The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Coaxing flavor

petercook's picture

Coaxing flavor

Hello All, I can't seem to get a real great deep flavor in my bread. I have used many different preferments with hydrations as low as 60% all the way up to 150%. I have tried fermenting them at room temp (65 degrees) and also retarding them in the frig. The rustic shaped loaf I make tastes ok but I want serious flavor. I have read Beranbaum, DiMuzio, and others. They all seem to conflict about hydration levels for preferments. I understand that it takes a long time to develop the enzymes and the bacteria that result in a good tasting loaf and I always follow instruction to the letter and when the loaf comes out of the oven it looks fantastic but the flavor I'm looking for is not there. I always use un-bleached A.P. or un-bleached bread flour (Gold Medal brand). My final dough is usually 65% hydration. ANY THOUGHTS would be much appreciated.

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

What are you comparing your expectations against?

The breads you're making might be as good as can be expected given your ingredients, methods, etc.


mellen0157's picture

In my experience, it's more about how much of the preferment you use in your final product than the structure of your preferment.  That being said, the strucutre of your preferment determines how much of it you can use in your final product.  A really soupy poolish requires more fresh flour to create a stable loaf than a nice, thick biga.  Even if your preferment is crazy strong with that sour flavor (I'm assuming that's what you're looking for), if you only use 4oz of a 2# dough, you're not going to taste it as much as if 1# of that 2# dough is a preferment.

For example, in a true sourdough, you make a preferment (that in some places has been around for YEARS...but 2-3 days is fine for yours, I'm sure), make your dough, shape your loaves, and then allow those to do thier final rise under refrigeration overnight, baking the next day.  That slow last rise gives maximum flavor (as I think you already know).  So not only do you have the falvor from a great starter, you get extra from the slow last rise.  Just remember if you do this that your loaves need to be stabalized somehow; the glutens relax a lot in an overnight rise, so moving the dough off of your pans can damage the air structure, but you can't just shape and put on the pan or it will spill all over the place overnight.  You have to contain it for the last rise.

Try experimenting with the amount of your preferment in your dough - I think that will give you the flavor you're looking for.

Let us know how it goes!

petercook's picture

As regards to what I am comparing against, difficult to answer with out sounding like a wise guy. I am comparing my loaves against all of the loaves that I have tasted in my life. That said, what I want is a taste that shouts WHEAT, old fashioned, real, honest bread. Also, I am NOT going for sour dough bread.  I am confused about Mellenos post. I don´t get all those number 1´s and 2´s.

mellen0157's picture

Fist, the best loaves you have tasted in your life were made by people who love making bread and have spent years perfecting it or had instruction from the person who took the time to figure it out, and through their own dedication to the art have been able to replicate...though never exactly.  So that's the first thing to keep in mind: The greatest loaves you tasted have a history...don't be discouraged by not re-creating them.  They're not meant to be re-created, you have to dedicate yourself to your own.

My "1's and 2's" were amounts; "#" is a symbol commonly used cooking in place of "pounds".  I was saying that not only do you need to look at the type and quality of you preferment, you also need to look at the amount of it you are using in your final dough.  If you have a recipe that in the end weighs 2-pounds, the taste will vary greatly if you have 1-pound of preferment in it, as opposed to 4-ounces.

I mentioned the "sour" flavor, because while it seems easy to achieve it's not; many people struggle to get it and your description made me think of it.  The sourdough directions I gave were just an example of one thing you could do to get a stronger flavor of one sort.

From your reply, I would actaully say that no one here can help you, and you won't find any book or online article that will.  In order to achieve what you want, you just have to make bread!  There is a lot less science to this than people make it out to be.  The air, water, flour, yeast, salt, sugar, etc. that you use are all different than any combination you will find in a book; as are the humidity, air temperature, oven heating mechanisms, etc. at your house than wherever the recipes were developed.  Furthermore, yeast and bacteria float around in the air and get into your dough - that's why the "San Francisco" part of the famous sourdough is a noun instead of an adjective.  It's not just that the sourdough comes from that area, it is completely dependant on being produced in that area...the yeast that naturally exists in the San Francisco environment doesn't exist anywhere else.  So even if I try to make it in Boston, using the exact recipe that the people in San Fancisco use, with the exact same ingredients, it's just never going to happen.

I know you don't want sourdough, that was just another example.

Decide what kind of bread you want, first.  Do you want something chewy, crunchy, soft, etc.  Get a recipe that claims to have all of the attributes you want, make it just the way the recipe says the first time, and experiment from there!  Change your types of flour (high gluten, rye, whole wheat, white wheat, etc.), your fats (butter, olive oil, egg yolks, none...), add a little honey or maybe maple syrup.  If it doesn't rise, we can tell you why; if it's not cooking in the middle, we can probably tell you why; if it's as hard as a rock, we can probably help, then, too.  We can help you with technique.  But what we can't do is tell you how to make the perfect loaf of bread for yourself.

Experimentation and a lot of elbow grease are really the only things that will get this for you...but when you get there, it will be well worth it.  Have fun and love what you're doing without over thinking it...and you will one day find the perfect loaf.  And then you can share your recipe so someone else can use it as their own starting place for developing their own perfect loaf.


petercook's picture

Thank you Melleno for all of the good advice. It had never occured to me that a bread made in one location might not work in a different location. Much else in your post for me to think about. One thing that I recently discovered is that just the tinyest increase in salt can make a HUGE difference in taste. Rather obvious I suppose but it had eluded me for years. I had been blindly following the advice of a well known baker/author and I was using 1/2 tsp of salt per cup of flour. When I bumped that up to 9/16 th tsp it made a huge improvement in taste. At least to me. What I currently am working on is a poolish and attemping to find the right amout of time to let it rest at room temp. The books say to let it go until it domes slightly and is just beginning to receed. I am using unbleached A.P. flour and an equal weight of water. 100% hydration. to this I add 1/32 tsp of instant yeast (no salt). I stirr rapidly for one minute, cover and let rest 13-15 hrs. What I am trying to do is develop as much homofermentive bacteria as possibe. 40% of my dough is poolish. Bulk ferment is about 3 hrs. Shaped small loaves proof for about 2 1/2 hrs. And I bake at 375 F for 22 minutes in a gas oven. As I said previously, the loaves are good but Í want that WOW factor.

ldavis47's picture


I am a bread baker by hobby but relate to your quest. There are a few things that Stan out for me. I want that deep wheat flavor you describe but also want the reddish crackly crust, an aroma that is sweet and wheaty, a crum that is stretchy and chewy, a mouth feel like custard, all done using only the basic 4 ingredients (flour, water, levining, salt). I am still looking.


Dragonbones's picture

For more flavor, try adding a cup or two of old (previously fully fermented) dough. When you bake, set aside about a seventh of your dough, chop that into small balls, roll in flour, and freeze in a big freezer ziplock. Thaw then add these to your next batch, or, in hot weather, add them frozen to cool and slow your preferment if desired.  

Also, when eating your bread, save a bit at the end. Try toasting these leftover bits of bread, end pieces etc. until they're nicely browned and very dry, then cube them and pop them in a blender to make toasted bread crumbs. Store in a ziplock or other airtight container. Add some of these, like half a cup, in future batches.

Also consider adding a cup or so of whole (not white) rye, and/or a tablespoon (no more) buckwheat flour. I do all of these plus use sourdough starter, and there's never any shortage of flavor.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and would prefer a different grain?  Maybe the characteristics you're looking for involve other grains or additions of other grains or malts with the wheat?  How do you feel about nut flours?  Potato water?  Ground seeds?  Herbs?  Spices?   

About that salt thing...  you really ought to try metric and find out which % of salt (to flour weight) you prefer.  Good gracious how the heck do you measure 9/16 of a teaspoon?   (that was a quip, right? :)   I bet if you weigh your cups of flour they come out different each time!  I love using metrics & a scale, the math is soooo much easier!  Takes the guess work out and I get the salt amount balanced every time!

Mini O