The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

why does my bread have no flavor?

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londontami's picture
londontami

why does my bread have no flavor?

i have been making french bread, i follow the recipes and use a generous amount of salt - however, no matter what i do, my bread never tastes like the french bread i get in the store or at a restaurant. in fact, it basically has no flavor whatsoever.  my first attempt at sourdough yesterday was a big failure (i was expecting this) but even that bread had no flavor whatsoever.  

i dont quite understand what the problem is, if i am using salt, why is there no flavor? i use grey sea salt.

if anyone has an idea of what the problem may be, i would greatly appreciate some feedback. 

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi tami,

flavour comes largely from choice of flour and process method used to make the bread.   Fermentation is really what it is all about, coaxing all the flavour possible from the flour.   If you are needing high levels of salt then there is something wrong.   Salt levels at 2% are deemed high enough for the Authorities to put a Red Traffic light symbol on the packet of loaves in question.   you should be able to use less salt but still find more flavour if you choose a more complex process with a pre-ferment of some description, or, a long bulk fermentation.   Not very environmentally sensitive, but you could also try to source a really good French flour as that would help as well.

Best wishes

Andy

ps.   Have you stopped to consider that the store bought bread probably has flavourings added in the dough improver, even if it's only a dried sourdough powder?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Now that we have that out of the way...  you may now understand why we talk so much here about long fermenting of dough to bring out flavours from the flour.  One of my first changes was to use a poolish recipe where equal weights of flour and water are combined with a pinch of yeast and left overnight to ferment before mixing up the dough.  My white breads made a big leap with that one technique.  I encourage you to try one of the many recipes.  Often I would just mix up 200g flour with 200g water and a tiny pinch of yeast with a spoon, cover, and decide in the morning what I wanted to do. I found that subtracting 200g from a recipe was easy enough.  

Another trick happen upon me when I forgot the yeast.  Mixed up a dough and about 8 hours later added the yeast,  works really well!  I like this method most because it doesn't change the timing of most baker's yeast recipes yet I get more age on my wet flour.

Yet another is to make the dough, use all or half or none of the yeast and throw into the refrigerator for 24 hours.  Take the dough out and warm up by working in the rest of the yeast (or not all) and letting it ferment further.  Depending on how warm it was when refrigerated, it might need a bulk rise or just a shaping and final rise before baking.  Experiment and read carefully thru recipes especially the instructions or special handling of the dough.

Another is to exchange just a small portion of your recipe flour for a more flavourful grain like whole wheat, rye, barley, oats, or even grated nuts.  There are so many choices!  Try running your Q thru the site search box and lots of ideas will pop up.  If you are sensitive to subtle changes in your flour try using a teaspoon of malt or brown sugar.  Change the water to tea, herbal or green and you can also try working try herbs or tea into your bread.  Stinging nettles is one of my favorites.  You can go bitter, or spicy or sweet or rosemary or sesame...  

You just have to open your cupboard and use your imagination.   :)

tabasco's picture
tabasco

I love to devise new techniques as described above to add flavors to my bread, but often I don't have the time or inclination for it. 

So I use this 'cheater' from time to time:  Florapan French Sourdough Starter.  It's available (with directions) on the King Arthur site or thru your Lallemand yeast supplier.  (It's a bit expensive but I've gotten over that.) 

I often add a little here and there to the flour/water to make a quick 'preferment' or along with regular yeast or starter.  It makes a nice flavorful french bread or even bagels or breakfast rolls on the fly. 

I understand Lallemand also makes a German version called 'Bocker' too.  

Graid's picture
Graid

I have this problem too, of my white bread rarely tasting of very much, which I started a thread about before here and got some helpful suggestions on it, though I alas never followed up on giving the information I was asked to provide due to being away from the internet for a bit on holiday and shamefully forgetting about it until I felt it was too late when I returned!

It's sad to say that one of the more standard French-ish bread tasting bread  I have made was actually following the horrificially inauthentic recipe that came with my bread maker and using the bread maker on 'French bread' mode. The recipe even has sugar and oil, I don't know why it comes out more flavoursome than my ordinary white bread at all!

But I don't recommend that, what I do recommend is that you try the cold fermentation method. I have been using the 'Artisan bread in 5 minutes' book and I also have tried the French bread in Peter Reinhart's 'Artisan breads every day'.  The 'AB in 5' method is a no-knead, rather unsophisticated method which involves mixing the ingredients only to the stage where they are combined, in a plastic tub, leaving it out to rise for a few hours, then letting it ferment in there in the fridge.  The longer you leave it the more it develops a flavour (up to 2 weeks technically but I would recommend using it within 10 days or so). What I'm a tad less convinced about is that it's a good flavour, but anyhow, it does make for a more flavoursome bread, that is guaranteed. And with good texture too.  The times I made bread with sourdough starter it was no better than this and with a similarly slightly odd taste.

The French bread from Peter Reinhart's book also uses cold fermentation, although it is a kneaded dough. I have only made it once and I probably should do so again, because as I recall, using it after a few days it had a more sophisticated flavour than the Ab in 5 version. You only can leave this one in the fridge for 4 days.

With both methods, you take them out of the fridge an hour or so before baking (as I recall) giving them some time to rise, although being cold they don't do it with anything like the vigor that an unchilled dough will do. They are then baked at a high heat (220C or so) for around 35 minutes.