient.

  • Stoneground milled
    The traditional method by which flour is milled, using 2 round, flat millstones. The flour is in contact with the stone for much longer than by roller milling. As a result, more of the germ and bran is in the final product, creating a heavier flour with a stronger flavour.

  • Sourdough Starter
    A fermented dough which acts as a culture to grow yeast and a bacteria called lactobacilli. It is used as a raising agent in sourdough bread.

  • Ear
    In baking, the term ear refers to the ridge in a crust created by scoring the loaf just before baking. It usually stands proud of the loaf and is darker in colour than the rest of the crust. 

  • Fermentation
    Fermentation is the chemical breakdown of substances by yeast and other bacteria, typically producing effervescence and some heat. In baking, this process is relied on to create rise in bread, as the effervescence creates bubbles which expand during baking.

  • Hydration
    Hydration is defined by the total amount of water to flour. Hydration changes the properties of the dough, with a lower hydration creating a stiffer baked good.

  • Knead
    To work the dough to create a smooth and cohesive mixture, developing the gluten structure. It can be done by hand or mechanically.

  • Proof
    Proof refers to the second rise, once the dough has been shaped into the loaf. It allows the yeast to release the CO2 created during fermentation. It is usually done right before baking.

  • Fold
    Carefully combining 2 mixtures to create a single smooth mixture, conserving and trapping air. In bread making, it specifically refers to stretching the dough and folding it back on itself. This traps air, helping the rise and encourages the gluten structure to form.

  • Score (bread)
    To make shallow cuts on the top of a loaf of bread before baking. It allows the loaf to expand and creates the ‘ear’.

  • Wholemeal, Whole wheat, Wholegrain

Terms which refer to the entire wheat kernel being ground down to make flour. To find out more, read our blog here


How long does flour last for and what is the best way to store it?

Although most people believe that flour lasts as long as you keep it, this isn’t actually true. This is because the milling process breaks down the protective barrier of the seed and all the goodness carefully protected in nature is now exposed.

Whilst it is unlikely to spoil and ‘go bad’ in a noticeable way, the shelf life of wholemeal flour can be as little as 6 months. White wheat flours are typically 12 months.

The best way to store flour is in a cool, dry place. We would advise keeping it in kilner jars, large crock pots or in the bag in a large metal bin. Any moisture that gets into the flour can cause mould to grow and then the flour is ruined. 

Can Cotswold Flour be used in a bread machine?

Absolutely! It makes a beautiful loaf no matter how you make it, but we will always be a sucker for a handmade loaf.

What is Rye flour?

Rye flour is made from Rye Berries (also known as whole rye kernels). It’s often used to make Rye bread and some other baked goods. It is known for it’s nutty flavour. It has a high fibre content so tends to create a heavy, dense crumb. This is also linked to its low glutenin content, as this prevents it from forming gluten and prevents rye from forming a stretchy, pliable dough.

Rye flour can range in colour from white to dark brown. The colour of rye flour is a result of the milling process - the more of the berry that has been removed during milling, the lighter the flour. This loss of colour also marks a loss of nutrients, as most of them are in the heavy part of the kernel.

What is Spelt flour?

Spelt is a nutty, slightly sweet all-purpose flour, milled from an ancient grain.  It is highly nutritious and often considered a healthy option, packed full of fibre with low gluten. As a result of the low gluten it can be hard to make rise, often creating quite a dense crumb. 

What is Soft Wheat vs Hard Wheat?

“Soft” refers to wheat with a low gluten content, while “hard” refers to wheat with a high gluten content. As a result, soft flours create dough with more elasticity, which tend to rise more and create a more open crumb. 

What is the difference between plain and self raising flour?

Self-raising flour already has a raising agent, and sometimes salt, added to it. Plain flour requires you to add your raising agents separately to make your bakes rise.

Can I freeze flour?

You can freeze flour, doubling it’s life. We advise storing it in sealed plastic bags to freeze and always allowing it to return to room temperature before using it for baking.


How do you make a sourdough starter?

A sourdough starter is made by mixing together flour and water in equal proportions, storing in a warm place and allowing fermentation to take place. 

The mixture must be ‘fed’ flour and water daily until fermentation has taken place. This can take anywhere between 1 and 3 weeks to happen. 

We’d advise starting with 100g flour and 100 ml water and feeding 50 g flour, 50 ml water daily. When it’s ready to start using it with have a distinctive, slightly alcoholic aroma similar to natural yogurts. It should have visible bubbles and around 3 hours after feeding it should be double the size it was before. The better you get to know your starter the better! They can live for year's and some people like to name them. 

How can I keep my sourdough starter alive?

Continue to feed it with equal parts flour and water. Most people feed it with 50g flour and 50 ml water daily.  If you’re not using it for a few days, seal the lid and place it in the fridge, and then feed it again and place in a warm place for a few hours before using again. 

If your starter is ‘growing’ faster than it’s being used you can discard some. Most bakers advocate for keeping a smaller starter (max 200-300ml). 

If a grey liquid forms on top of your starter, this is an indication that excess alcohol has been produced as a result of the yeast fermentation. It is usually an indication that the starter was ‘hungry’ because the time between feeding was too long. It is best to pour the liquid off and feed the starter again. 

I think my sourdough starter is dead, should I throw it away?
Sourdough starters are fair more resilient than often expected. Unless permanently inactive, there are still things you can do. Theses are some things to consider if you think your starter is dead:

Does it respond to feeding?

Give it a good feed and place it somewhere warm. Are there any signs of life? If not it may just be too cold. Try feeding it a couple of times and keeping it somewhere warm and it should come back to health. 

Take a smell!

A healthy starter has a distinctive, slightly alcoholic aroma. If your starter smells bad, it’s probably just producing the wrong type of bacteria. To fix a foul-smelling sourdough starter, keep feeding regularly and adjust the temperature of your starter so it’s between 25 and 34C. Give it a few days and you will see it recover.

Look at the colour 

If your starter has developed unusual colours such as blue, pink, orange or yellow, this is an indicator that it is growing mould - and it’s dead. Your safest option is to start again. 

Don’t overheat your starter!

This is one of the only ways to permanently kill it. Anything over 60C (140°F) will kill the yeast and it will become permanently inactive.

What is the best flour for sourdough?

We’d advise starting with an organic, strong white bread flour such as our organic strong white bread flour or our Churchill extra strong white bread flour as it has a high glutenin content. Get confident baking a white sourdough loaf, as the white flour tends to create an open crumb more easily.

Once you're happy you can think about adding a whole grain flour for a deeper, more nutty flavour. 

What is the ear?

In baking, the term ear refers to the ridge in a crust created by scoring the loaf just before baking. It usually stands proud of the loaf and is darker in colour than the rest of the crust. 

How do I get a perfect crust?

There are many things that can affect the crust on sourdough. Our best advice is to have fun and experiment as you bake it. 

Change the hydration of your dough

Whilst sourdough recipes can vary significantly, dough hydration anywhere up to 80% in normal. Increasing hydration can help to create a thinner, crispier crust. If that’s what you’re looking for, gradually increase the hydration. 

Use a Dutch oven

If you bake sourdough, investing in a Dutch oven is definitely worth it. It traps steam and allows the bread to expand properly before the crust hardens. Most bakers then take the lid off the Dutch oven part way through the bake to allow the crust to form. 

It is important to pre-heat the Dutch oven effectively, so that it is HOT when you put the bread in! If you don’t want to increase the hydration of your dough, you can add extra steam into the Dutch oven. To change the thickness and colour of the crust, simply adjust when you take the lid off the oven. You can also adjust the temperature of your actual oven at this point. 

Allow your bread to cool properly. 

Allowing your bread space to cool on a baking rack will help a crisp crust to form. If a chewy crust is more your thing, allow the bread to cool wrapped in a clean tea towel to trap the steam. 

Other tips include adding fat or oil  to the dough after the autolyse. This can help to soften the crust.

I am using Strong White Bread Flour for my Sourdough, but I want to start experimenting with other flavours. What would you recommend?

We would advise adding an organic, stoneground flour as the nutrients in these flours are particularly suited to a slow fermentation process. Most bakers like to keep a proportion of Strong White Bread Flour in the dough as it helps to maintain a lighter, open crumb loaf. As you add more whole grain type flours, you will need to increase the hydration of your dough as they tend to be more ‘thirsty’.  You may also need to add another turn and fold to your baking process and extend your fermentation time. 

Our favourite flours to add are our Stoneground Spelt and Rye Flour, our stoneground strong wholemeal and our trusty Cotswold Crunch. 

Does the weather affect sourdough?

Yes! Both temperature and humidity can affect the production of sourdough. The starter will be more active in a warm, humid environment, so you will generally get a better rise in these conditions. 

There are a few things you can do to compensate for sub-optimal sourdough weather. 

Be sure to keep your starter and fermenting dough in a warmer place in your house such as the airing cupboard. When your dough is fermenting, you can cover it with a damp teatowel. You can adjust the amount of starter in your dough - more starter = more yeast. 

My dough is soggy. Have I done something wrong?

First, it’s important to say, that because of it’s high hydration, sourdough does generally produce a more sticky dough than a normal bread. there are a couple of things that can contribute to it being too soggy though. The most common reason is that the dough has not been worked enough during your stretch adn fold process. Try adding another stretch and fold to your bake. 

Another factor than can affect this is your autolyse. After mixing your flour and water, allow it to sit for 60 minutes before you add any other ingredients. This allows the gluten structure to form and the flour to fully hydrate before the other ingredients are added and the stretch and fold process begins. 

If this doesn’t work, you may need to reduce your hydration. 

How long can I keep my dough in the fridge before I bake it?

For sourdough, generally a 12-15 hour fridge proof is recommended. Any longer than this and the dough will become over-proofed. This means that the dough has essentially ‘run out of food’. It will loose structure becoming slack and deflated. 

If your dough is over-proofed, you can give it a couple of extra folds and bake it without scoring (spray the top with water first) or simply turn it into a focaccia. 

Cakes and Pastry 

How does shortcrust pastry compare to puff pastry?

Shortcrust pastry is a dense, crumbly pastry usually used for pie and quiche cases. Puff pastry is a much lighter, flaky pastry, more likely to be used. 

What’s the difference between Self Raising Flour and Plain Flour with Baking Powder?

Self raising flour has a leavening agent (usually baking powder) and sometimes salt already added to it. The baking powder is added to the flour in a specific ratio. 

Plain Flour with baking powder, obviously doesn’t contain salt (unless you add some) and the ratio of flour to baking powder can be adjusted for different recipes. 

Why does my cake crack on top?

This is usually because the oven temperature was too high, or the cake was placed too high in the oven. As a result the crust forms too soon and as the cake continues to rise, the top cracks. 

Reduce the temperature of your oven or try placing your cake lower down in the oven to prevent this next time. 

Can I freeze my cake?

You can preserve homemade cake for up to 3 months by freezing it. Make sure you wrap the cake properly before putting it in the freezer so that it doesn’t loose moisture. 

Why has the middle of my cake caved in the middle?

There are a few reasons that a cake may sink in the middle. 

It may be that it wasn’t actually cooked properly, and the crumb didn’t have a chance to set properly before it was taken out of the oven. Test that a cake is done by sticking a toothpick into the middle - it should come out with a few moist crumbs on but no batter!

You should always follow the recipe as to which and how much leavening agent to use in your bake. Too much or the wrong type can also cause the cake to cake in the middle. 

The final reason is that the oven temperature wasn’t right or the door was opened or slammed during the bake. This reduces the pressure and temperature in the oven and can cause the middle of the cake to cake. If you need to rotate your pan during the bake, make sure you open the door carefully.