The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Extreme problem with 'developing flavor"

RiddelSkittle's picture

Extreme problem with 'developing flavor"

I'd recently been inspired by a video on Youtube by the author of the Tartine Bread book to give my breads a 'natural' rise, and I've recently been motivated by my bland, denser loaves that taste more of store-bought pre-made dough "fresh bread" that you bring home thaw/rise and bake. My bread's aren't completely awful. I've even had quite a few compliments and a couple of requests for more loaves. They fool the world of store-bought bread buyers, but not me. I want that perfect melt-in-your-mouth crumb and artisan crust. So it's easy to see that despite what people tell me, I'm easily discouraged about my bread. I've yet to make to my standards a "good" loaf. I've been making bread for about six months and in the beginning I wasn't having much luck. I only made it about once a month, but everytime something disasterous happened: I had to leave the house and the loaves mushroomed over the pan, I'd let it proof too much and it deflated, I didn't use enough flour or oil and half of the proofed dough ripped off and stuck to the bowl, my mother went to move the pans and poked the dough with her fingers, deflating it and one time my grandfather even had a heart attack and we had to go to the hospital. At this point, as these disasters happened one after the other, it was no suprise when my mother said, "I think it's time to give up on your bread-baking dream. Obviously it just wasnt't meant for you..." I'd almost thought that she was right.

I work a 9 to 5 or 9 to 6 job (the timing fluctuates) 5 days a week and am normally gone on the weekends, so initially I threw out the idea of these 'long-process' breads. I skipped to the quick stuff. It's winter here now, so I started using a space-heater to rise and proof dough quickly. And then...the blandness happened. Sure, I got what I wanted: actual cooked bread to eat. But no matter what recipe I used, what types of flour, everything tasted the same. Now I want change at any cost. So, as I was saying, being inspired and all by this video which promoted a 1o-12 hour rise, even 24hr rise, I thought: It's winter. I can manage that, right? I'd recently learned that I had to huge problem over-proofing dough. Now I'm terrified of it, and this idea of proofing bread for 10 hours did nothing to calm my fears. I'll trace the steps of what brought me here this groggy afternoon, bit by bit. And maybe I can get some advice.

I'll start with the recipe; a simple one I found on the internet:

1 cup water

2 1/2 cups bread flour

1tbs white sugar

1tsp salt (I use kosher, I read to use it over tablesalt in some bread book)

1 1/2 tsp yeast (I use instant yeast)

egg wash (optional)

The directions are for the bread machine, and then formation of the dough. I knead the dough by hand, one time I kneaded it for about 6 minutes or so, the dough last night I kneaded for about 12 mintues.

I put the dough into a oiled bowl and oil the bread itself, cover it with aluminum foil loosely and place it on a stand. It was around midnight, so obviously being winter, it's cooler and our house was around 75 degrees. I thought I was safe. I thought wrong. After the initial rise, I punch the dough down and knead a tiny bit more (just enough to get all the bubbles out) and rise again. Punch down again, all the works, and craft two little boule loaves. I let them sit. I wanted to "develope flavors" remember? So I went way over my over-proofing paranoia mark. I proofed it approximately from 3:30am to about..5 or 5:30am, when I couln't stand it anymore because it looked like it was about to burst (and deflate). I remember watching a video of the french baker who, after scoring boule loaves, could toss them about carelessly on any surface while it still held it's shape. Not I! I can barely touch the bread and have even at times been forced to proof the bread on whatever it is I would be baking it on so there would be minimum contact. I went to go brush the bread with the eggwash, finding I like the effect, and the inevitable happened. No scoring included! As I was brushing the dough it deflated. One loaf down. One more to go. I had better luck with brushing, but I knew as soon as I cut it, it would be the end. I was right, and both my loaves that I tried to give so much TLC died right in front of me. I was exhausted, disgruntled. I'd made a mess in the kitchen that I no longer felt like cleaning. It seemed the dream of developing flavor was a ruse.

So, bread bakers, how do you do it? It seems an impossible feat to me. After all, that video seemed to show those breads in the open air. Should I throw my dough out to the closed-in "freezer box", my front porch? I simply cannot fathom how over-proofing does not happen to everyone else, but I also know basically nothing about bread. Help wanted, please!


Ford's picture

In my opinion you are using enough yeast for about 13 cups of flour (55 oz.), and over proofing the dough.

To get the flavor you might try the poolish method of building your dough. Take 1 1/2 cup flour, 1/8 tspn. of yeast, 1/2 cup water 1 tspn salt, mix , and let ferment for 8 to 18 hours.

Use all of the poolish, 1/2 cup water, 1 cup of flour and, 1/4 tspn of yeast. Mix and knead as you have before. After shaping the boules, let them rise until dents made by pressing with two fingers just barely disappear when the fingers are removed. Slash, spray with water, and bake at 450°F to an internal temperature of 195°F.


nicodvb's picture

If you have so many problems looking after the dough you should really retard the dough in the fridge after the bulk fermentation and before the shaping. Flavor will improve, but remember that -as Ford wrote- the less yeast you use the more the bread will taste good. BTW, why don't you make a starter  or use and old dough? Yeast os the twin brother of bland taste.

hutchndi's picture

nicodvb I so agree, if it weren't for being able slow things down in the fridge, I would scarcely find the time to bake any bread at all, I still go to my full time job  5, 6, sometimes 7 days a week, so otherwise I would be a frantic mess of nerves trying to keep up with the dough proofing. Retarding makes this so much easier...(I use sourdough only, but I imagine it is similar with yeast).

lazybaker's picture

You can always make quick breads since they're quick and don't require yeast and proofing.

Edthebread's picture

Hi RiddelSkittle

From reading your email, it seems like you are aiming for flavor development in the proofing stage rather than in the first rise.  Normally most flavor development occurs during the first rise, and the longer you leave it (generally at a cooler temperature) the better the flavor.  As you need to leave it a long time (overnight or 24hrs) you need to cut down the yeast or use a starter.  I generally find for a one pound loaf (about 3 cups) you don't need more than 1/8 tsp yeast if you leave it overnight, with no sugar added.  If you need to do all your baking at the end of the day, use more yeast (1-2tsp), after kneeding leave at room temperature for about 2 hours, then leave in the refrigerator until you arrive home the next day.  Take out the dough and leave a couple of hours to warm up, then shape and proof (usually approx 45mins, depending on temperature) and bake.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

mingle with each other before adding the yeast.  One of my favorite things to do with yeast breads is to give them plenty of "wet time."  Take a normal bread recipe that runs about 4 hours before baking.  Mix all the ingredients and leave out about one teaspoon of water and the yeast to add later.  Let the dough sit covered letting the flavours mingle and sit from 6 to 24 hours at or under 24°C.   To add the yeast, spread out the dough and sprinkle with the instant yeast from the recipe and mist with a little water or combine the yeast with a teaspoon of water and smear on the dough.  Roll it up and fold it a few times including some light kneading to distribute the yeast into the dough.  Cover and let bulk rise, continue with the directions in the recipe.

It is easy and requires the least amount of thinking and recipe changes.  It is a great way to improve a simple fast recipe yet have the fast predictable rise times associated with instant yeast.  The dough can easily be mixed up and will not expand over the bowls edges until later when yeast is added.  So it more or less takes care of itself when alone waiting for you and not the other way around  (you waiting half a day for the dough to rise.)  All you need to do is find a warm place for the dough to rise once yeast is added.  Warming the bowl helps too.   :)

RiddelSkittle's picture

I wouldn't so much mind waiting now.  As now I would be satisfied, no matter how long it took, to at least make a good loaf! I could tamper with my timing later once I got the idea down. Thanks for all of your advice. I have one more thing to ask about the refrigeration: I don't quite understand it's etiquette. When I put dough in the fridge, it rises. When I take it out to warm up, it rises (at least a little). Is there a maximum to how many times a bread dough can rise and fall before it's done and can't be used? If I put kneaded dough in the fridge in a container (I like to use ice cream buckets) does it matter if I cover it loosely, or use the bucket lid to seal? And when it rises after I take it out of the fridge the next day, do I punch it down and get the air bubbles out and then when it "thaws" and rises a bit again do I get the bubbles out again and then form the dough for the final proof? Also, are you able to do a first rise in the fridge, or should you rise it at room temperature and then store it? Sorry for all the questions, and I'm not sure if they're all clear, but this is the only place I can get real anwsers other than books.

Edthebread's picture

Here would be my take on your questions:

If I put kneaded dough in the fridge in a container (I like to use ice cream buckets) does it matter if I cover it loosely, or use the bucket lid to seal?

Best to cover it loosely so the gas has room to escape, but the dough doese not dry out in the refrigerator.

And when it rises after I take it out of the fridge the next day, do I punch it down and get the air bubbles out and then when it "thaws" and rises a bit again do I get the bubbles out again and then form the dough for the final proof?

I would deflate the dough, but gently, after it has warmed up after the spell in the refrigerator, then shape it for the final proof.

Also, are you able to do a first rise in the fridge, or should you rise it at room temperature and then store it?

You can do all the rising the refrigerator, but you will need more yeast.  One recipe I like uses one and three quarters teaspoon yeast per 6 cups flour.   If you start the rise warmer for a couple of hours you can start with less (about 1/2 to 1 tsp per 6 cups), as it will multiply before you refrigerate.  Try it both ways; the flavor will probably be different, and see which you like.

amolitor's picture

I use instant yeast as well, since it's what's easily available in jars. It's excitable stuff, and needs to be used sparingly!

My basic recipe goes like this:

  • 1 cup flours (I used half rye, half white, but whatever)
  • 1 cup water
  • small pinch instant yeast

Let stand overnight. This is a "poolish".

In the morning you should have a somewhat frothy batter. To this add:

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3.5 cups of flour (whatever kind you like, but I'd start with all white flour -- also, 3.5 cups is approximate, add flour until the dough is "right")
  • another pinch or more of yeast, but no more than 1/2 tsp

Knead and let rise. Shape, proof, and bake. If you knead and pop it into the fridge, it will probably be in pretty condition to shape/proof/rise in the evening when you get home from work.