The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Most of my bread is tasteless. Is tasty bread possible without a sourdough starter?

Graid's picture

Most of my bread is tasteless. Is tasty bread possible without a sourdough starter?

Generally speaking, the bread I make, if it's just plain bread, with nothing added, and especially if it is white bread, tastes of nothing very much. It has a decent texture, usually, and is passable when used in sandwiches and so on, but it's really not as good as the majority of shop bought bread I've had and even often I would say, inferior flavour wise to the pre-sliced white bread variety available in the UK from the likes of Hovis or Warburtons. It just lacks something!

This applies to a variety of recipes I have used for plain bread, including the plain ones on the Fresh Loaf site ‘lessons'. Preparing the sponge the day before and then adding it the next day really didn't improve things at all.

I read all these books and articles that mention how lovely homemade bread tastes, how very much more flavoursome and wholesome and generally better and so on it is. And I wonder if it's just that they have lower standards or excessively terrible supermarket bread, or if there's actually something I could be doing to make my bread better and live up to the hype.

The only 'plain' type bread I have made that has been tasty has been granary bread, and the only way I could get a strong taste with that was to add more sugar than was strictly speaking recommended in the recipe, which gave it a rich, slightly sweet flavour.

I do use a breadmaker to do the kneading of the dough if not the baking itself usually, but I don't see why that would actually make any significant difference to flavour.

I have used many different sorts of flour over the years- organic and non organic, including Canadian flours that are generally well recommended. I have also experimented with using fresh yeast instead of instant yeast which didn't seem to make any difference at all.

I've read the instructions on this site, and I know that rising times, and prepared sponges, are supposed to improve flavour, I just have not actually ever experienced this for myself when I have tried.

Am I expecting too much? Is bread just generally not that tasty when made at home without a sourdough starter?

Your advice on stopping bread being tasteless without the use of a starter would be appreciated!

I HAVE tried doing sourdough bread before. I used a starter obtained from an American site that sends out sourdough started samples for free, and my starter behaved well for a while. Unfortunately the bread made with that, even when risen for around 24 hours in a cold room, was tastier but just not tasty enough to warrant the extra mess, effort, and waste of maintaining the starter (plus the starter started smelling like paint). It certainly had nothing like the sour flavour I want from sourdough bread!





Daisy_A's picture

Hi Graid,

Welcome to TFL. See that you are in the UK. Which flours are you using at the moment?

It is certainly possible to make very tasty loaves using just white flour and instant yeast. Jason's ciabatta, baked by many on TFL, is a case in point

I use sourdough starter normally but once, when in a hurry to make a focaccia to take to a shared meal, I tried an instant yeast, white flour version with the whole dough retarded for 24 hours. The taste was strong and complex.

I'm quite a new baker but I would probably first say look at longer fermentation times, preferments, investing in a good bread flour, but you seem to have tried all of these...Only one thing I could add here is that in a recent 'taste' experiment a group from Dan Lepard's board reported that they got a good taste using a stiff levain or biga as the preferment.

For other bakers to really be able to help you develop your bread, though, it would be good to have the precise details of the recipe and method you are using currently, plus any information about flour.

Hope you find a way of making the bread you seek.

Kind regards, Daisy_A

pdiff's picture


Taste is very subjective as a recent post here from BellesAZ demonstrated:


Exactly what is taste for you?  What is missing?  The acidic tangy taste of sourdough or graininess of whole wheat or the aromatic roasted flavors?  I tend towards the last, which is enhanced by appropriate proofing times (slightly under proofed to leave some residual sugars in the dough) and by longer cook times giving deeper color and carmelization of the loaves.  Tangy sourdough flavors require not only cold, but the right temperature of cold to encourage the lactobacillus.  Your bread machine should have different settings or programability to vary kneading, rising and cook times.  Components too are important, like salt.  The few times I've accidentally baked without salt, the results were awful.

What do others say about the taste of your breads?  Do they have the same opinion, or is this your personal taste expectation?




@thepiercy's picture

HI Graid,

for extra flavour do stuff slower. try fermenting the dough overnight, when you bake it leave it in too long! Bread which is black on top has a wonderful aroma, as staling sets in over the next 24 hours or so the flavour will migrate into the loaf as the water comes out. So resist the temptation to eat it too soon. Cut it the next day when the top is black and crazed.

There's a bit of info on my blog showing one of my recent attempts.


midwest baker's picture
midwest baker

Make sure you are using enough salt.

Chuck's picture

My experience has been that small differences in the amount of salt in the recipe make large differences in the final taste of the bread. I'd suggest trying a loaf with half-again as much much salt.

Particularly if your recipes assume "table salt", you're measuring by volume, and you actually have some fancy "sea salt", you may be getting quite a bit less than the recipe assumes. (Because sea salts typically have larger crystals, there's more air space in between the crystals, and volume measuments can easily be off enough to taste [or not taste:-] the difference.)

(Another way to get "more flavor" is to use beer instead of water.)

wren's picture


i agree with the abovementioned suggestion for salt, though do remember that salt affects the rise of the loaf, so overdoing it in the salt department can alter the shape and consistency of the dough. that said, i learned only recently how important it is to taste the raw dough as you're making it and to do this multiple times throughout the process, this allows subtle changes to be made before you load your bread into the oven. additionally, the suggestion about working slowly is a good one. the sugars that determine the complexity of the bread's taste will develop more strongly when given more time to ferment (like overnight, or slowly in the refrigerator). and lastly, working with your oven on high heat will provide the necessary chemical change in the sugars (caramelization) that will contribute to your loafs' taste as well. don't give up! sourdough is not the only tasty loaf out there.

PaddyL's picture

Or all those unpronouncable things listed on bread labels?  Maybe that's it.  

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

are dull and worn out.  

A heavy smoker, will probably notice no changes in bread tastes until smoking has stopped for some time.  If on medication, the medicine could also be affecting taste sensibilities.  Illness can also affect taste.  Also being in love.  Everything tastes better when in love... 

It could also be that your body doesn't crave bread and it doesn't appeal to you at this time.  No big deal.  Life goes on without bread too.  It is not an essential food.


pdiff's picture

"Life goes on without bread too.  It is not an essential food."


:-O <blink> <blink> Thats blasphemy! :-)



Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Life without Bread.

I am just so suttle!  :)   Blasphemy?

copyu's picture

I have no really useful info, only more questions—so, I beg your pardon!

Salt? [How much, what kind...when added...]

Have you tried no-knead bread and, if so, with what results?

Do you have an oven thermometer? (Better is a couple of oven thermometers that agree reasonably with each other...)

Do you ever replace 30-60g (1-2oz) of the bread flour with rye, or whole-wheat or durum semolina, Indian chapatti flour, etc?

Are you familiar with German 'bread spice' or with 'Seitenbacher' natural sourdough? (You can find these for sale online...)

Have you ever tried seeds [sesame, quinoa, amaranth, poppy, millet, etc...] in your dough, or on your loaves?

*****Does your Bread Machine automatically heat the dough at various phases during the "dough only cycle"?*****

I'm really looking forward to seeing your formula(e) and usual methods. The folks here at TFL will definitely set you on the right path to flavour!




nicodvb's picture

I haven't tried it myself because I can't stand white bread, but a friend of mine with your same problem and very high expectations told me that the only way to get a tasty bread was to let the shaped dough 2 whole days in the fridge after having made an overnight preferment.

Good luck!