The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Now what about the flavour?

grrranimal's picture
grrranimal

Now what about the flavour?

(Apologies in advance if there are already great threads on this topic somewhere, but I haven't found much in my limited trawls through the forum archives.)

I'm happy with my crumb.  I'm happy with my crust.  Now, I'm just looking for more flavour.

No artisan or obsessive, I'm nevertheless passionate.  I've been making simple breads for a few years, and am mostly devoted to simply white breads with open crumb and thick crust.  I use recipes a lot like Floyd's Daily Bread, or variations on the NYT NKB. Poolish. Autolyse. Dry yeast.

So, happy are the days when I'm baking, and the results are mostly what I intend, with a little less steam and a softer crust for my Flame-Haired Angel, and a little more and a little crunchier for me.

And yet...  And yet...

I'm just not getting the depth of flavour that I'm yearning for.  The bread is good, but I've spent the last three years living in France, and the daily white breads from the better boulangeries in my neighbourhood just had a wonderful, yeasty, deep flavour and aroma to them.  Nothing overwhelming, and certainly nothing that comes from having been flavoured with anything.

I no longer live in Paris.  One of the up-sides is that I'm baking more.  But now, if I'm going to get that flavour, I've gotta do it myself.

Any thoughts on how I might pursue a richer aroma and flavour in a simple French yeast loaf? 

Thanks, in advance, for all ideas. 

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Flavour, I'm not alone when I write that this site is dedicated to it.

One quick and simple method is to poolish your recipe; that is; mix up part of your recipe and let it soak for 4 to 14 hours then continue on. One method that works for me is to combine 240ml of water to 200g AP flour and 1/4 teaspoon yeast, cover and let stand overnight, in the morning I add an egg white to a measuring cup and add water to make up rest of recipe. Then more yeast, sugar, salt and slowly the rest of the flour. This is for a 1.1 kg loaf (unbaked, 1 kg baked). Someting about letting the flour ferment for a while, adds a good amount of flavour. --Mini Oven

grrranimal's picture
grrranimal

 

Hiya, Mini:

Thanks for that.  I'm a poolish/biga devotee, already.  An overnight poolisher, me.  So, maybe I'm just being flavour greedy! 

 

Prandium longa. Vita brevis.

browndog's picture
browndog

You might give Hamelman's Rustic Bread a go. It's the bread that changed my mind about artisan. It uses not a poolish but a firmer preferment. Some time ago there was a dicey but interesting debate here as to what qualities, if any, made French bread 'better'. Apparently French flour is typically somewhat lower in protein than what we have in the States anyway.That could be a point of experimentation for you. Sourdough, when successfully done, creates come-hither complexities of flavor. But preferments generally seem to do that as well. If you pick up a good book for the island (and stick around here of course) you will probably find your quest nearing fulfillment. If you really do have an angel, maybe she can ask God to recommend one. A Good Book, I mean.

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

Hi grrranimal, welcome to TFL.

In addition to the good advice about preferments, here are a few things you might try that can affect flavor:

Mix less, fold more, to develop gluten

Use less yeast and ferment longer

Retard the dough during the first fermentation or final proof

Use different types of flour (e.g., a small amount of rye)

Use sourdough

Wait for the bread to cool completely before you eat it


Susanfnp

http://www.wildyeastblog.com

Atropine's picture
Atropine

A few thoughts of what I have done that I have found affects flavor greatly....

First of all, sourdough.  Now, before anyone panics, just wait a moment hee hee!

I am not talking about making a sour bread.  I have found that if I use my sourdough as a FLAVORING agent, but mix my bread that day, that there are wonderful, subtle, NON sour flavors all through the bread.  My dd raved the first time I did it....she said it was "so smooth".

Unless someone is just wanting to have the whole sourdough experience, I would not try capturing wild yeasts for this.  I would just start with either shared starter or yeast, flour and water and let them set for a few weeks, feeding of course.  The longer it sets, the more developed the flavors.  I do NOT dump out any of my starter--I keep several cups going at all times in one of those disposable containers, and the only way the starter leaves the container is either sharing or in bread :-).

As long as I do not let the bread go too long (such as overnight) then very little-to-no sour flavor develops in the bread.  For my starter, it is mechanics that develop a sour flavor, not the starter at this point (that might change the more my starter develops--this one has been going on about 2.5 months, some of that refrigerated).

Also, three other things that will affect flavor is salt, sugar and fat.  I have found that there is a big difference between light and brown sugar, honey, or white sugar in terms of flavoring (I prefer either of the brown sugars). 

For fat, try adding a bit of butter--I have found that 4 Tbs in the dough is good for SUBTLY flavoring a batch of bread. 

I have also found that not enough salt (as well as too much) really affects the flavor in a negative way.

Hopefully that will offera  bit of things to try.  I have found that even subtle changes can make a big difference in flavor.  Hope this helps. 

A.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Sourdough. Use it like flavoring until you're ready to take it all the way. My flour here (in rural China) is too low gluten to hold out for a long fermentation so I use both. If you can get your hands on sourdough extract, forget the directions and just start feeding it. In two days, you've got a starter. Poolish is always good. Poolish and sourdough even better. -- Mini O

grrranimal's picture
grrranimal

Mini:

Where are you in China?  I lived there for three years.  I had baked before moving to China, but being there really kicked me into gear with bread.  Baking my own was the only alternative, at the time, to buying really awful, sugary stuff in the stores.  God, Chinese bread was bad!

grrr

 

Prandium longa. Vita brevis.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Lets just say west of Shanghai and north of the old capital of Nanjing. Finding fresh eggs in mid summer is also a challenge. End of the month I'm back to Austria and now trying to use up everything in the cupboards -- which isn't much.  Today baked two loaves of mixed rye.  Yesterday baked a white loaf in a ss salad bar box with lid.  Where were you in China? --Mini O

grrranimal's picture
grrranimal

I was in Shanghai from 2001 - 2004.  I got to witness its transition from a booming Chinese city to a booming international city.  By the time I left, you could actually get baguettes and cheese, which were unheard of when I arrived.  In those last few months, when cheese became available in the high-end department store food shops, the poor shopkeepers would wince while slicing the stuff.  Man, they really couldn't stand it.  I use to tell them that if I could eat cho dofu then they could stomach cheese.

 

Prandium longa. Vita brevis.

grrranimal's picture
grrranimal

Atropine and Mini:

When you use both starter and yeast, do you use the starter just like you'd use a poolish?  What guides you in determining amount of starter to add to a recipe (ie, a recipe that doesn't call for starter)?  And do you just subtract that volume from the total volume of water added?

Keen to try.

 

Prandium longa. Vita brevis.

Woz's picture
Woz

re China Bread, not to completely highjack a thread, but I know what you mean. Have lived in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, and visited many parts of China over the years. The bread down south is not much to write home about, I assume you have tried the sausages baked in sweet bread?!? But up north it is another matter altogether. In particular, in Harbin, with an extensive historical Russian influence, they bake a huge round western loaf of bread that is fantastic. Ahhh, the memories.

Mini, what are you using for an oven? Wouldn't be easy to find one in China unless you are living in an expat enclave which, from the "rural China" comment sounds unlikely. Also, have you had any access to Bao-ze Starter? Might be interesting.

Woz 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I didn't want to just chime in with another agreement of the others in this thread but there is one thing that hasn't been mentioned yet.

Most every respected Artisan bread author tells us to bake until the sugars remaining in the dough have caramelized. They say most of the flavor comes from the crust and I have observed this in my own breads. A pale colorless loaf is often tasteless. We have had several discussions here about why a loaf is occasionally pale even when baked into dryness. The answer is usually centered on over proofing. If you allow all the sugars to be consumed by the yeast bacteria by a long proof I think you are sacrificing color and flavor.

Basic french bread in Paris is absent additional sugars and oils by law and tradition. Using oils and egg products will improve shelf life and change the taste and crumb but that's not the issue in the question. Using only four ingredients, the French have made famous a bread that makes the most of the fermenting process and delivers wonderful depth of flavor. I have read in BBA that many French bakers use a combination of natural levain's and commercial yeast as necessary, depending on activity of the natural yeast. My own experimenting has led me to believe that a natural yeast or sourdough dough feels softer and tastes better than an instant yeast product. It's a small change but worth noting I think.

The most significant improvement you can make in flavor will be (in my opinion) improving the crust. In my own experience, the one thing that improved the overall appearance and flavor of my french breads was learning how to properly steam and then maintain the high humidity during the first half of the baking time. The results are a thin and crispy crust, full of flavor with an open and chewy crumb. My own best results have come from using the Bread Makers Steam Generator cover and steam generator which Floyd mentioned in his announcement of the new whole grain book. The next most successful method for me is using Susan's magic 4 liter glass bowl method for the initial bake time. Here is the link for susan's method.
Susan's Glass Bowl

Hope this helps.

Eric

Atropine's picture
Atropine

Excellent post Eric!  I do not deliberately "steam", as much as "keep a dish full of water in the oven that was there to keep the oven moist when proofing and that I was too lazy/slow/forgetful to take out".  hee hee

Ok, seriously I found that keeping the dish of water in there does a phenomenal job on the crust--REALLY good.  So I keep it in on purpose now :-)

I had thought about the "but is it REALLY french bread if you add stuff to it?".  Well...no. :-)  But I am a practical girl...frankly, because I am not that great of a baker, I have *NO* qualms adding stuff in there to make it taste good! lol

So if someone is looking for authentic french bread.....really ignore everything I said. :-)

Grrranimal:  Now about using sourdough...I am a "go by feel" kinda gal.  We live where the humidity fluctuates tremendously through the year--from 15% to 80%.  So I just go by the feel/look of the dough.  I add the yeast, oil, salt, sugar, whatever else, then adjust the water and the flour accordingly.  I would start out with maybe a half a cup less of both water and flour, then add whichever you need to make a good dough.

Probably your idea of using the sourdough as a poolish is on the right track--this poolish has just had many more weeks to develop flavors.

I would go with a cup of starter in the dough.  Because the starter is NOT just water, I think it would be way too dry if you just subtract that amount of water from the dough. You will have to adjust the flour as well, or reduce just part of the water (but not an equal part as the starter).

And of course it also depends on your starter--if it is a wet starter or a drier one.  Mine is goopy, like pancake batter.  But that fluctuates slightly too.  So the "touch/eye" method works best for how much water or flour you need to adjust.

Understand that I am still experimenting with the "starter as flavoring"--it was a Divinely inspired whim the first time I tried it a few weeks ago :-).  After a few more weeks, I can probably give you a better idea.  

I would say try it and see! For me, it is fun to play :-).  You have nothing really to lose, just put some yeast, flour and water in a bowl and let it do its thing for a week or so.  Or get some of those starters advertised here and other places.  Take your bread recipe, add 1 cup of starter to it, then add enough flour to get it where you want it.  Or use it as a poolish (but still add extra yeast--sourdough takes a long time to rise--this is used as a flavoring, not as a sourdough starter, per se).

I am eager to see if you try this and what your results are.  As I say, we really enjoy the results.

Also, if you do not want to go this route, but can add sugar to your bread (as per french bread tradition--not sure if sugar is allowed or not) then REALLY try the different types of sugar.  Light brown gives a very different flavor than dark brown, etc.  That might be a quicker way to manipulate the flavor level.

A.

grrranimal's picture
grrranimal

 

After years of resisting the call to starter, it looks like I'm going to have to start down the path of starting on starting a starter.  

If I'm gonna do it, I might as well try to see if I can do it wild style. 

I feel like I'm embarking on a care-and-feeding project.  But I'll post pics of the results. 

On an unrelated note, I bottled my first batch of hard cider, last night, so maybe I'm just on my way to becoming MoY: Master of Yeasts.

They say the French are masters of controlled rotting: bread, cheese, wine.  

Bring on the rot of ages!

 

Prandium longa. Vita brevis.

Cooky's picture
Cooky

Not to worry, G, starter is not the scary mystery that I used to think it was. Just make sure you start out with some rye and/or organic wheat flour (which are loaded with bread-loving wild yeasts) and keep stirring it up and feeding it (and taking away half) every day, and you'll be fine.

If you're going for classic French bread, feed it white bread flour. Or, when you split it, instead of throwing half away, feed one half with wheat/rye, and one half with white. Then you'll have both types. At whch point you will *really* be tempted to name them. Proceed with care.

 

 

 

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

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Grrr,

This site has some excellent threads on starting and maintaining a new starter. Search "sourdolady" and take a look at her easy to follow process. Most people don't have any trouble getting things going. Knowing you are making bread the way they did 3000 years ago is humbling to say the least. It's a long tradition that will serve you well.

Eric

Atropine's picture
Atropine

Here is the one I made today....

 

Proof:

3 Tbls dark brown sugar

1.5 Tbls yeast

1 cup warm water.

 

When that foams, add:

4 Tbls melted butter

1/4 c wheat gluten

3 cups flour (I used harvest king)

1 cup sourdough starter

1 tsp salt

 

Mixed and kneeded for about 5-10 min in a Kitchen aid.  Let it rest about 20 min. Kneeded again for about 3-5 minutes.  Lightly oil (VERY lightly--there was no sheen on the dough).  Let rise for about 30 min in a cold oven with a bowl of HOT water below it.

Took it out, deflated, shaped (one loaf in a loaf pan, one round just in an 8x8pan).  Loaf pan was lightly oiled, the round had cornmeal on it.

Let rise another 30 or so minutes.  Slashed both, then turned on the oven with the bowl of water still in there.  Baked at 350 for about 45 minutes, maybe more (til it looked pretty lol).

The result was a rounding success.  The bread tasted very complete and complex.  It did have a TINY bit of a sour aftertaste, which I think can be eliminated by either upping the sugar or cutting the starter to 1/2 or having a less developed starter (maybe just a few weeks old) or maybe by feeding the starter more (my starter is on the skinny plan--it gets fed when I think about it).

Anyway, that is one to get started with (get it?  get STARTED with?  I crack myself up!)

Hope this helps.

rudolf's picture
rudolf

I have found that the longer the dough is fermentrd the better is the taste. Here in the united kingdom artizan bakers claim to have fermented their dough for up to 36 hours. This allows the fermentation process to bring out the natural esthers. My process takes nearly as long as I  make a poolish and allow to gather strength overnight, I then complete the dough by adding the rest of the flour etc and knead. I let it rise overnight in the fridge. In the morning I knock back and form to whatever shape I need and allow to rise at room temperature

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

started. Last night I put 240g water, 200g flour and 1/4 tsp com. yeast into a bowl, stir, cover, and went to bed. Today I looked at it and studied it while sipping my coffee. I just can't bring myself to make a strait white...or can I? Suddenly the cupboard doors flew open and in fell (out with the grams folks) a few heaping soup spoons of potato flakes, an egg white (my standard ingredient) flew out of the fridge, two teaspoons of brown sugar fell in, two teaspoons of yeast, about 4 tablespoons of very ripe gloppy sourdough starter (tipped the jar)sort-of jumped in, a big splash of water and oops a chinese soupspoon of milk powder (oh no, wonderbread on the way!) a handful of oatmeal to counter act that thought, and more white flour. The rye bin was jumping up and down but he'll have to wait for the walnuts, next time, sorry.  The cupboard doors solemnly closed and the dough now patiently awaits folding. It's started to rain. I'm back to sipping coffee.   :)   Mini Oven

ehanner's picture
ehanner

You and I would be dangerous in the kitchen Mini. I do the same thing, waiting for a sign that a particular item is begging to be added. Half the time I can't remember what I used or for sure how much went in. It's very hard to go back and duplicate a success later. Oh well.

We ordered out for chinese the other day for lunch and my fortune cookie said "You will have great success on an important project". Then the next day I ate out in another chinese restaurant and this time my fortune said "Ignore the last fortune".  So you can see how conflicted I am. It's a wonder anything turns out!

 Good to see you out and about!

Eric

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I love your complements! About the fortune cookie thing, I think you're supposed to forget the "important project" not the "success" part. Got any "not so important projects" in the making? By the way, the loaf came out fantastic! Wonderful golden color. I brought the loaf inside to cool and the aroma...well ...you know. Took pictures too. Baked it in my stainless salad bar "form" with lid on. Like you said, probably never be able to duplicate it. so what? Maybe even better next time. It was fun. The real test is the taste and if hubby thinks it's "white" enough.

Now that motion detectors and computers are getting more advanced, someone should come up with a program that records our creative recipes. It shouldn't be too hard, all one would need is a scaled cupboard and a video camera. The mixer bowl could even detect changes and write everything down in black and white. Little code bars on the bins, etc. I bet the recipes would have crazy amounts, not the least bit rounded.

Good to know you've got fortunes.  Wanna do something dangerous?   Mini O

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Mini,

For a guy who spent my adult life as a commercial pilot in a very structured business, I'm really enjoying the creative flexibility of baking and cooking in general. I've always been a risk taker, unafraid to try new adventures. In fact when I go for a while without a flop I know I'm in a rut and haven't tried anything new.

To answer your question, you bet!

Eric

brucecm's picture
brucecm

I can echo some of these concerns/frustrations. I've been baking bread for a couple of years now, most of that with sourdough. I've experimented with a variety of techniques and am able to make a pretty decent loaf, with holely crumb and crisp crust. But my breads lately have been flat and flavorless. Today I baked a pair of batards. I fed my starter yesterday morning, used that to mix a 70% pre-ferment left at room temperatue overnight, and mixed up the final 65% dough this morning. Guessing that a different mix of flour might achieve the as-yet-unfound wheaty/nutty flavor, I used a blend of 50% KA bread, 25% KA AP, and 25% course ground semolina flours. After a first proof (with several turns) of about 5 hours, benching, shaping, and second proof for 2.5 hours, the loaves went into a preheated, bricked oven at 475F. I spritzed for 6 minutes, dropped the temperature to 400F, and baked for 30 minutes total. (The bottoms burned, I think 500 was too high). I had enough dough left for a boule, which went into a banneton and into the fridge for baking tomorrow morning. The finished loaves had good color, crispy crust, chewy, holely crumb, but little deep flavor. Could this be the flour? Could it be the starter? My goal is to make good bread with just flour-water-starter-salt. Perhaps the overnighted loaf will turn out better... Bruce

grrranimal's picture
grrranimal

 Well, I feel for you.  I'm working on a starter, to see how that goes, but in the meantime, I've just concluded that time is everything.

The reason I'm working on a starter, though, has to do with some of the advice in this thread re using starter essentially as a flavouring agent, rather than making it the sole source of the heavy lifting.  The combination of a little yeast a bunch of starter sounds good to me, in concept, but I need to get my starter mature before I can try it.   

Prandium longa. Vita brevis.

brucecm's picture
brucecm

I probably should have waited until this morning's loaf came out before posting last night. There may be a connection between obsessiveness and baking...

After reading through these forums I decided to try the start-from-cold-no-stone techniques this morning with the loaf I retarded overnight in the fridge. No stone, no bricks, no steam, no sprtizing, just slash and bake. I tried 425F for 50 mintues on an upturned sheet pan. The bread got a good oven spring and came out nicely spherical (I love it when it does that). Waited all morning for it to cool and tried some this afternoon. The result was much closer to what I had been hoping for: shiny, chewy, light, airy crumb; crisp crust (though less crisp that I had been getting with a preheated oven, stone + bricks, and sprtizing); and good, wheaty flavor.

I'm not sure if it was the extra proofing time, the flour mixture, the cold start method, or what. But definitely a good loaf. This weekend I'm going to try the no knead, ten second fold technique and see how that goes.

Bruce

grrranimal's picture
grrranimal

 

Just thought I'd mention that I'm liking the flavour of my loaves much better, these days.  The biggest difference I've made is extending frementation times on almost everything.  In some cases I've also cooled down some stages so fermentation will happen more slowly.

Still learning, but really liking the direction the flavour is going.

Working on my first sourdough starter, now.  Finnicky bastard, it is. 

 

Prandium longa. Vita brevis.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

..to the both of you, bruce and grrrr. :) --Mini O

grrranimal's picture
grrranimal

 

You on your way out of China, yet?  (Or am I remembering, wrongly, that you're heading westward?) 

Prandium longa. Vita brevis.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Left China Aug 30 and been here in Austria over a week getting things together. It's been raining just about every day here and I'm freezing my starter off. Saw you had sunshine, isn't it marvelous?
Mini O