How To Make Bread Taste Better – Increase The Flavour!

Many bakers ask themselves “Is homemade bread always bland? Or am I expecting too much?” And, well, you’ve got a point! Home-made bread can be extremely boring, especially the next day. But if you’re open to making a few tweaks to create more flavour in your bread, I’ve got a few ways to make bread taste better. And yes, if done right, homemade bread can be just as good as the ones you can buy, if not better!

Actually, if you consider the pride and fun that comes with making bread yourself, you’re gonna enjoy eating your homemade bread much more!

A simple solution is to use good ingredients and extract maximum flavour from the flour. A longer first rise will make a massive improvement to the flavour of your bread. Adding extra ingredients such as sweeteners, malt flour, nuts and seeds will make your bread taste more exciting.

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Why does my bread taste bland?

Bread will taste bland when made too quickly. Rushing the fermentation stages of the bread won’t allow the flavour to develop. It’s natural to think adding extra ingredients will make the bread taste better. However, you can make amazing bread by keeping it simple too. Start by slowing the rise or using a pre-fermented dough.

What flavour are you looking to enhance in your bread?

But first, let’s backtrack. When we look to improve our bread we tend to think about maximising the flavour of the ingredients. But there are times when we want to lessen the flavour of the bread. A flavourful bread can be too overpowering to match other flavours such as sandwich fillings or accompanying meals. In this case, the best way to improve your bread is to lighten its flavour and adapt its texture.

Here are a few relevant articles that you might like to read:

How to make bread less dense

How to make bread more crusty

How to make bread less chewy

The main flavour categories of bread

The two following summaries can be used to target the characteristics of your homemade bread:

Light refreshing taste – Use flour from a warm region. Include olive oil, a short first rise or use the fridge when extending the rise for extra sweetness. Bake quickly in the oven.

Good examples: Ciabatta, Pullman loaf, Pizza

Deep aromas – Use flour from cooler regions, a long first rise, no fat and bake to achieve darker colours in the oven.

Good examples: Baguette, Pain au levain, Pain de Campagne

Of course, these are not defined rules, there is plenty of overlapping and exclusions! My point here is to make you think about where you want your bread to go. Sometimes drawing more flavour is at a detriment to the loaf!

Gareths’ top tips to make bread taste better

1- Use quality flour

Flour is the main ingredient in a loaf of bread, so selecting a good quality is important. It’s common to think it’s “only flour”, yet, switching to a more premium brand is a sure-fire way to make your bread more flavoursome.

What many bakers don’t realise is that a lot of cheap flour found in supermarkets is really bad! The protein it contains is often largely damaged. This prevents it from forming long, strong gluten without a long bulk fermentation or autolyse. Despite these possible fixes, you will struggle to make lighter tasting “quick-bread” with weak flour. Some poor-quality flours cannot withstand long fermentation periods anyway and the dough collapses.

There is also sometimes a bitter, “off” aroma from low-quality flour which will impart in the smell of the baked bread. It’s common for this smell to put you off making bread again. The simple solution is to get better flour!

Types of flour used to make bread:

Bread flour

It’s best to use bread flour to make bread at least at first. It produces more gluten to trap gas produced by the yeast. This makes the dough more extensible and offers a more pleasant bread texture. A quality brand of bread flour will provide reliable results and be a better all-rounder for all of your bread recipes.

Bread flour has a protein content of around 11-13%. This is near the higher end of the spectrum for protein content. Higher amounts of protein mean more gluten and the water quantity of the dough will have to be increased. It is possible to find flour with higher protein levels than 13%. These varieties should only be used for high-hydration baking techniques.

All-purpose flour

Flour with a protein content of 11-13% is best for standard bread recipes. Yet depending on where all-purpose flour is grown, it can also be in this range, making it suitable for bread. However, many all-purpose flour brands don’t perform all that well when making bread. That doesn’t mean that it won’t make good bread, it just means that you might want to stick to bread flour at first. This will help beginners if your bread is collapsing or is dense like a brick.

Whole Grain flour

Using whole grain flour such as a bit of wholemeal, rye or spelt will give your bread more depth of flavour. You don’t even have to add loads of it either! Try switching 2-5% of the white flour in your recipe for a whole grains variety. A small amount of wholegrain makes bread that’s interestingly perfumed. This is one of my favourite tricks to add more flavour to my bread!

What brand of flour should I use?

Aside from looking at the label for its protein content, a simple flour test is to give it a smell. If it smells aromatic and pleasant, you’re in business. If you take a whiff and it’s harsh, unpleasant, or rancid, consider a better source. Speak to local baking groups or bakeries and see what brands are popular in your area.

2- Lengthen the first rise

Allowing dough plenty of time to rest during the bulk fermentation stage provides some of the biggest gains in improving the taste of bread. A lengthy dough fermentation process increases the amount of starch broken down into simple sugars. These work with the yeast to produce organic acids and gas. Expect a healthy dough to rise better, keep fresh better and be more flavorful.

And besides that, any simple sugars that don’t get consumed by the yeast will sweeten the bread. Either way, awarding the dough plenty of time to ferment is a great way to release more flavour without adding extra ingredients.

What is bulk fermentation?

If you are unfamiliar with the term “Bulk Fermentation”, it’s the stage the occurs after mixing, and before the dough is shaped. It is also called the “first rise, “rest time”, “BF” or simply, “bulk”.

Have you seen bread in a bakery with a description such as “42-hour” or a “3-day process”? This is the time the dough takes to make and the bulk fermentation stage is going to take up the majority of this time.

The length of bulk fermentation is relative to the amount of mixing that occurs. Mixing speeds up the process of dough fermentation and develops a strong gluten network quickly. This means that a dough that is intensively mixed will need a shorter bulk fermentation time.

Mixing doesn’t accelerate the production of organic acids or ethanol. So even after a long mix, it is still beneficial to allow the dough to rest. These natural enhancers mature the flavour of the dough and help other properties such as its elasticity, gas retaining ability, shelf life and aroma.

Try a recipe that has a 2-4 hour first rise and see the difference in the flavour of your bread. You will need to use less yeast in your dough to prevent it from over-proofing. Cooler temperatures also slow down the rise significantly.

3- Chill the dough in the fridge

When dough is fermented in a cool environment, gas production slows down. Still, two things happen. The first is that protein continues to hydrate and form gluten. This will build a stronger gluten network that is great at retaining large gas bubbles.

The second is that complex starches are broken down into simple sugars. These include maltose and others which make the bread taste sweeter and darken the colour of the crust. When warmth is restored to the dough, the sugars are readily available for the yeast to produce gas, thus speeding up the second rise.

4- Use a preferment

Using preferments in the dough will also shorten the required bulk fermentation time. Prefermenting dough in the form of a biga or poolish increases the dough’s maturity. Sourdough and the pâte fermentée method provide similar benefits. By including flour that has already been fermented the dough will have similar properties to longer fermented “straight doughs”.

A benefit of using a prefermented levain as opposed to a long bulk fermentation time is that it uses up less space. You get a mix of deep aromas and long strands of gluten, combined with the lighter fresher flour.

To preferment flour for a biga or poolish, it’s a case of adding some water, flour and a small amount of yeast to a bowl and giving it a light mix until combined. It’s then left for 12-18 hours at room temperature till added to the dough.

Or try a Pâte fermentée?

As a piece of dough ages, it develops its flavour profile by developing wild yeasts and becoming more mature and acidic. If you were to incorporate a bit of old dough into a dough mix, all that flavour and dough maturity will pass to the fresh batch. The yeast inside the old dough is also powerful enough to make bread rise.

French bakers have been using the pâte fermentée method for years. The method is beautifully simple.

Every day a piece of dough was retained from a mix and kept overnight. The following day the old dough was added to the mix in place of yeast or sourdough. The process is repeated and the natural yeasts develop more flavour and activity over time. Sounds interesting?

Imagine the yeast activity and aroma from bakeries that have operated this method for years?

Actually…. Centuries maybe?

The bread would taste amazing, and some bakeries in Paris still operate this method today!

4- Try a sourdough levain

Sourdough is a type of preferment although it’s such an animal it’s an entity by itself. It’s pretty common these days for home bakers to start a sourdough culture. It’s fairly simple to do and once you master your starter, you can create some outstanding flavorful bread pretty quickly.

Due to the sourdough starter’s makeup, you’ll usually get a smack of acidic sour each time you take a bite. Using a dutch oven can improve homemade bread drastically. The results from dutch oven baking are so good your friends will think you are a professional baker!

See my favourite dutch oven

Using a sourdough starter is like prefermented flour – but supercharged! High amounts of lactic acid and active bacteria work quickly to mature and rise the dough. As sourdough is slower to rise the dough gets more time to develop. This enhances its flavour and crumb structure.

5- Avoid fats to bring out the flavour of the flour

Butter, oil and eggs have a part to play in bread making. For sure, they are important to create richness when baking silky brioche or sandwich loaves such as Pain de mie.

But, fats don’t really enhance the flavour of the flour, they smother it and add their own rich taste.

Fats shorten the baking time by increasing the speed at which the crust browns in the oven. This makes the crumb softer and a smoother tasting bread is created. Fats are not for enhancing the flavour of other ingredients.

This makes laminated bread more elegant, rich and satisfying, just like when used in cooking! There are reasons that avoiding the use of fat is not a blanket rule, Brioche is a perfect example where “The more butter and the higher its quality, the better!!”.

Brioche gets the majority of its unique flavour from butter and eggs. The flours flavour is masked by the high quantities of fat. The quantity of butter in the finest brioche can be as high as 80% of the flour’s weight!

Butter has similar importance in croissants. When making either croissants or brioche, it is best to use the highest quality French butter available. Normandy butter is often selected as it tastes amazing and has a higher melting point which is perfect for bread.

I suppose what I am getting at here is that fats can add flavour to certain styles of bread. But if you want to maximise the taste of quality flour, they are best avoided.

6- Switch water for milk

Dry milk powder or scalded milk adds flavour to bread and softens its texture. Instead of using plain water, replace it with scalded milk or add some milk powder to your dough.

7- Add extra ingredients

The majority of this article focuses on enhancing the flavour of the flour to improve the flavour of the bread. But sometimes we forget or run out of time for extended fermentation methods so we need to make bread with flavour another way. This can be done by including other ingredients to change the flavour and aroma of the bread.

Extra ingredients can be added into the dough, often near the end of mixing, or by rolling or topping the unbaked dough before baking. Stretching dough out and adding toppings such as pesto, tomato and cheese is the basic method to making focaccia bread.

Other popular toppings and possible inclusions include:

Seeds

Rolling the dough in seeds or oats after final shaping is a great way to change things up and add a bit of flavour. You can also add them to the dough at the end of mixing like I do to make seeded bread. It’s delicious!

Nuts

Walnut bread is a fantastic bread to make, packed full of flavour, though it can often be too intense for many palettes! It’s best to buy walnut flour, but whole walnuts can be ground in a blender if you’re careful not to overdo them!

Sweeteners

Sweeteners such as sugar and honey can be added to flavour bread. Honey adds both sweetness and moisture to the bread. Be sure to use a pasteurized variety of honey, as wild honey contains antibacterial properties that can harm the yeast.

Malt

Malt can be used to give the deep flavour that we associate with malted loaves. It’s best to use non-diastatic malt as diastatic malt will unbalance the rate of bulk fermentation and make a sticky or gummy crumb.

8- Master the bake

A nice, coloured crust will impart its aroma into the rest of the bread. To achieve this, crusty bread should be baked in a hot oven at 230C (450F) with steam. Midway through the bake, the bread baking temperature is often dropped by 10-20C (50-60F). This method enhances the colour of the crust, whilst letting moisture escape the crumb.

Ending thoughts about better tasting bread

That’s it, the best ways to get more flavour in your bread. If you want to learn more about bread baking, you should check out the how-to make bread page. It’s a one-stop solution to all the techniques used to make better bread.

Frequently asked questions about creating more flavoursome bread

Does the water that I use affect the taste of the bread?

You won’t benefit from switching tap water for bottled as the minerals evaporate in the oven. If the water in your area is very soft or contains high traces of chlorine or other purifying materials you might want to try bottled water.

How long should bulk fermentation last?

A standard bulk fermentation time of 2-4 hours is used for most artisan bread. This time can be increased to around 6-8 hours for lightly or no-kneaded dough. To increase dough maturity, place the dough in the fridge overnight, or longer.

How do you fix bland bread?

Your bland bread could be the result of rushing the process. Try to increase the dough’s maturity by placing it in the refrigerator overnight. This will slow the fermentation process of the yeast right down and produce more interesting bread flavours.

What spices taste good in bread?

Rosemary pairs with bread beautifully! As does oregano, sage and thyme. You can also add excitement to your bread by using spices such as cardamom, turmeric or cumin. Add sparingly as they can be very overpowering to the flavour of your bread.

What adds flavour and colour to bread?

Using fats and sweeteners will increase the flavour of your bread. They also lower the browning point of your bread to produce darker crusts and deep, interesting flavours. They also tenderize the gluten to produce a softer crumb.

Does flour have to be organic?

For bread to have more flavour, try stoneground or organic flour. The production process in these flours is a lot gentler which arguably produces a more flavorful ingredient.

Where can I get good quality flour?

Look for a flour mill that delivers in your area. You’ll get superior flour when you buy direct from mills and provided you’re prepared to buy a large sack, it’ll often work out cheaper.

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2 Comments

  1. I loved your article. I’ve been making bread for over 45 years and my very favorite is sourdough and has ground, sprouted wheat berries (interestingly soft wheat berries work best), with about 1/3 spelt flour and is baked in a dutch oven. Tons of flavor with a creamy consistency.

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