The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How To Taste Bread

dsoleil's picture

How To Taste Bread

Hi All,

I love all the discussions on TFL.  One I haven't seen yet is a primer on how to taste bread in the same vein as how people learn to taste wine.  Not sure if there are any competition judges that want to weigh in here, but here are a couple things I came up with that contribute to the overall bread experience.

First smell

Overall color of crust and crumb

Holes and airiness



Taste and complexity



It all depends of course on what kind of bread you are tasting, but in general what should one look for when tasting truly excellent breads or evaluating breads?  All thoughts are welcome.



kermitdd's picture

Jeffrey Hamelman in Bread goes into the subject a little bit. I don't have my copy handy at the moment or I would list what he has to say. Maybe one of the other readers can chime in here.

nova's picture

When I was at the SF Baking Institute, we were shown the following:

Always wait until the crumb has set (at least a couple of hours for French  and sour dough).  Take a slice and tear it apart:  the crumb is tasted separately from the crust.  The crumb is subtler since there is no caramelization/mailliard reactions (sugars and proteins "browned") as they are in the crust.  The crust is "sweeter" due to the heat contact with loaf exterior.  I am a heel lover and then understood why...

Once you have tasted the crumb and the crust separately, taste a bite with both parts.  Once you have tasted the bread accordingly, you might feel you can better understand what is going on with your resulting bake.

Hope this helps, nova   

flournwater's picture

I'd want to break down the crust and crumb into two separate categories for color and texture instead of lumping them together, and I believe "chew" and "texture" amount to pretty much the same thing because it's texture in the bite that counts.

dsoleil's picture

Great stuff.  Does anybody recommend tasting bread with other food, spreads or wine?  It happens with wine tastings.  Anybody had bread tasting events?

Pakrat63's picture

i am personally a little resistant to tasting competitions and the like.  If it tastes good to me and to those i share my baking or brewing with, then it IS good...  However, it is very informative to learn Why my creations bring the pleasure i am trying to deliver.  At this point i am still trying to learn and refine technique, and feel i can judge the results for myself.

But in the spirit of the thread, some of the things i look for of course depend on what i am building-  Sandwich bread needs a softer crust with an even browning, the crumb should be dense but soft, and and hold together until the teeth tear it apart.  Rustic and Artisan breads i usually use to accompany other food, so i prefer a crunchier crust and an "absorbent" crumb.  Evaluating the Taste of the bread depends on what i am making- i want to get into SD cos who doesn't love the tangyness!

ehanner's picture

Interesting idea for a thread!

As you say it depends on the bread type. I noticed you didn't list Sourness or Tang as a criteria. Those of us who bake sourdough breads are very interested in that sensation as well.

I don't recall where I read it but someone suggested to me to taste a bite of crumb with a mouth full of water to evaluate the sour flavor. It works quite well  I have found.

For me the qualities of bread I look for are a good full flavor with an after taste that lasts for a few minutes. This is especially true with French style breads. A great Baguette will have a crispy crust, a chewy crumb with a nutty buttery taste and a flavor that I stays with me after the meal.

I think you can win a bread contest with ugly bread. You are doomed with a tasteless morsel, however beautiful.


rossnroller's picture

Agree with Eric on that last point - flavour is everything. Well, almost. 

I have a ritual for tasting newly baked bread. 2+ hours after the bake, I cut the butt end off a batard, or a bit off the perimeter of a boule, assess the crumb's appearance and give it a gentle prod with my fingertips, hold it close to my nose to savour the aroma, very thinly spread the crumb of the cut piece with butter, cut it in half, and split the spoils with my partner. We ponder in silence as we masticate (like a couple of wine tossers, I suppose) before offering comments and making pronouncements on the qualities of the bread. 

For me, bread is at its best when spread with butter and a good honey, so that's when I really make my assessment. 

But all this is very individual.

Back on topic. I'd never thought of tasting crust and crumb separately, but it makes sense. Another ritual coming up?

One more element to consider: as the bread ages it changes in character and flavour. Some breads, like baguettes, are doubtless at their best on the day of the bake, but others develop next day. I have spoken to Europeans who insist that they won't even cut into some breads until the day after the bake. I think most bread is at its optimum 2-3 hours after the bake is completed, but as with everything, there are exceptions.

dsoleil's picture

This whole idea came about after I made one of Reinhart's whole wheat mash breads.  It was so amazingly flavorful, it really did deserve its own tasting party.  I think I ate half the boule before I got a full handle on the complexity of the taste.

In wine tasting, they typically use a champagne or something bubbly to cleanse the palette before trying more wine.  Might be an interesting pair for breads.  The Germans pair beer with their pretzels.  Why not start pairing some wines with the breads? 

Also as a side note, I happened by a Panera today.  First time in since I really got into breads.  I bought a sourdough roll for my daughter and tasted it.  I couldn't even eat it.  I suppose I'm the newest lifetime member of TFL!