The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

what ingredients or factors influence taste?

knitsteel's picture

what ingredients or factors influence taste?

I made a whole grain bread recipe from Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book that had buttermilk, a larger a mount of honey, and butter in it, thinking that it would have a richer or different taste than the simpler whole wheat flour, yeast, water and touch of honey bread.  In the end, it did not have a different taste, or not enough to inspire me to use the richer ingredients.

What ingredients would truly change or enhance the taste of a 100% whole wheat bread?  What should I look for in a recipe?  

I know a sourdough would have a different flavor, but I need to practice more with my basic loaves before I get into sourdoughs.

knitsteel's picture

I will add- For this loaf I used a mix of Great River Milling Company's organic whole wheat flour and Gold Medal whole wheat white flour.  I overproofed it, by mistake, and ended up with sunken tops on the loaves.  I'd try making it again to practice the proofing, but the difference in flavor is not worth the richer ingredients.

pmccool's picture

taste tests based on memory can be very unreliable.  The richer loaf would probably taste somewhat sweeter, unless the acidity of the buttermilk offsets the sweetness of the additional honey.  There's probably more going on with textures than there is with flavor.  The buttermilk and butter should lead to a more tender crumb (hard to guage with an over-proofed loaf) in the finished bread.  I would also expect that it would be less crumbly than bread made without.  The butter and sugar would have a combined effect of making the crumb seem moister than that of the leaner bread.  We tend to interpret the presence of fat as "moisture", even though it isn't water.  And honey is hygroscopic; that is, it tends to pull water from its surroundings, including moisture from the air.  That tends to keep the crumb from drying quite as fast as the crumb of a bread not containing honey.

Try a side-by-side comparison.  Even though it won't be as unbiased as a blind taste test, you will probably still notice a difference in the breads, especially if you compare them across a span of several days.  My guess is that the enriched bread will seem more sumptuous than the lean bread, even if there is not a huge difference in favor.  And yes, I expect that you will also notice a difference in flavor, too.

As for things to do to add or enhance flavor, the possibilities are almost endless.  One of my favorite whole wheat breads is the Honey Lemon Whole Wheat bread from Bernard Clayton's Complete Book of Breads.  Who knew that the addition of a bit of lemon zest would upend all of my preconceptions about whole wheat bread?  Long, slow fermentations with minimal amounts of yeast are another way to coax every possible bit of flavor from the flour.  Switch between red whole wheat and white whole wheat, or blend them, for yet another range of possibilities.  Sift out part of the bran, or add 5-10% rye flour, or include some maple syrup instead of honey, or try some graham flour instead of regular whole wheat, or...  You can see where this is headed, right? 

Have fun experimenting and let us know if a new favorite or two emerge.


Colin2's picture

First, look at the freshness of your flour.  Look at the date on the package, but also smell it.  WW flour can get rancid with long storage.  The freshness and character of your flour are all-important.

I would get the freshest flour you can find, and perfect your technique with a simple recipe, maybe half white and half WW to begin with, as that's a more forgiving mix.  Once you get a basic flour-water-yeast-salt recipe working well, try additions.  And once you have the basic recipe down, extended fermentation can edge you over into sourdoughs without a lot of fuss.