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I have looked in many different recipes and tried different things ie, brown sugar, diastatic malt etc and have gotten pretty good at breadmaking but I can't duplicate that taste of a bakery made Italian bread.

Response to questions in comments:

I have tried a biga with AP, bread flour, bromated flour. I've used dough enhancer, ascorbic acid. 70% hydration and everything I can read up on.

The bread comes out fine but it basically all tastes the same regardless of the changes I've made. It just doesn't have that flavor of the locally made Italian or the French baquette.

I realize that my question is broad but was hoping that commercial bakers use something that us home bakers just don't have.

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It is quite possible that it is not so much ingredients, as technique. It is quite possible that your bakery uses no more than flour, water, yeast, and salt. But Italian bread is kind of a broad term--you would need to describe the loaf in more detail, maybe with a picture. But if it is a commercial bakery, they may provide an ingredient list on request. –  SAJ14SAJ Mar 13 '13 at 1:57
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Do you mean bread baked in Italy or what we call "Italian bread" in America? I'm not sure if that's a universal term, but I assume it isn't. –  Preston Fitzgerald Mar 13 '13 at 1:57
    
@PrestonFitzgerald Perhaps a nice foccaccia or chiabatta :-) Even I can make those :-) –  SAJ14SAJ Mar 13 '13 at 1:58
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Yeah, I am in Maryland, and we get generic "Italian bread" that is like a softer crusted big baguette. Based on the recipe googling I have done, this dough is very similar to a baguette enhanced with a little sugar and oil. But that doesn't explain any special flavor the OP is asking about. –  SAJ14SAJ Mar 13 '13 at 5:00
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@Dennis are you using a biga or pre-ferment in your recipe? –  ElendilTheTall Mar 13 '13 at 7:48
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6 Answers 6

I'm assuming this is not a speciality Italian bread such as Panettone or Pan d'oro. It's a regular bread loaf.

Hard to know for sure, but in all likelihood, the missing taste is due to short rise times and yeast type. Most of the taste in bread is developed, not put in.

As suggested in the comments, the ingredients are bread flour (usually tipo 00 or 0), water, yeast, and salt. Tuscan bread has no salt. and sometimes, there is olive oil to prevent the dough from developing a skin. The notes below might be useful:

  • A French baker I work with, always keeps some of yesterday's dough and mixes it with today's dough. This means an exponentially small amount of the dough can be years old. He also performs three rises (two punch-downs).

  • Let your biga rest in colder temperatures for a couple of days so the enzymes can do their work and develop taste.

  • Get yeast from a baker. The instant yeast at the grocery store is ok but the commercial yeast can work better with the longer ferments. A famous natural bread baker in our area uses 2500 year old yeast from Egypt. (the head baker has a heck of story on how he got his hands on this yeast). Strict Neapolitan Pizza makers use Ischia starter for their dough.

Peter Reinhart explains Italian breads really well in The Bread Baker's Apprentice

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"This means an exponentially small amount of the dough can be years old". Let's say that each day the baker reuses 15% of yesterday's dough and we want to compute the weight of years-old (1 year) part in a loaf of bread (800g). (15%^365)*800g ~= 1.5e-298. Since this is less than weight of any single elementary particle of an atom, the new loaf of bread doesn't contain any amount of what can be classified as years old dough. Just for fun, the oldest dough will weigh 1 gram in a new loaf only after log(1/800)/log(0.15) ~= 3.5 days of dough reuse. –  Michael Jul 8 at 21:16
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if the bread you are talking about is crispy, extra virgin olive oil could be the clue ;)

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He explicitly stated that his issue is with the flavor and taste so I don't think this is correct. –  Jay Mar 13 '13 at 21:41
    
This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post - you can always comment on your own posts, and once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post. –  Jay Mar 13 '13 at 21:42
    
sorry, I am new with this and guess instead of a comment I wrongly posted and answer. hope it won't happen again. thanks for pointing it out. –  Carmen Mar 13 '13 at 21:52
    
and by the way, olive oil does make a different in taste when doing bread ;) –  Carmen Mar 13 '13 at 21:52
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Probably time. Good bread takes at the very least 6 hours between mixing together the ingredients and retrieving the final product from the oven.

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I would guess the big thing that separates supermarket Italian bread from homemade bread is that frequently, the dough isn't made on the premises; it's usually shipped in frozen and baked at the bakery counter. While I wouldn't recommend freezing the shaped dough, an overnight rest in the fridge (like you'd do for NY-style bagels or artisanal baguettes) will probably get you a lot closer to what you're looking for.

One thing you might want to look at is the recipe for Cuban bread from La Segunda bakery in Tampa. (Note that the amount of yeast in the recipe seems way too high for dry yeast.) One interesting aspect about Cuban bread that it seems to have in common with supermarket bread is that the crust and texture are fairly smooth. With Cuban bread, that means a long, mechanized kneading cycle; I've even heard of people using pasta machines for the kneading process. (Seems like overkill to me...) I'd also stick with bread flour, as industrial bakers seem to prefer high protein content. The Italian 00 flour makes excellent bread, but I don't think it's what you want.

The last part is the giant rack ovens they use in supermarkets. For that, I have no substitute to offer. You could buy your own convection oven, although you might have to dig around to find one that's actually worth buying.

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There are a few things that haven't been mentioned that may make a difference:

  • Salt: many commercial breads have loads of salt in them, that difference in flavor may just be more salt. The type of salt can make a difference too, you could try sea salt or kosher salt. Adding more salt isn't that healthy, but it may make the difference. Don't go overboard though, try adding a 25% more to a recipe and see what you think.
  • Flour: the grains used in the making of flour are different in Europe from the US, that may make a flavor difference
  • Water: believe it or not, water can make a big difference to the flavor of bread (or other foods). NYC has soft water from the catskills, and it is one of the reasons bread and pizza there is so good. Most municipal water in the US is hard water which I've found to make a definite difference. Try filtering your water with a brita or similar product, or using bottled mountain spring water
  • Yeast strains: the yeast you get in the store is only one strain, artisan bakers may be using their own strains, or strains you can't get in a store. You can get other yeasts online, or make your own natural yeast starter to get a different flavor
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You can add a bit of rye flour for a more "rustic" Italian Bread taste. I think that's probably the missing ingredient.

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