The Fresh Loaf

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Improving the flavour of my semi hand-made bread?

Wilfred Green's picture
Wilfred Green

Improving the flavour of my semi hand-made bread?


I wasn't sure exactly where to post this as it's a bit of hybrid question.

For the last few years, I've been baking a loaf of bread every two or three days.  I use a Panasonic bread machine to make the dough which I then shape by hand, leave for a second prove and then bake in the oven.

My recipe:

1.5 tsp yeast

450g strong white Canadian flour

150g strong wholemeal Canadian flour

12g salt

1 tsp sugar

20g extra virgin olive oil

380ml water


It's all loaded into the Panasonic the night before so it sits for a few hours and I use program 4 (Whole wheat) which is a five hour cycle.  Before it starts baking, after four hours, I take the dough out, it's normally grown to the top of the pan.  I very lightly knock it back, shape it into a bloomer and then leave it to prove again for another hour and a half.

After that prove, I slash it, give it a wash with egg white and sprinkle poppy seeds on top.

I bake for twelve minutes at 220°C, reduce to 200°C and continue to bake for a further seventeen minutes.  I don't add water to the oven for steam because the oven has a vent and steam just bellows out of it.  I did run steam for a while but I don't really notice any difference.

I get a nice crusty bread with a good crumb but all the flavour is in the crust, it tastes really good and I'm sure a lot of that is due to the egg wash and the poppy seeds.  But the actual body of the bread, the bit in the middle is a bit bland really. 

I don't know what I'm expecting but I'd just like a bit more taste, a bit more oomph from the bread.  

Does anyone have any suggestions please, any tweaks or additions to the recipe?  Or am I expecting more than's possible for what's effectively a mighty white 75/25 bloomer?

Thanks :)

clazar123's picture

Flavor comes from fermentation and ingredients and you seem to have adequate of both.

Initially I wondered if the salt was enough,but it comes in at 2.4% -that should give plenty of salty taste, unless you are someone that needs A LOT of salt in order to taste it. Everyone is different in this department. I am a salt sensitive and 1-1.5% is plenty for me.

As far as fermentation flavor, there are several ideas to try but they will alter your simple method and timing. You could try making a preferment with some of the flour and water and just a small amount of yeast. Let that sit at a warm (80F/27C) for several hours to overnight. then mix with other ingredients. Bulk ferment, shape, prove, bake as usual. If you do this with a part of the whole meal, it has the added benefit of hydrating the wholegrain flour.

Another old baker's trick is to use old dough as part of the ingredients. Save a piece of dough from your prior loaf, soak it in the water to mush it up and add to the new dough. HERE is a post that talks about it. There are a lot more discussion about this topic. Use the SEARCH box.

Use the search box and look up : preferment, biga, old dough

BrianShaw's picture

Those are great ideas, above.

It seems like a fairly standard recipe with a smaller amount of yeast than normal for a pan bread to accomodate the autolyze and longer bulk fermentation that you describe. 

As you suggest, consider changing the flour ratio and including a greater amopunt of whole wheat flour. I find 100% whole wheat to be much too much, but 50-50 has worked good for me.

Also, consider adding seeds and nuts to the dough. That will likely give dditional "oomph" and is easily tailored to your liking.

 In addition, consider exploring different brands of flour. Some are better than others, especially with whole wheat. Unfortunately, I only know the brands available in American and cannot provide advise on brands in your world.

mariana's picture

Wilfred, your dough has too little water and not enough yeast to be ready in 3 hours of fermentation time (out of four hours that you give it, 1 hour is tempering and kneading, so no fermentation takes place). Normally, proof before baking should not last 1.5hrs either, it shows, again, that your bread dough is rather dense with little yeast in it.

However, if you are happy with the process and your bread looks, then simply give your bread dough more time to mature. Prepare your bread dough in Panasonic as usual, then refrigerate it as is, in your bread machine pan, covered, for 8-48hrs. This will give it much more flavor. For example, prepare your dough in the evening and refrigerate it overnight or until the next evening.

Then take it out, let it come to room temperature (you can use your Panasonic's tempering cycle time (that period of time when the ingredients rest before the machine begins kneading them).

Shape it, let it proof and bake it.

BrianShaw's picture

I think I may have been... or, at a minimum, not adding additional value to the discussion. :)

Wilfred Green's picture
Wilfred Green

Thanks for the replies so far, I'm just answering the bottom one but responding to everyone.

You're using terms I don't understand like autolyze!

I add the ingredients into the pan in the order I've described and the machine sits for quite a while before it starts mixing.  Generally I do this the night before so not only is it all sitting together for the 'rest' period of the cycle, it's had a good few hours previous.  The yeast goes in first and then the flour so the yeast won't even start to get activated until the machine starts kneading so there's no fermentation happening for a long time.

The machine says that out of that four hours, the first 1hr-1hr40m is resting, then there's 15-25 minutes kneading and then it's the 'rise' period up to the end of the four hours.  It does another quick twist of the paddle about twenty minutes before the end, I assume that's effectively knocking back the dough to remove air.

 I certainly wouldn't call the bread dense once it's baked.  It's not as ridiculously soft and fluffy as bread baked in a bread maker can be, I think the texture is about right.  Here's a couple of pictures that should show the bake and the crumb. 


I don't really want to be adding seeds or nuts to the dough, it's largely used for sandwiches.

This is the flour I'm using: white wholemeal, and I buy it in reasonable quantities.

 /edit - The post above mine has been edited?  The one which linked to Paul Hollywood's recipe?  I thought there was some useful info in there :confused:

clazar123's picture

Don't worry about vocabulary. Baking bread has a whole lot of it since baking bread is a world-wide activity.

Autolyze simply means rest period. It is good to rest a bread dough after mixing-either at room temp or in the refrigerator. It can be short or long and if there is any wholemeal flour in the dough, it should be a minimum of 30 minutes to help all the branny bits absorb enough water so they don't rob it from the crumb after it is baked. So mix the dough, cover and rest, shape,proof/2nd rise and bake.

Your loaf is beautiful but mariana's comment about the shortness of bulk fermentation is probably the source of your issue. Initially, I thought you were saying that the dough fermented for 4 hrs. When you break down the cycle, your dough is getting MAYBE 2-2 1/4 hrs bulk fermentation time. Is there a cycle on your machine that has a longer rise time or does your machine allow you to adjust the rise time? If no, then just remove the dough once it is mixed and allow to rise in an oiled bowl in a warm spot (top of refrig, inside the microwave with light on, on a heating pad set to low) until doubled-should take about 3 hrs. Then proceed as usual. 

So you have some options to try. I like to use a preferment. I just use a small part of the flour (50g?) and an equal amount of water so it makes a thick batter. To this I add a generous pinch of yeast. Mix and let sit on counter overnight. Next morning add it to the rest of your dough ingredients as usual. Remember to account for the water/flour amounts used in the preferment when you measure out the rest of your dough ingredients. Proceed as usual. This may be the least disruptive to your current procedure.

Have some delicious fun!


Wilfred Green's picture
Wilfred Green

Interesting, thanks.  However, the dough in the pan had already risen to at least double the original size by the end of the cycle.  Here's what it looks like in the pan at the end of the four hours.

Are you saying I should then take it out and let it double in size again?  I doubt it'll fit on the baking tray if I do that :)

Here's that same dough after I lightly knocked it back, left it to prove for an hour and a half, egg washed, slashed and threw poppy seeds over before baking.


This is all done for convenience as well, because I put everything in the machine and use the timer, it's all ready in the pan as I get up in the morning to do the next stage.  If all goes well, the loaf comes out of the oven at around 10:15-10:30 and it's just about cool ready for lunchtime.


@BrianShaw, if I increase the water percentage, will that increase the size of the dough by much?  Your suggestion of going 50/50 and increasing to 65% hydration is probably the easiest thing to try to start as it shouldn't change my procedure.

BrianShaw's picture

I had second thoughts about what I wrote in my previous post and deleted it. Hope that doesn't make the thread too confusing.

Your recipe is basically a 60% hydration, which isn't uncommon for pan bread. For free-form loaves, what you call "bloomers", I tend to go higher - 70 or 75%. For your recipe that would be 420 to 450 grams water, respectively.

Autolyze is that period of time where the flour and water sit and after mixing to hydrate before kneading and rising. Classically it is done without the leavening but there is no harm either way. If yeast is added, then that period techically counts toward fermentation time. 

Compared to the "reference recipe" I mentioned in the deleted post, Paul Hollywood's White Bloomer, the only significant difference is that you are using about half the yeast he specifies. That extends the rise time a bit, which benefits flavor building in your case.

As is, your bread looks great, especially since your intent is sandwiches. Thanks for the pictures!

BrianShaw's picture

Thanks for the link to the flours you are using.  WOW... I wish I could get that where I live. Looks like exceptional four.

With white wholewheat you can esily change your flour ration from what your recipe reads to 50-50, or even higher amounts of the wholewheat. That will give you increased flavor and will not change the texture much, if at all. With similar flours, I use a 50-50 ratio and 65% hydration and really like it for sandwich bread.


BrianShaw's picture

Wilfred, especially since you have a successful formula and process already, I’d change slowly… one thing at a time.

You can change both flour ratio and hydration while keeping your current process. Try 50-50 flour ratio first. Your hydration is currently 63% (I rounded down) and you can raise that to 70/75 without significant impact to the final dough mass size.

The idea of a preferment, mentioned earlier, is also a good thing that will add flavor. It will take a bit more care when measuring so your formula doesn’t change. But it’s not that difficult and very well might add exactly the flavor you seek. 

To extend the fermentation time might require process and timing change. Consider that option, though, since it could make a difference that you will like.

Wilfred Green's picture
Wilfred Green

Right, I'll try the preferment first.  It doesn't look as though it's a difficult thing to do and from what I've read, it's the most likely to make a big difference.

I use a total of 600g flour so I'll go with 100g flour and 65g water (as per the suggestion here) and reduce the amount of flour and water that I put in the pan.  Realistically, we load the bread pan at around 22:00 and the timer in the machine means it's ready for me to take out at 08:10.  That means the cycle starts at 04:10 but it's sitting there for at least an hour before it starts kneading.

The timings concern me slightly.  if I were to make the preferment the previous day at midday, it'll have ten hours to do its stuff but then I'll be putting it in the bread pan in the machine where it'll sit for another six or seven hours before anything happens.  Is that likely to be OK?  I assume it'll continue to grow while it's there, even though it'll be surrounded by flour and water.  Once the machine starts to knead, will it effectively get knocked back and combine properly with the dough that's being mixed?

I'm quite keen to try this now :)


BrianShaw's picture

I’m not sure why I didn’t think/mention this yesterday, but if you’re mostly happy with your current recipe and process another easy experiment for a bit more flavor and crumb tenderness would be to use milk instead of water. 

Wilfred Green's picture
Wilfred Green

Won't that make the crust softer?  I do like a nice crusty crust.

I've got a preferment on the go, it's the first time I've actually started a dough by hand, it's satisfyingly messy to start with.

BrianShaw's picture

It seems that with a softer crumb would also come a softer crust, like a commercial "white bread".

Good luck with hte preferment experiemnt. Can't wait to see the results!

Wilfred Green's picture
Wilfred Green

Here it is just mixed at midday today.


Ten hours later


I scraped it out and put it in the bread pan.  I'd already added the yeast and the white flour (taking into account the amount of flour already used).


Then added the rest of the ingredients on top.


The machine is on the timer, the four hour cycle officially starts at 04:10 and the first hour or so will be the 'rest' period of the Panasonic so realistically, it's going to sit doing nothing for another seven hours.  That'll be a seventeen hour preferment.

I hope I won't lift the lid tomorrow to find it grown massively out of the top of the pan.

Precaud's picture

I have (and like) Panasonic breadmakers, and I use the start-of-cycle rest period to autolyze the dough, and then add the rest of the ingredients when the mixing begins. But this requires manual intervention and won't work when using the delayed-bake feature. But it is a very constructive use of the mandatory rest period.

Wilfred Green's picture
Wilfred Green

I was genuinely concerned that I'd get up this morning to find the preferment hadn't mixed in with the dough or that I'd have a huge mass growing out of the pan but my fears were unfounded.

It was perfectly normal


As soon as I opened the lid of the machine, I could tell this was different.  It had quite a strong yeasty scent which I've never noticed before.

I knocked it back and shaped it into a loaf and could tell straight away that once it baked, one side was going to be larger than the other.  Hey, it's done by hand, this sort of thing happens :-)

Time for the second prove.  Again, I could smell the dough which I've never really noticed before.   Once that was done, I slashed, egg washed and sprinkled.


 Then baked as normal.

Here's the end result.


We're going out now.  I'll post back later on with the taste test.

Wilfred Green's picture
Wilfred Green

First impression.  It looks the same as normal, the texture of the crumb looks the same.

In reality, it's a little firmer, a little chewier.   It doesn't really smell any different.  

Crust is still very crusty and tastes fantastic, no doubt improved by the egg wash and the poppy seeds.

The crumb is definitely firmer and chewier but I'm not sure I can taste much difference.  There might be a little more flavour there but it's not bang, in your face noticeable.

Yippee's picture


CLAS = concentrated lactic acid sourdough

It takes approximately 24 hours to make, which is not much longer than the time it takes to make the preferment. However, you will have a much more powerful and instant flavor enhancer to use for multiple bakes.

Simply replace 5% of the flour in your recipe with CLAS (5%flour+the liquid), mix well, then make sure to properly prove it at approximately the 28-35°C range (I usually prove at 32-35°C). Shape and bake as usual.

I don't have a bread recipe that is similar to yours (1/4 whole wheat, 3/4 white) to illustrate the workflow. However, using CLAS is super simple, and I believe an experienced baker like you, judging by your bread, can easily handle it.

If you are interested, here are some links to help you get started:


Wilfred Green's picture
Wilfred Green

Oh, I'm really not an experienced baker, all I do is throw some ingredients into the bread machine to make dough and then deal with what comes out the end.  I don't really understand the process at all.

This looks like it might be too involved for what I want. I'm really after an easy life and this is getting too complicated.  Plus, I have no way to prove at that temperature range you suggest.


BrianShaw's picture

I would expect a very slight difference, as your excellent experiment proved. Thaks for the excellent pictures of your progress!

Have you explored what exact taste qualities you are seeking in that extra "oomph"? This is not an easy thing to do, I've found.

I have a couple of white bread recipes, pan, not free-form like yours, and I had to tailor it with extra sugar and salt to please my family. In your recipe I wouldn/t change salt unless you really think that is the additional taste, but with such long fermentlyse (a contraction of fermentation and autolyze that may be fitting since you put the yeast in at the very beginning), you might be experiencing a bit of sugar exhaustion. In your case, fermentation is likely to be happening for a lot longer than would normally be expected for that type of bread. Doubling the sugar, with the rest of hte recipe as written, as a next experiment might be worthwhile. Even if htat doesn't meet your needs, you'll still have an edible loaf.

Wilfred Green's picture
Wilfred Green

Thanks Brian.

If the sugar isn't exposed to the yeast until the kneading starts, do you really think it could be sugar exhaustion?  It's not getting involved with any process really until the mixing starts in the machine.

I don't want to add any extra salt either - I want to taste the bread, not the saltiness.  I'm wondering now if I try the preferment with the wholemeal flour rather than the white and use the entire 150g rather than 100g.  Naturally, I'll increase the amount of water I use for the preferment as well.

150g of wholemeal flour with 94ml of water for the preferment.

It's all about experimentation, right?

phaz's picture

Exlerimentation is key. Eventually it'll be what you want. Enjoy - both the ride and the bread!

BrianShaw's picture

I’ve seen bread machines but never used one. So I looked at the manual for a Panasonic and I seem to have made a bad assumption. I thought you put all ingredients into the hopper and set your timer, etc. what I failed to realize is that your machine probably has a separate yeast hopper and the yeast gets introduced at the mix. So, you’re right… my sugar exhaustion theory is invalid.

The best I can offer is a question, would a sweeter bread (more sugar) add that oomph? 

Like you, I like experimenting. Currently the experiment is the use of alpha-Amylase to support fermentation. Lots of academic research and several dough trial with tomorrow being the first real bread. 

Wilfred Green's picture
Wilfred Green

You are right, everything goes in the pan at the start, I always put the yeast in first and then the 600g of flour and all the other ingredients on top.  The oil and water are the last things to go on but I know for a fact that the liquid doesn't soak all the way through the flour to the yeast while it's resting.  I know this because once, I made a point of burrowing down after the rest period and the bottom was still dry.

I'm not keen on using additional sugar to make a sweeter loaf.  

As I said, I'll make the preferment today with the wholemeal flour and see if there's any noticeable difference.


/edit - Grrr, timings mean I can't bake tomorrow.  I'm going to have to put this preferment in the fridge to delay things for 24 hours.

BrianShaw's picture

I know the feeling. I bulk fermented some dough in refrigerator last night because I started late and didn’t want to be baking at midnight. 

Thanks for the clarification on process. I can’t stop chuckling, though, as I previously thought that I’m the only one who would do such a thing. Many people just don’t understand us intellectually curious types. :)

regarding sugar, and salt perhaps. I really suspect that this is why it might be tasting a bit @flat@. Typical white bread is 3% sugar using baker’s percentage. Your receipt is .8% if I did the arithmetic correctly. 5 grams is sugar = teaspoon. You could easily double that and still have an artisanal taste without noticeable commercial white bread sweetness. Similar with salt; your recipe is proportionally less than “normal “ for that type of bread, but closer. There could be a boost in flavor from the preferment as fermentation alcohols add flavor but that alone might not be enough.

interestingly, Paul Hwood, in his all white bloomer, uses no sugar and a standard 2% salt. 

Can’t wait to hear about your next experiment!

Wilfred Green's picture
Wilfred Green

Heh, interesting that you suggest to increase the salt but in an earlier post you said not to increase the salt!

Sugar is an odd one, I see many recipes that have quite a lot (in my opinion) of sugar but as many which don't.  You've picked out a prime example in Paul's recipe with no sugar at all.  I think traditionally, we in the UK don't use much sugar in bread but in the USA (I'm assuming you're in the USA because of certain spellings), bread generally is a fair bit sweeter.

But I'm digressing because I'm only making one change at a time.

I wasn't going to post a picture of another bread pan but this made me chuckle because it looks like a cat has been *ahem* leaving a deposit.


That preferment was made, it sat on the counter for about ten hours before I stuck it in the fridge.  It was in the fridge for about eighteen hours.  I took it out, it sat on the counter for another five hours before I split it into parts and added it to the bread pan where it would have sat for another seven hours before starting to be kneaded in.  I used 150g of wholemeal flour and 94ml of water which was 50% more than the previous one.  I totally forgot to increase the amount of yeast I used in the preferment though.  It did grow, it at least doubled in size.

This preferment was a lot firmer in consistency than the one made with white flour.  It wasn't sticky at all, I was able to simply peel it out of the bowl, rather than have to use a dough scraper to get it out.

Here's the resultant loaf.


Come back in a few hours for the results of the totally unscientific taste test.

BrianShaw's picture

Yep, I can be a bit inconsistent at times. Figuring out things like this tend to lead to a variety of thought processes, some of which may somewhat contradict earlier thoughts based on the results of intermediate experiments and goals.

And, yep, I'm in USA and made similar assumption that you were in UK based on terminology. I worked in UK for a little over a year several decades ago so have a slight familiarity with the differences... and there are diffferences, as you note.  :)

EDIT: I just looked and found an option in the user profile to insert location...

I'm looking forward to the taste test results.  You bake a very pretty loaf of bread and even without the extra oomph I'll bet it tastes great!

Wilfred Green's picture
Wilfred Green

My wife tried this before I did and she said she couldn't really notice much difference in flavour but said that the crumb is definitely more chewy than before and not in a bad way.  But then she doesn't notice the difference between SD and HD TV and didn't even notice when I added a second smart speaker to give decent stereo sound.  She's not very observant :-)

I can definitely notice a stronger flavour in the crumb and also the crust. While cutting the bread, it feels firmer than without the preferment. 

My bread normally comes out of the oven around 10:15-10:30 in the morning and at bedtime, whatever's left is sealed away in a plastic bag to slow down the process of it going stale.  If I cut a sandwich the following lunchtime, the crust has usually gone a bit soft and lost some of the flavour.  Today, it had started softening up but it wasn't as soft as normal and was holding more flavour.

So we're getting there, little steps are all making a slight difference.

The next thing I'm going to try is to increase the hydration.  I'm currently using 63% hydration and on the next loaf, I'll increase that to 70% (bakers percentages) while keeping the same preferment I used for this loaf.  Do I need to add a little extra yeast if I'm increasing the hydration?  I seem to remember reading that somewhere.

(This is the yeast I'm using.  Note that at the moment the site is giving a warning because their secure certificate expired four days ago).

Realistically that'll probably be Monday.  I don't think I'll be baking before then.

BrianShaw's picture

The assessment of your latest experiment sounds like what would be expected. TBH, the hydration will not affect taste and probably will change the crumb a bit.

It seems to me that if the minor change provided by the preferment still doesn't meet your goal there is little that will take your bread from "SD to HD" except by trying more salt. It might be time to experiment with an "extreme measure". I know, I know... :)

I've never noticed recommendations to adapt yeast percentage to the hydration. For sourdough I use 20% starter, by baker's percentage. For regular ADY breads, I use about 2 tsp ADY (a bit less than a "normal 7 g. sachet) per pound of flour in a white bread. Yeast is perhaps the most forgiving ingredient in bread baking because changes in rise time always compensates.

EDIT: I've never seen a yeast product like you are using; how innovative... yeast AND bread improver all in one! I wonder, though, if hastening fermentation might potentially reduce some flavor enhancement that comes from a longer fermentaiton cycle. The preferment somewhat compensates for that, in your situation.

One other option to consider might also seem a bit extreme.. a major alteration of process. Have you considered changing from the bread machine to handmix/knead and overnight cold bulk fermentation? The slower and longer fermentation time is generally considered a key way to improve bread flavor.

BrianShaw's picture

Wilf, if you have a spare 13 minutes and 17 seconds you might enjoy this YouTube video. My recent experimentation has been on this topic, Philadephia style hoagie rolls, and the use of fermentation ehancers. It's interesting to map the recipe differences using a common metric, baker's percentage, whenever possible. Different measuring systems can make that a challenge.

This analysis technique is one I tend to use, comparing recipes with similar recipes as a reference, then adapting to my taste. 

Wilfred Green's picture
Wilfred Green

I've baked more since the last post in here and it's certainly better.  My first wholemeal preferment was refrigerated for a day and I can confidently say that it's better if it's used fresh and not allowed to chill.

Something else I've noticed is that my flour is actually a long way out of date.  I don't know how it's happened because I normally buy enough to make 90-100 loaves in bulk which means, if it's fresh when I buy it that it's probably a month out of date when I run out.  I noticed at the weekend that the wholemeal flour I'm using went out of date in October 2021 and the white, just a few months later.  It smells perfectly OK, it handles perfectly OK and there are no weevils living in it but that may be another factor in the taste stakes.

I've been experimenting with sandwich loaves over the last few days.  I bought a pullman style bread tin to get a nice square loaf.   It's a 1kg tin and my first two loaves didn't quite fill it up, despite leaving for an extra long second prove once in the tin.


As you can see, not quite enough dough really.

So I increased the flour to a total of 700g from 600g and increased the proportions of everything else.

This one turned out rather well, it filled the tin completely and gave me a real square loaf with corners you could cut yourself on!  I've basically baked a house brick :-)

I baked a brick!


My only complaint about these is that the crust is very crusty and for a sandwich loaf, they really ought to be softer but that's quite easily dealt with.  Bake the day before I want to use it, seal the loaf in a plastic bag overnight and the crust softens up nicely.

Ideal for sandwiches but unfortunately all these types of tin are just a fraction too small to use in a toasted sandwich maker. 

This recipe, with a preferment and along with the fresh flour I'm picking up at the weekend (15kg of wholemeal and 45kg of white) should do me nicely.