Knowing your bake is a success by the aroma

So i’ve been delving into the world of gluten free bread. Trying it out for a while with the aim of making it as healthy and delicious as possible. The problem with mass produced shop bought gluten free is that it ends up being even less healthy than mass produced shop bought “normal” bread with all the things they add-in to make it nice. So i’m keeping it wholegrain, sourdough and nutritious as possible.

Well, it’s like starting all over again at the bottom of the learning curve. Making a gluten free starter from scratch (I suppose I could have used a little of my rye starter to inoculate some gluten free flour and feed it out but being a bit of a purist and I do like to challenge myself I decided to start from the beginning) and then getting a feel of how these flours behave and trying to get the best rise with a nice crumb.

I’ve eaten my way through a few bricks. Gotten through a fair bit of flour. All edible but not satisfactory. Until yesterday…

I knew from when my bread hit the oven that it was going to be a success. By the aroma alone! All the breads so far have baked ok and been nice enough but even while baking they never had that beautiful smell of baking bread. But with my last loaf a few minutes in and my place had that lovely bread baking smell. Haven’t cut into it yet but I know! it’s a success.

This is true with yeasted breads too. When you’ve hit that sweet spot and everything has gone just perfectly the aroma alone will tell you all is well.

1 Like

Funny …. I very often go by aroma as well. Sometimes, I have a timer set on a bake but then … the aroma, and I think … it is done … and when I check (visual … with a new flour mix I might take a temp), it is!

It goes along with understanding the feel/look/smell of the dough in its various phases also.

I’m not GF and no experience GF so my comment is not on that line :slight_smile: but best wishes on your GF bread making.

1 Like

So too with a starter and levain build. Use it when it smells nice. If it has a nice aroma it’s going to make a lovely tasting bread.

By far the best aroma I get from a levain build is a typical formula from Jeffrey Hamelman. 125% hydration, 20% starter and left to mature for 12-14 hours. The resulting bread always tastes amazing.

Thank you. Just cut into the loaf. Lovely and soft which is a huge step in the right direction for a gluten free bread. I’m getting there!

I’m interested in the Hamelman levain build you mentioned. I don’t know if I figured out correctly what you mean, but here’s what I came up with: for 100g of levain: 20g starter, 45g water, 35g flour. Would this be right? How do you calculate it? I think I used a roundabout way; I’m sure there’s a better one. Thanks! (Maybe this should be a separate post as this has nothing to do with aromas!)

Hi Arlo,

Here’s how to work it out…

Flour 100%
Water 125%
Starter 20%

The starter Hamelman keeps is the extra he builds from previous Levains so that’ll also be 125% hydration. But not to worry if yours is 100% hydration as it’s only 20%. And 20% at 100% hydration is quite close that you won’t notice much, if any, difference. So let’s punch in the numbers…

Bread Flour : 100g
Water : 125g
Starter : 20g

I’ve used these amounts as it’s easier to see the flour as 100% if it’s 100g and everything to be worked out from there which happens to be 20g starter. But of course depending on how much you need you’ll need to alter the amounts but not the ratio. An easy way to work out any levain build from this ratio is as follows…

125% hydration with 20% starter is his: 20 (starter):125 (water):100 (flour) or 4:25:20 (as every number is a multiple of 5 and we can rewrite the ratio into it’s lowest whole number).

4+25+20 = 49

Now let’s say you want 150g levain at this ratio. 150/49 = 3.0612. Now you multiply all the numbers in the ratio 4:25:20 by 3.0612 to get your build:

4 x 3.0612 = 12.24 starter
20 x 3.0612 = 61.22 flour
25 x 3.0612 = 76.53 water

So with a little toggling of rounding to the nearest number and you’ll get:

Starter 12g
Bread flour 61g
Water 77g

Which is near enough. If you wish to get exact then you’ll need to build enough where it’ll be a multiple of 49 exactly! So build a little extra and keep some back as your starter for the next bake.

Kept at 70°F (room temp) 12-14 hours. What you’ll get is a lovely frothy levain which has a really nice aroma.

“BREAD” by Jeffrey Hamleman is an excellent book. Can’t recommend it enough. A good introduction would be his Vermont Sourdough recipe:

And once you’ve tried that then you can try the excellent (can’t recommend it enough) 5 grain levain:

You can thank me later. Or better still… Thank Jeffrey Hamelman :grinning:

Thanks, Abe. I get it now. Good thing I asked as I was way off! Thanks for the great explanation.

1 Like