The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bread and sweetness

JinMaine's picture

Bread and sweetness

Hi all -

One of the reasons I started (actually, restarted) baking my own bread is that I was so unhappy with the overwhelming molasses/sweet flavors of the whole grain breads commercially available to me. Before coming to this site and doing some reading, I thought that molasses was a "secret" ingredient that must make whole grain breads succeed. I see now that isn't true. BUT, that raises the question - why are most commercial "whole grain" breads so chock-full of sweets?

I'm tossing this out there to see if any one else has given this some thought? Is it just me???


Janet (who appreciates "The Fresh Loaf" immensely!)






Cooky's picture

A lot (though not all) of conmercial breads (and other products, for that matter) are full of sugar, and it's easy to get so acclimated to it that 'real' flavors seems wrong. Pumping up a formula with a lot of sugar and salt is an inexpensive way to create flavor for mass production. As opposed to developing flavor through long, slow fermentation and top quality flour, in the artisan way.

I imagine that people who are used to eating commercial bread can be particularly put off by the bitterness that sometimes can be a problem with whole-wheat bread. Personally, I think a small amount of honey or molasses does great things for the flavor of WW, but not enough to make the bread actually taste sweet.


"I am not a cook. But I am sorta cooky."

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Way back when, when I fell in love, my husband and I would spend our weekends filming our island paradise.  It was full of sugar cane fields and sugar mills.  We would even film sugar cane fields ablaze with fire, a common practise to rid the field of nasty leaves and make harvesting easier.  We made our share of factory tours and I still remember the big nozzel sticking out from the ceiling of the loading dock area labeled Molasses in big red and white letters.  Molasses  is a by product of the cane sugar extraction process.  It is the reduced primordial soup from which sugar crystals form.  The pressed out sugar cane juice is heated until large sugar crystals form, then the sugar is spun in a centrifuge to remove the thick carmelized dark liquid.  This liquid is molasses, a bit sweet but contains everything that is removed from the sugar with all its flavor and trace minerals.    Mini Oven

subfuscpersona's picture

Why does whole wheat bread taste bitter? Granted, I haven't bought any WW bread in decades but I've been making my own WW and whole grain breads for decades and they never taste bitter. Don't understand why ppl say this about WW bread.

Also granted, for most of those decades, I've home-milled my whole grains. (Just kinda fell into the habit.) I find that all whole grain flours are very perishable. For example, freshly milled raw whole wheat flour has a very faint sweet taste; as short as a week later, this sweetness has noticeably declined.

Any flour that ain't white really should be refrigerated or frozen. IMHO, whole grain flour should be kept right next to the dairy products in the refrigerated section of every supermarket.

Grains, on the other hand, are designed for durability and can be stored at room temperature for a year or more without noticeable degradation - thank you Mother Nature!


Uberkermit's picture

I've considered storing whole grain flours in the freezer. Since you mentioned it, maybe you or someone can help me with a couple reservations I've been having.

- If I keep frozen flour, can I just measure some out of the container and use it normally in a formula, or does it have to be thawed first?

-Is there any danger if the bulk flour is partially thawed and then refrozen? Like say if I take the container out for 10 or 15 minutes while I mix the dough and then place back in the freezer?

-With coarser grains, like pumpernickel rye, will frozen flour form into bricks or a solid mass?

-What is the "shelf life" of frozen flour, compared to refrigerated and storeroom flour?



pmccool's picture


Here are some observations from my use of frozen flour:

- No problems encountered with using the cold flour thus far.  It may take the dough a little longer to warm up, but with some breads that is a blessing.  You can always measure out what you need ahead of time and allow it to come to room temperature before using, if you want.

- The flour is so dry (compared to blueberries or hamburger, for instance) that it doesn't really give microbes a toehold, so repeated trips in and out of the freezer don't build up a potentially dangerous population of nasty germs.  During the time that you have it out for measuring, it isn't going to thaw, really.  And even if it did, it would just go from a cold, dry, free-flowing powder to a warm, dry, free-flowing powder; not at all like a food with a high moisture content that changes from a solid block to a liquid or semi-liquid puddle when it melts.

- I haven't witnessed any solid masses or bricks in frozen flour.  I supposed it could happen if the flour were allowed to sit out unprotected a few days in a very humid climate before freezing.  Even so, you would already notice some clumping of the flour while it was still at room temperature in that situation.

- I haven't pushed the envelope on long-term frozen storage for flour, so I really don't know what the limits might be.  Since whole grain flours can go rancid in a couple of weeks at room temperature, it might be best (from a flavor standpoint) to try to use them within 6 months if frozen.  That's purely a guess though.  Since AP and other white flours are stable for a year or more if stored properly at ambient temperatures, I would guess that you could probably double that for freezer storage.  Again, that's purely a guess.

I hope that this helps.


subfuscpersona's picture

PMcCool said pretty much everything I would have said - only better!

> re "shelf life"

Bear in mind that the first time your whole grain flour is likely to see the inside of a 'frig or freezer is when you put it in yours. At least try to buy it from a store where there is a good turnover.

White flour has an recommended unrefrigerated shelf life of one year (the expiration date is always printed on the bag) though it doesn't mean the flour won't be perfectly serviceable after that date. Since white flour omits the germ, storage conditions for white flour are generally less demanding than those for whole grain flour.

As I guess, I would say a conservative estimate for whole grain flours would be 3 months refrigerator storage or 6 months freezer storage. There might be some flavor degradation after that but it certainly won't be going rancid on you due to the oil content of the germ. I honestly think you could probably hold it in the freezer longer than that. However, bear in mind that I usually mill most of my whole grain and bean flours in the amounts I'll need for immediate baking, so I don't have a whole lot of experience with long-term flour storage.

Grain, on the other hand, will keep at least a year under reasonable storage conditions (70sF or below and not humid over prolonged periods). I've milled flour from grain that was two years old and the flour was sweet and fine. Yeah grain!

>PS ..

When you purchase whole wheat flour, check the label to make sure it is milled from the entire grain. Some brands omit the germ (longer shelf life for the supermarket; inferior flavor for the consumer).

Try to find stone ground flour since slower milling generates less heat in the process. Modern roller mills heat the flour to high temperatures, with a discernable loss of flavor. For example, I prefer Bob's Red Mill whole wheat flour to King Arthur traditional whole wheat flour. Both are milled from hard red spring wheat but Bob's Red Mill stone grinds theirs, while I believe King Arthur's is commercially milled.

susanfnp's picture

I don't freeze flours but I do keep most of them in the fridge. One thing I'm bothered by is that when I take the flour out, condensation forms on the inside of the bag or container. Do I need to worry about my flour getting soggy?


subfuscpersona's picture

Do you think the condensation is from moisture in the flour or b/c your 'frig is very cold but your kitchen is much warmer?

If I refrigerate or freeze flour, I use a binder clip to keep the bag closed tightly then I put the flour bag inside a zip lock bag. Would that help?

But I hardly think you need worry since you already make such beautiful breads...

zolablue's picture

I freeze several flours such as wheat, rye, seminola, and pasta, by putting either the original flour bag inside a Ziplock bag or dumped directly into a Ziplock bag.  I never notice any condensation on the inside of the bag but then I do only allow them out for a very short period of time only to measure and then right back into the freezer.  I do make sure I squeeze out every possible bit of air from those bags before sealing so perhaps this makes the difference for me on not getting the condensation inside the bags. 

As for white flours, I go through so much flour so quickly I simply keep those in sealed containers in my pantry although I generally freeze them for at least 24 hours before storing just to kill anything that could be living inside from the market or mill.  Often, though, I know I'm going to use the flour very quickly so don't even do that.

When I need to use rye or wheat that I keep in the freezer, I just try to remember to measure it early so it can warm up before dumping into the mix but sometimes I don't worry about that either.

BROTKUNST's picture

I am not really sure why the fridge or freezer would be that much of an issue unless you have access to absolut fresh flour in the first place.

I order almost all my flours from KAF ... they are 'fresh' but certainly not from directly from the mill, in the bag to my house. So for the month I have have the flour on my shelf I don't feel I have to be overly concerned about bothering filling up my fridge with flour ... never had any complaints about the quality of the flour either. I just won't order flour today that I will use in three or six months.

Each of my flours is in labeled, air-tight containers in the cabinet over my work area. Additional quantities are stored in the basement .. not that much because of the lower temperature but for space issues.

Maybe I am missing something here, but the breads bake just fine.


AnnieT's picture

Susanfnp, I have always kept my non-white flours in the freezer because I understood that they might become rancid at room temp. Also it avoids those pesky little bugs. I place the flour bag inside a plastic bag well sealed and don't get any condensation problems. I used to let the amount of flour I was going to use warm up but lately I have used it straight from the freezer with no ill effects. Plus I don't have lots of cabinet space and inherited a freezer with the house. I also keep my instant yeast in the freezer, A

Ruth Redburn's picture
Ruth Redburn

 The whole wheat and granary bread in England does not contain any sweetener, I believe. I love the taste of it and have even brought flour or flour mixes back from a bakery when I have been there.  I made bread there using recipes from English cookbooks (our daughter lives there) and it does not contain sugar.  That is indeed good bread!            Ruth Redburn

JinMaine's picture

Thanks Ruth -

I was frustrated after eating some "whole grain" English muffins that tasted like dessert . This weekend I made Hamelman's multi-grain bread - no sweetener and it is absolutely delicious!




Ruth Redburn's picture
Ruth Redburn

       Jim Maine, If I bought another  cookbook I would have no place to put it.  I must have 200.  Would love to know your multi-grain recipe.  I do not have Hamelman's book. Could you post it?  If not, guess I'll have to see if our library could get it for me.  Thanks.  Are you a resident of UK?      Ruth Redburn

Ruth Redburn's picture
Ruth Redburn

    Oh of course you don't live in UK.  Guess I need to read more closely.  Sorry.            Ruth Redburn