There are so many weird and wonderful terms to learn when you start baking sourdough. Here is a short glossary featuring the most common:

Active The name given to the bubbly state of your wild yeast starter.

Autolyse Allowing a rough mix of water and flour to rest and develop for a period without kneading and before adding salt and other dough ingredients.

Bench knife Sometimes known as a dough cutter, useful for shaping wet dough.

Bulk fermentation Dough is allowed to ferment and rise over several hours, incorporating folds to aid structure and preservation of bubbles.

Crumb Every serious sourdough baker knows it's all about the crumb - the texture of your bread and those all-important holes.

Dividing This can be done after bulk fermentation to create smaller loaves or rolls, using a bench knife.

Dutch oven A deep cast iron cooking pot favoured by sourdough bakers. It's all about trapping steam for the first stage of cooking. Fashion your own from a pie tin and domed ovenproof bowl.

Feeding The process of nurturing your sourdough starter with carefully weighed amounts of flour and water.

Ferment Not just the process, but the name given to your starter, which is also known as the mother. This will be the only time it's okay to keep your mother in the fridge.

Float test Dropping a teaspoon of starter in water to see if it floats.

Folding A gentler approach to dough than knocking back. The key is to build structure without destroying air bubbles.

Hydration Sourdough can have a very high water content, declared in percentages. So, for 1kg flour, 600g or ml of water puts your dough at 60% hydration. Some bakers go to 85% and higher. Remember to factor in your starter, which contains both water and flour. There are hydration calculators readily available.

Knock back The rougher process of knocking air out of developing dough before the final prove. Not recommended for the later stages of sourdough.

Lame/Grignette A baker's blade, used for scoring bread. You can make your own from a coffee stirrer or small screwdriver, with a razor blade attached to the end. Store with extreme care!

Levain Starter taken from the mother and fed with a specific quantity of water and flour for the purposes of a recipe. Weight and hydration is very important.

Misting Spraying your dough before it goes in the oven helps a crust form. Also, create steam using boiling water in a tray on the oven floor (not essential if using a Dutch oven or cloche).

Mother The name given to the starter you refresh and keep on the side in your kitchen (for regular use) or in the fridge (for weekly or twice-weekly use).

Oven spring How high your bread rises in the oven.

Over proved Basically, leaving your dough to prove too long so it goes saggy and loses its bounce. 

Peel A flat wooden board with a handle for delivering dough safely from work surface to oven.

Proving The final stage of dough development before it goes in the oven. Usually takes several hours for sourdough.

Resting Leaving dough to rest is a shorter process than proving. It usually goes with bulk fermentation and shaping.

Retarding Slowing down dough development by sticking it in the fridge, usually overnight, though a couple of hours can work. Be careful to protect dough from drying out.

Scoring Using a baker's blade to create patterns in your loaf before cooking.

Shaping Ensuring your dough resembles a boule, baguette, or any other conventional or not so conventional shape.

Slashing Sourdough needs at least a few diagonal slashes to ensure it doesn't crack or burst its seams in the oven.

Stone A baker's stone can be ceramic, granite or metal. Pizza stones work fine.

Sponge A pre-bulk fermentation stage of just part flour and water, sometimes roughly mixed overnight before adding salt and starter and remaining flour.

Starter The fermented yeast source you will return to again and again. Cultivating your starter is frustrating but a joy once it is up and running.

Under proved Not leaving your dough for long enough to develop and double in size before baking.

Wild yeast Microbes are in the air and all around us. Sourdough starter harvests naturally occuring yeasts which ferment when flour and water are cultivated in the right environment.

Window test Also known as the pane test - stretch your kneaded dough to test gluten strength. If you can make a thin membrane which lets light through without tearing, you're there.