I know from experience how frustrating it can be when your homemade bread doesn’t turn out the way you expected.
The taste of bread is determined by the interaction of multiple factors, which include the type and quality of the ingredients, how long and at what temperature it is fermented, and the baking process. Your homemade bread may taste bland if it was quickly proofed on a warm kitchen counter, or if it lacks salt. Read on to find out what are some common reasons of a lack of flavor, and how to fix it.
1. Slow fermentation makes a big difference in taste
Yeast and lactic acid bacteria are more active at higher temperatures, so fermentation will be faster. The dough will rise more rapidly, but the bread will be less tasty.
Prolonged fermentation in a cool place develops rich and complex flavors in sourdough bread. The longer the sourdough ferments, the more intense and acidic the flavor will be. The proofing time of the bread dough can be prolonged by keeping it in the refrigerator.
On the other hand, if we ferment the dough for too long, the bacteria and yeast will eat up all the available sugar, and there will be nothing left to caramelize when baking. This also makes the bread tasteless and the crust pale.
Quick proofing in a warm environment works well with enriched bread that contains flavorful ingredients such as eggs, milk, sugar, spices, seeds, or nuts. In the case of simple bread made from water, flour, sourdough, and salt, we can achieve much better flavors with prolonged proofing time in the fridge.
Sourdough fermented at temperatures between 20-25°C / 68-77°F will have more acetic acid. Fermentation between 30-35°C / 86-95°F will result in more lactic acid.
2. Using yeast vs sourdough starters
The taste of plain yeast bread is less intense than the complex flavors available with sourdough starters. Each wild yeast culture is slightly different and will result in different-tasting bread. They are also affected by the ambient temperature and the type of flour used.
Baker’s yeast available in stores contains only one yeast fungus, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In contrast, wild yeast strains are very diverse, they live in our environment, in the flour, and even on our hands.
The flavor of the sourdough starter containing wild yeasts will become even richer as it matures.
In addition to the good taste, sourdough bread stays fresh longer and is easier to digest than bakery products made with commercial yeast.
The amount of yeast added to the dough will affect the length of the proofing time. More yeast ferments the dough faster. You can extend the proofing time of the bread dough by using less yeast. This will allow you to achieve better flavors.
3. Adding different types of flours, nuts, seeds, and spices to the bread dough
Different types of grains contain varying amounts and types of sugars that favor diverse microbes. As a result, we can produce bread with different flavors.
For the bread dough, you can use a mixture of different types of flour. Fermentation of whole grains results in bread with a more sour taste. Whole-grain flours slow down the dough’s rising time due to the bran they contain.
You can also enrich the bread with different grains, nuts, and seeds. They add good flavor and contain valuable minerals.
Spices that can be added to bread include, among others, garlic, oregano, rosemary, chopped chili peppers, and onion powder.
4. Replacing water with milk or fermented dairy products
Bread made with baker’s yeast has a much milder taste than sourdough bread. However, the taste of yeasted bread can be improved with milk or fermented dairy products such as whey, yogurt, or cultured buttermilk.
Fermented milk products contain lactic acid, which is also produced in sourdough by lactic acid bacteria. Lactic acid and milk fat develop a pleasant taste in the bread and make both the crumb and crust soft and tender.
Dairy products also contain milk sugar (lactose), which caramelizes during baking. The caramelized lactose gives the bread a rich flavor and helps brown the crust.
Bread available in stores is often flavored with lactic acid or acetic acid, giving yeast bread a sourdough-like flavor. Without these additives, most store-bought bread would also be tasteless due to the rapid fermentation process.
5. Adding the right amount of salt
The amount of salt in the bread dough should be 2% of the amount of flour. This means that we should add 10 g of salt to 500 g of flour. While we’re on the subject of salt, you may wish to read my article on whether salt really kills yeast.
Salt is an essential component of bread, which affects its taste. It also has other important roles in the bread dough: it strengthens the gluten structure, helps the crust to brown, and slightly restrains the effect of the yeast, which prevents the formation of too large and uneven holes in the crumb.
6. Enriched bread for special occasions
Enriched bread contains eggs, milk, butter, and, in some cases, sugar or honey. These bread, which is often served on festive occasions in Europe, have a pleasant, rich taste, such as brioche or Panettone.
However, these enriched bread are heavier and contain more calories compared to everyday lean bread. The taste of sweet bread can be further improved by adding vanilla, cinnamon, grated lemon, or orange peel. Raisins, chocolate chips, and nuts also go well with sweet, enriched bread.
• Prolonged fermentation results in the development of rich flavors in the bread dough. Too long a fermentation time will likely result in tasteless bread. • Sourdough starters give the bread a much more pleasant taste than simple yeast. • The taste of yeasted bread will also be better if you replace the water with milk or fermented dairy products. • Breads made by combining several types of flour have a richer flavor than those made with plain white bread flour. • Adding the right amount of salt to the bread dough is important in creating a good flavor. • You can improve the taste of homemade bread by adding spices, nuts and seeds. • Enriched bread containing milk, eggs, sugar and butter also taste good.
So, if your homemade bread seems bland, you can make it more flavorful using the techniques listed above.