The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Improve flavor in whole wheat sandwich bread

Newbie23's picture

Improve flavor in whole wheat sandwich bread

My bottom-line goal is to make flavorful, 100% whole wheat bread for everyday use. I’m very interested in sourdough because I love the taste and I’ve read it’s easier on the digestive system. I tried Peter Reinhart’s 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread recipe (from his “Whole Grain Breads”) and it was gorgeous—perfectly formed, perfect size/rise, gorgeous in every way. BUT the flavor was very bland—not sour at all and very un-noteworthy. I followed the procedure for a soaker and biga versus a soaker and a wild yeast starter. I’m wondering if using his recipe with a starter would make a significant difference. I would have to make it from scratch, which I’m totally willing to do, but I’m hesitant to “dive in.” I’m debating between Reinhart’s starter recipe and Elaine Boddy’s (“Whole Grain Sourdough at Home”). Among other things, she recommends a strong white flour when making a starter, saying it’s more successful and can be used for whole grain breads. I’d love any info, recommendations, encouragement anyone would like to share. I want this process to be “simple” enough that I can do it and enjoy it and keep it going. 

pmccool's picture

One person's "not enough" might be another's "too much", whether we're talking sweet, sour, or spicy.

However, if you make a bread using baker's yeast, it is very unlikely to produce any sour notes at all; barring the inclusion of lemon zest, vinegar, or other acidic materials.

If sour is what you are looking for, then you should take the sourdough plunge.  For my money, you can't do better than use The Pineapple Juice Solution described here on TFL.  Part 1 walks you through the "why" and Part 2 walks you through the "how".

Once you have your starter up and running, use the Search tool (the box in the upper right-hand corner of most pages) to look for topics like "more sour" that would point you toward increasing the sourness of your sourdough bread, if that's what you want.


Newbie23's picture

Thanks for your input! Reinhart’s whole wheat sandwich bread recipe calls for instant yeast in addition to the soaker and starter. If I try the pineapple solution starter and use it for that recipe, do you think the addition of the yeast would detract from the sour flavor? It’s my understanding that he includes the instant yeast to help with the rise. 

mariana's picture

Hello Newbie23, 

when I started, I also was seeking ways to improve flavor, so that bread would be bread, whatever that meant in my mind or my memories of good bread, not just looks, but aromas and taste. I also thought that the answer was in sourdough starters. Well, they are necessary in rye baking but not in whole wheat.

So, I encourage you to both seek improvements in your yeasted baking to improve flavor by fermenting better with yeast, and to try sourdough. You can purchase great starters, use them alone or as improvers in yeasted breads and see if you like it better. That is \as simple as it gets and cheaper, for some starters it's the cost of a stamped envelope, or simply asking someone from your community to share a bit of their starter with your. You can also create your own starter from scratch which can take time and a lot of resources, but it is fun. 

In my case, sourdough starters per se did not improve my breads. Then I started to think that my starters were somehow to blame! LOL I had to improve my overall bread making skills to make breads flavorful, just the way I like it, whether it is soda bread, yeasted bread or sourdough, they now all taste and smell like great breads. 

Whatever you do, do it with others, like post your baking results here, for example, ask questions, follow advice, bake again, until you reach that sweet spot when your whole wheat sandwich bread tastes and smells just right. You will succeed. 

Newbie23's picture

Thanks so much for your thoughts! I want to take the sourdough plunge at some point and think I would enjoy making my own starter, but I just noticed in Reinhart’s soaker/biga comments (concerning his whole wheat sandwich bread recipe) that buttermilk or yogurt may be used instead of regular whole milk if you’re using a biga instead of a wild yeast starter; I’m wondering if this might add a little sourness to the flavor. 

Benito's picture

Buttermilk would be a great addition or substitution to the milk.  But please make sure to get real buttermilk and not just “making” buttermilk by adding vinegar to milk, it just isn’t the same.


Newbie23's picture

Thanks! I’ll give it a try! I appreciate everyone’s input!

barryvabeach's picture

The best flavor. IMO ,  comes from using fresh home milled wheat and sourdough , though that is another plunge, 

I tried Reinhart's epoxy method, for a while, first with yeast, then with sourdough, and never got much in the way of sour - though sour is a personal thing.  IIRC. in his book Whole Grains,  he adds a lot of yeast on the morning of the day of bake so he can bake it quickly ,   I tried that for a time, then moved to a different approach :  autolyse,  then knead and an overnight BF at room temp, then shape, then cold retard for about 12 hours and am pretty happy with the taste - though again, not very sour.  To get sour, for me, I need a much longer time in fermentation, but as a result,  I get a more dense loaf than the process above.    

Meant to add,  I am making 100% whole wheat, with just flour, water , starter and salt, no sugars or fats -  some may want more add ins. 

Newbie23's picture

For all of your thoughts!!! 

Newbie23's picture

I made the 100% whole wheat sandwich bread (Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads) with buttermilk in my soaker versus the regular milk I used previously & was MUCH more pleased with the taste. The texture was good as before but the taste was a tiny bit sour & much more flavorful, in my opinion. Yay!!!

I’m actually satisfied enough to stop here & do the same thing again, BUT I want to experiment with sourdough starter. So I’m a week into making a whole wheat starter using the pineapple method. I have 2 questions:

(1) I’m planning to try the same Master Recipe for 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread but with the starter I’m making instead of the biga I used before. In “Whole Grain Breads,” the soaker recipe mentions using buttermilk instead of milk IF using a biga instead of a wild yeast starter. Since I was so pleased with the buttermilk switch before, I’d like to try buttermilk in the soaker to go with the starter. I know I can do this & see how it goes etc & go back to regular milk later if I don’t like it, BUT I’d love to save myself that step if someone else’s experience can help me. :) Will buttermilk plus a starter make a really sour bread or is it worth a try just to see on my part? I realize this is kind of a lazy approach but I’d love input if anyone has it. Thanks! :)

(2) I’m about to move on to phase 4 of the pineapple juice method in making a whole wheat starter; it’s actually day 8 for me. Phase 3 said to wait another day or two if it isn’t “very bubbly & expanded.” It’s definitely bubbly—little tiny bubbles throughout—but it hasn’t grown/expanded at all. I’m planning to move to phase 4 anyway; I’ve looked for pH paper in the drug store but can’t find it so I just ordered some from Amazon & it’ll arrive in a couple days. I just wanted to share my experience to see if anyone has input about it. Thanks!