The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Flavor is elusive

robadar's picture
robadar

Flavor is elusive

I've been making sourdough for years, have used many different starters, followed many recipes, experimented with almost every baking variable one can think of, yet the flavor I seeks still eludes me. Locally, (Bay Area, home to excellent sourdoughs) I can buy several delicious sourdough loaves. The bread I bake does not compare in flavor. By comparison it is floury or insipid. I've tried different flours, baking times, starters, rising times, hydrations, you name it, but while crust, texture, and crumb will vary, flavor never does, unless I use additives, such as malt, but this is contrived or faux flavor. I want a deep flavored bread made with starter, flour, water, and salt. Any thoughts?

RB

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

Have you tried retarding your dough? It really helps with the flavor. Are you using only white flour? Adding a small amount of whole wheat or rye flour will enhance the flavor, also (I like to use 1/2 cup of white whole wheat in my white breads).

andrew_l's picture
andrew_l

How long does your bread proof for? I find this, more than any other issue, affects flavour greatly. I use a stiff starter in the fridge, then when making bread, I feed a small amount - typically 30 grams starter, add 40 grams flour and 40 grams water. This is allowed to stand, covered,for about 12 hours, then I add 100 grams water and 100 grams flour, mix well and leave for about 12 hours. 
Then use this to make the dough - 1000 grams in total, including this active starter which now weighs 300 grams. This is allowed to proof for around 8 hours - if the weather is too warm, it proofs in the fridge. Then it is shaped and this is either baked when doubled in size, or for a stronger flavour still, it is covered and put in the fridge overnight immediately after shaping. Bring to room temperature, allow to rise and bake.
I find the longer the proofing  time, the fuller the flavour.
Conversely, when I have one particular friend visiting who likes bland bread, I speed the entire process up so it takes about 14 hours in total and the bread, though well risen and with a good crumb, tastes really mild. 
Andrew

jm_chng's picture
jm_chng

Can you explain more about what you're after? I don't really know what you mean by deep. 

Jim

robadar's picture
robadar

While I have experimented considerably with fermenting and proofing times I have not gone so far as 12 hours for starter and 8 hours for bulk fermentation.   In the case of the starter, it would begin to collapse after eight hours since this is well beyond its optimum active stage.  As for the dough,   I've always  assumed that over- extended dough fermentation  will exhaust the dough so as  not to be able to adequately  raise the shaped loaf.   Do you have a slow starter?

jm_chng's picture
jm_chng

"I've always  assumed that over- extended dough fermentation  will exhaust the dough so as  not to be able to adequately  raise the shaped loaf.   Do you have a slow starter?"

As with anything it's conditional, I've found people tend not to qualify their advice. Sorry if I'm treading on anyone's toes. I ferment my dough from mixing to bake for 24 hours or more. It depends how much starter you put it and what the temp is. A 3% bakers inoculation will be good for 18-24 hours depending on your starter at 18˚C, mix to bake.
Jim

earwax's picture
earwax

Yes. different starters might have different doubling times, but if they have the right yeasts, they should roughly be the same. Also, "many different starters,"....

Anyway, would jm_chng mind explaining what is meant by 3% bakers inoculation? % of the TOTAL flour? or weight of the dough?

Thanks.

jm_chng's picture
jm_chng

Lot of conditionals there earwax. What are you acutally saying?

If you ask me  nicely I might go to the trouble of typing up an explanation. : -) Not getting paid for this.  
Jim

earwax's picture
earwax

I believe only one was stated. Here's another conditional: if I my statement and/or question was phrased rudely, it was unintentional, and you have my sincerest apologies.

I don't wish to trouble you further, however, so please ignore my earlier thoughless inquiry.

No payment required.

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

Jim, correct me if you're using the term differently, but by innoculation, that usually refers to the percentage of total flour in the dough that's been prefermented in the starter. At least, that's what I mean.

For example, if I've got a dough that uses 400 grams of flour and I want a 10% innoculation, then I'd use enough starter so that there's 40 grams of flour in it. These days, I'm baking with starter that's made of even weights of water and flour (100% hydration), so that means I'd use 80 grams of starter (40 grams would be water, whereas the other 40 are flour).

That make sense?

tony's picture
tony

My experience was similar to robadar's. No matter what I did, my bread lacked the tang. Usually I haven't enough refrigerator space to retard proofing overnight, which might have made the sourdough flavor come up more.

 

Sort of by accident I've recently come to use a sourdough process that inoculates the dough with starter containing about 3% of the total flour in the bread (1/32). Using a long fermentation -- 18 hours plus 2.5 hours proofing, adapting the no-knead process extensively discussed here and elsewhere -- I was pleased that my bread gained the sour quality it had previously lacked.

 

A couple of batches later I tried half as much starter, 1/64 of the total flour. The dough rose perfectly well, but the sour taste was much more mild. Returning to the 3% inoculation the strong sour taste returned

 

If 3% is the right arithmetic. The sourdough culture contained 1/32 of the total flour in the bread. That constitutes 3.226% baker's percent relative to the flour in the dough mix (31/32 of the total flour). I think that's how Peter Reinhart does the calculation in his formulae: percentages relative to the flour added to the final mix, with the preferment presented as a percent of that flour amount.

 

Fwiw,

Tony

kevroy's picture
kevroy

I make sourdough every day that my customers tell me is the equal of the best SF sourdoughs, and I'm located in northeastern Pennsylvania. I used the starter formula and sourdough from Silverton's Breads from LaBrea Bakery. I feed the starter THREE TIMES A DAY no matter what, use only filtered water ( to rid it of chlorine), and use a tiny bit of whole wheat flour to make it a bit more sour, as this many feedings will make the yeast culture strong but the flavor somewhat flat. I am also quite meticulous about final dough temperature, between 73 and 75 f. The dough has a bit of whole wheat in it as well instead of the germ Silverton calls for. It is bulk fermented till double in size, scaled, pre-shaped, shaped, proofed, then retarded overnight. Next day it is tempered, docked, and baked with steam. I use a good bread flour, sea salt, and mix almost entirely on low speed, with only 3 minutes on medium.

robadar's picture
robadar

Kevroy,

What are the times for bulk fermentation, proofing, and tempering?   Is the crumb of your bread tight or does it had big and irregular holes?

RB

kevroy's picture
kevroy

I go by the size of the dough mass, about double it's original size for the bulk ferment, about 1 1/2 times for proof, then another 50% when tempering.

The crumb does not have large holes, they are moderately small and irregular. I'm more interested in flavor and texture, and to some extent ease of handling the dough. The crust is very crisp, and the crumb is moist and a little chewy with a subtle sourness. It's our personal favorite and the one that follows us home every night.

sewwhatsports's picture
sewwhatsports

Where in Northeastern Pa are you?  I was raised in that area and my Mom still lives there.  I would love to direct her to great bread... 

Rena in Delaware

kevroy's picture
kevroy

the Pocono Mountains, the town of Mountainhome to be exact. We're located across the street from Callie's Candy Kitchen (not Callie's Pretzel Factory) on Rt 390.

Sorry it took so long to get back.