The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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bread.on.beard's picture

Depth of Flavor question

I've been making sourdough bread for awhile.  I  think I may be at the end of the beginner's stage, as I know how to do the basics,  including:  how to use starter at various room temperatures, or chilled, or fresh, or not refreshed, or aged;  how to use starter to build levains, and pre-ferments; how to use white flours, and whole grain flours, and grains, and combinations of same;  how to retard dough at various times and temperatures, or using warmer temperatures; how to use different hydration percentages;  how to build dough in stages, and so on.  I preface my question this way to not come off as a novice, but, also, to not come off like I think I've tried everything.  Somewhere I read something like this:  "anyone can make good bread; we want to make GREAT bread."  So, that's me.  I can make OK to good bread.  I think I could make great bread, or at least bump it up to a consistently "really good bread" level.   


My question:  At this stage of what I  (think I ) know about how to bake sourdough bread, I think the breads I bake should have more depth of flavor, and I am not referring to sour.  I have cultured three different starters.   The first, I used fermented raisin water which was not what I wanted. The starter worked fine, but the bread lacked flavor.   The second starter was cultured using the Debra Wink method.  The first time I used it, the bread was wonderful. REALLY good.  One of my best.  The second time I used it, the bread had about half the flavor.  I did not change any ingredients or technique(s) that I know of, but something happened (did not happen).  Most of the loaves that followed using the second starter were OK.  They tasted OK to good.  Nothing great.   After trying a variety of techniques, methods I read about from many sources including Hamelman, Reinhart, and Richardson, and this and other sites, nothing much seemed to change.  The bread was  good, but not REALLY good.  So, I cultured a third starter thinking maybe my first starter contaminated the second starter.   Before culturing the third starter, I sterilized all of my utensils and containers and used bottled water. I was attempting to avoid any contamination from the other two starters.   The flour I used was KA AP.   It took longer than I expected, but when it was ready, and I used it, the result was disappointing.  I do understand about young starters, but that was about six months ago, and there still is not really any discernible change.   The bread is good, but I still  think it should have more depth of flavor.  At this point, I will add, that on occasion, when all of the planets were in the correct alignment (so to speak), I would occasionally produce a loaf that landed somewhere between good and really good.   When I would attempt to replicate all of the techniques using the same ingredients, the result was not as good.  So . . . , what is it?



Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Nominingi's picture

When is a starter ready for use? Substitute for red rye malt in Borodinsky

I took a batard of Norwich Sourdough to an potluck recently and was told by new Uzbekistani friends there that the taste of the bread was the closest they've had to that of home they've had since moving to Canada. Long story short: they are joining me in the next few days to bake Norwich SD and will then go home with their own starter. I'm compiling a primer for them and would appreciate tips on how to describe a starter that is ready for use.

The reason I pose this question is because I've left off waiting for my starter to double or bubble acitively. I simply KNOW it's ready after the nine months or so that I've been baking. Gut instinct is not a good tool to with which to teach.

The Uzbekistanis are keen to start baking Borodinsky bread as well, something I've yet to try although this site certainly has enough information available for me to do so sometime. Is there an acceptable substitute for red rye malt


Thank you

Anne-Marie B's picture
Anne-Marie B

Pain de Montagne

This baby kept on rising and threatened to invade the kitchen. Delicious bread.
I found the recipe here:

BetsyMePoocho's picture

Dutch Ovens - usage

Hey Folks,

Quick question….. when using a DO how long do you keep the lid on……?  It's been a while since I've used on I forgot.  Today I think I kept the lid on too long and the loaf was very, actually too moist….


limster's picture

Bread Machine Yeast

I am so glad to have found this website! Lots of great tips and recipes!!   I have not used my Zoj bread machine in a couple of years and now want to resume using it.  I have jar of yeast that has been in my fridge for couple of years.  I read on the Fleishman website about proofing instant yeast.  

Is it still necessary due to the age of the yeast?  

What do they mean by it requires to risings to see if the yeast is viable?  Does this mean one waits 20 minutes versus the standard 10 minute proofing time test?

TIA for your helpful comments!

amber108's picture

sourdough eggless brioche and danish!!

So I made these the other day, 100% sourdough, with what I call an eggless brioche if there is such a thing, as we dont eat eggs. Lots of fun and very yummy :)

hs4816's picture

Ok... now what?? (Pizza dough needs perfecting...)

Hi people. This is only my second post here, but have received much wisdom from you all thus far. Thanks in advance for putting up with my newbishness ;-)     (I've been working with dough/yeast for about like 6 weeks and am a total beginner).

Am working on my pizza dough. Have gone through about 5 batches so far.

Recipe is:

Bread flour

58% water

2% yeast

2% sugar

6% olive oil

1.25% salt

I use a stand mixer. It gets kneaded somewhere between 10-15 minutes. It does rise #1 in oven then spends 24h in the fridge. Then it gets used up or frozen.

It's fairly easy to work with. stretches out nicely, has decent flavor I think. Holds up without getting soggy. Freezes well.

Overall I'm pretty happy.

Have experimented with different temperatures: 350, 450, 500, 550 and with prebaking vs not (doesnt seem to need it).


What I'd like is for the crust edges to puff up/rise more when baking and also for the texture to be a bit more chewy (it gets quite crunchy and crumbly).  I'd appreciate your opinions and expertise. I'm not sure whether to focus on technique (kneading, proofing, cooking temperature) or the recipe itself (more oil, hydration, etc).




Heylo's picture

strech and fold substitute

hi there

since working a lot with spelt and rye, i've been getting lots of advice from you in this forum to S&F in order to enhance dough strength.

unfortunately though, i mainly use  my mixer due to wrist problems. so i'm wondering, what can i do instead of S&Fing? will replacing S&Fs with a few minutes of mixer kneading (in the same time intervals) be as effective?

hoping for an optimistic answer.. ;)

victoriamc's picture

Wholewheat flaxseed bread recipe

Its easy to make and this flaxseed bread is delicious and healthy too.  its the latest post on  

WendySusan's picture

Adventures in Baking: 19 May 15: Orange Cranberry Spelt

Today's adventure in baking involved the rest of the spelt flour, some orange juice, buttermilk, cranberries and honey.   The 50% spelt loaf came out nicely...after my burned, failed 100% attempt, so instead of leaving well enough alone and making another one, I decided to branch out.  I also wanted to use up the buttermilk and orange juice.

The recipe:

250 grams Spelt flour
250 grams KA Bread flour
200 grams levain
50 grams honey
100 grams orange juice
100 grams buttermilk
100 grams dried cranberries
10 grams salt
6 grams SAF yeast
Some brown sugar...I didn't measure

Soak the cranberries in the orange juice for 20 minutes and prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Measure the spelt and bread flours, add the slightly warmed buttermilk, honey and prepared levain and mix well.  Allow to autolyse for 30 minutes.

Add the cranberries and juice, salt and yeast.  Mix well using your preferred method.  I used 5 minutes of slaps and folds.

I allowed the dough to rise in my warm microwave for 30 was almost double...and then gently pressed it down and stretched and folded one more time before putting it into another 30 minute rise.

I then split the dough and allowed it to rest for 10 minutes before I stretched it and sprinkled some brown sugar on it and folded and rolled it up before placing it in parchment lined baking tins. Proofed to about 85% and then baked for 40 minutes at 375 dF after sprinkling a little more brown sugar on the top.

I also neglected to take any pictures of the preparation but the final result and crumb are pictured below.  

And while not as pretty as other loaves I've taken from the oven, these really are tasty.  A hint of sour from the levain and buttermilk, a little sweetness from the honey and brown sugar and tartness from the cranberries.

 The verdict from my in-house, not so independent taste tester was that the loaves are a keeper.