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My sourdough bread has soap taste - any idea?

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drdudidu's picture
drdudidu

My sourdough bread has soap taste - any idea?

I am making Hamelman's sourdough seed bread according to the instructions on this website for almost a year - a wonderful bread. I am using a very successful starter that I started myself. Recently (about a month) the bread has a taste of soap ??? You take a bite, and first it is unnoticed. But after few seconds you cannot be mistaken - a sharp taste of soap. I discarded several loafs, and started from the beginning trying to improve anything I could: bought new flour (King Arthur), new flax seed, new sesame and sunflower seeds. I made sure no soap remnants in the tools I use - everything was washed and dried with a lot of water, including the kneading area. And today - 2 new loafs with the same taste.

Does anybody have an idea? is it any chemical reaction that creating that weird and bad taste?

clazar123's picture
clazar123

Old seeds of all kinds can develop a soapy taste when old. You might have just bought it off the shelf but the store or warehouse may have stored it for a while in less than ideal conditions. Poppy seed,sunbflower,flax,wheat,oats,peanuts,walnuts-anything having an essential oil content can get this way and it tastes just like you describe. I store mine in the freezer to prevent this but I taste it as I buy it because I have had many a "new" package taste old and soapy.

 Give all your seeds a good chew to taste and see which one it is.

drdudidu's picture
drdudidu

 thank you! I'll taste the seeds, although I did before and they all taste OK. I will also start a new starter from a back-up and see if it improves

 

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

from http://chestofbooks.com/food/science/Experimental-Cookery/Gluten-And-Dough-Continued.html

Since gluten proteins tend to imbibe water and disperse in a weakly alkaline medium, doughs with a slight alkaline reaction are sticky. With excess alkali they become yellow and develop a soapy taste.

I hope it helps, but now you should find out if your dough contains alkaline stuff (baking powder? self-rising flour?).

G-man's picture
G-man

I've had my sourdough come out tasting soapy, as well. It was just the faintest aftertaste and was masked when the bread was spread with jam.

It went away and my starter became more sour. So I guess the alkali explanation makes sense to me, in a way.

You might search for ways to make your dough more sour, there are several threads on the subject. You might also consider a shot of pineapple juice to get the pH level down.

jeffrey hamelman's picture
jeffrey hamelman

Dear Colleagues,

A soapy flavor in sourdough breads often indicates an excess of lactic (as opposed to acetic) bacteria in your culture. This off-flavor is more common with liquid cultures. Sometimes the flavor is compared to that of old stinky socks, but I confess I've never had enough of a scientific inclination to actually taste those. If in fact your liquid starter does take on soapy flavors, more common during hotter and humid times of year, one solution is to convert it to a stiff culture for a week or two--the firmer condition reduces the soapiness and re-balances the flavor. It can then be returned to a liquid state if desired. We had this situation at the King Arthur Flour Bakery several years ago during a particularly hot and humid summer, and rather than convert all of our liquid levain formulas to stiff levain, instead we made the first build of the day a stiff one, and then the second build reverted the culture to a more liquid (125%) condition so that we could make our breads in our normal fashion. After a week or two the balance was restored and we returned to the usual liquid levain condition for both of our daily builds. 

drdudidu's picture
drdudidu

1. Regarding the last comment - excess lactic acid - sounds like not a good explanation because I made a new starter from a backup - still the same. I also made baguetts from that sourdough that turned great, tasty and no soapy flavor.

2. seeds - I did it without the sunflower seeds (although those tasted great) - still soapy. I bought a new package of flax seed, different company, organic, tasted them before (were OK) - still soapy! I am using the same sesame seeds - but these really taste great....

3. New package of bread and rye flower - still soapy

4. Reviewed my technic - no contact with soap or chemicals, fermentation in inert bowl, same tools like I use for the wonderful not soapy baguetts, no baking powder, no raising flour...

Each of this new experiment means 2 new loafs that I am throwing away, 3 days work....

So I'm really lost. Gonna do last try which is without flax seeds at all.

any other ideas???

 

 

G-man's picture
G-man

Did you adjust the hydration level, as recommended, and keep your starter at a lower hydration for a long time? I see the original post is dated September 24, and this latest post is October 5. If you started three days ago on your bread and are posting directly after trying one, that means you gave it...just a little over a week. That isn't really enough time to change the character of a starter.

 

Do what has been recommended in terms of hydration, and keep it that way for a couple weeks to make sure that the situation has changed. Until you do, you'll keep wasting flour.

drdudidu's picture
drdudidu

I did not adjust the hidration. I used that same sourdough for making baguetts that did not have any soapy taste so I assumed it has nothing to do with my sourdough.  

drdudidu's picture
drdudidu

As I wrote before - I made baguetts with the same culture without having the bad soapy taste. But (!) - according to the formula by Annis Boubsa - i make a firm starter out of my culture for those baguetts - so that might make the difference!

very interesting!

I'm going to try changing the hydration of my culture and will update regarding the results.

How exactly should I change that, and how often should I "feed" it?

Thanks a lot for everybody's advices here! 

G-man's picture
G-man

My personal go-to is about 1:2:3 s:w:f. Feed as normal, just add more flour. The consistency you're going for is one of dough instead of batter.

I wouldn't feed it less than twice a day, and if it's hot where you live three times a day at minimum. The reason for more frequent feeding is that the yeast activity peaks earlier in the cycle than the bacteria, and you don't really want the bacteria to reach their peak since they're causing the problem. Right now they're in paradise and misbehaving as a result. Time to bring them back in line. :)

drdudidu's picture
drdudidu

So how long should I stick to that frequent feeding schedule? For my liquid lavain I keep on once a week schedule - is that wrong?

G-man's picture
G-man

Not serious :)

Keep it like that until you successfully use it to bake a loaf without soapy flavor. One week, maybe two as Mr. Hamelman suggests. I'd probably advise to keep as small a starter as you can maintain during this time (25-50g) just to reduce flour waste. Not much bigger than a golf ball.

I'm assuming you keep the starter in the fridge between feedings? If so, are you waiting a little while after feeding to put it there? As long as you wait a couple hours to put it into the fridge after feeding, it can stay in your fridge for a while and be perfectly safe. There are some rare issues with fridges and starters, but most seem to be temporary and, while a pain to fix, ultimately not that hard to deal with.

drdudidu's picture
drdudidu

Yes, I keep it in the fridge between feedings, and before putting back to the fridge I wait unti it rises (several hours) - is that what I should do?

thanks so much for your help

G-man's picture
G-man

You shouldn't wait very long, I wouldn't let it peak before putting it in the fridge. Put it in after it starts rising but before the peak. You want the yeast to have a chance to be active.

jeffrey hamelman's picture
jeffrey hamelman

Dear Drdudidu,

Only one other thing occurs to me that could be causing your off-flavor. You mention making baguettes that don't have the defect, but your other loaves have it. Tell me, are the other loaves proofing in new bannetons by any chance? Years ago I bought several dozen new ones and they all gave the bread a distinct off-flavor. I called the importer, who did some researching, and told me that often new bannetons have a naturally occurring compound in them called acetaldehyde (spelling might be off here), which can cause this condition. Her advice worked: scrub the baskets with hot soapy water, dry, and use. So if you happen to have new baskets, do try that and see if it helps. If it doesn't, I'm as stumped as everyone else on this one. Best of luck. 

drdudidu's picture
drdudidu

No - I did not use new banneton for proofing. 

More follow up soon. Hope the hydration idea would work.

David

 

drdudidu's picture
drdudidu

I followed the advice of Mr. Hamelman and G-man and converted my starter to a solid one for 10 days. I tried it twice during that process and the saopy taste has gone! In the first try the bread tasted good, but still lacked the amazing quality I was used to. After another several days the second try was great and i'v got my good bread back.

I just hope that now - when I transformed my starter back to the high hydration level the bad bacteria wouldn't grow back. Any good advices for that?

(For the breads I baked during the past week i used part of the "solid" starter)

Thanks everyone for your great help and advice. I learned that starters are more fragile than I thought.

 

trial and errorer's picture
trial and errorer

I too have a soapy tasting sourdough after I've been using it for almost a year.  So disappointing.  I almost threw it out but after researching, I now have 2 things to consider; 1 being I have new baking tins that possibly add a soapy flavor and 2 is changing my starter to a more solid one.  Although, I should have done one at a time, my husband will likely start purchasing bread and stop eating mine if I don't get it figured out.  So today, I have a solid starter and am baking a loaf in old glassware.  My starter method is very nonscientific.  It would make me very sad to find that I have to be so precise about measuring and hydration levels for my bread.  That would remove all the fun of breadbaking for me (although, I'd probably still do it).

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

lower the pH and give your starter days to react and sort itself out before feeding again.  Are the yeast actions low, slow as well?  

Don't rule out "over feeding" the starter.   

trial and errorer's picture
trial and errorer

Mini Oven, Oh my, I feel way out of my league on this forum but am hoping to learn some things as I do LOVE homemade bread.  I keep my starter refrigerated and feed the night before using and leave out at room temp.  I also feed after removing my portion for baking.  (From this thread, I've learned I am probably not leaving it out on the counter long enough before returning it to the frige.)  As I'm trying to give any info that may help deduce my problem, I'm realizing that I probably have too many uncontrolled variables to even explain as I really do bake all trial and error.  A while back, my breads were just too sour so I started feeding it more water and flour which fixed the problem.  So, maybe I have been overfeeding in order to prevent that from happening again.  I can't tell you exactly how I feed my starter as I just keep it at a certain consistency which was wetter for a while but now have turned it back to solid in attempt to counter the soap taste.  My rises were very slow taking all day but they were so delicious to me (not to my husband) so I began recently adding yeast to hasten the process hoping to lower the sour. In considering the time frame, adding the yeast may be about the same time this started so is that even a possibility?  I'm sorry, I feel like this is probably just annoying to you who know what you're doing and keep strict schedules.  This loaf has no yeast and is still baking.  It rose in 1 1/2 hour and looks gorgeous in the oven.  My hopes are high.  Thank you for your help.  This is also 100% whole grain wheat which is new but the soap flavor started prior to me changing flours.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

We all started out with little information and learned more as time flew by, reading, comparing, discussing, I've been helped by others on my bread learning journey and glad to help others as best I can.  Getting some good reference books will help as well.  TFL is a great place to talk about bread and trouble shoot problems.  You can do or try as much or as little as you like to fit your individual situation.  

 Very good description of your starter.   Slow rises are great for flavour.  But that doesn't mean you have to settle for a weak yeast in the starter.  Adding yeast is one way to control the rising in such a starter but the danger is, that one day, the yeast will just not be there in enough numbers to raise a loaf before the dough falls apart.  The solution is simple, let the starter mature until the acid builds strong enough in the starter to encourage the yeast to stick around and multiply.

Take out part of your refrigerated starter and place it into dish or wide mouth jar, you need about a Tablespoon, cover loosely and let it get good and ripe.  Then feed that starter without discarding.  You can add about 4 times the amount of water (about a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice) and enough flour to make a soft dough.  Then let it ripen, ripen until it smells beery.  75°F is a good temp and it may take a few days to peak.  If it peaks and doesn't smell beery, leave it alone until it does.  It may look inactive and flat line, but as long as a beery hooch is not threatening, resist the urge to feed it.  Make sure there is plenty of room in the jar for expansion and wait.   When it does get beery, add another spoon of flour and see what it does. 

The next day remove a tablespoon to feed (as you normally do) and see how it behaves itself.  Hang on to both starters, the old (as back up) and the new (as a test.)  Keep both of them out and actively fermenting.  When the new one rises or peaks,  discard and feed again.  With a few days of the pattern of waiting for a peak (levelling off and starting to sink) then feeding, you are helping your starter regain a good population of yeasty beasties.  

Tuck it into the refrigerator when after a feeding, the starter is about 1/3 to 1/2 risen (to peak.)  It make take an hour or two for this rise to happen but your starter will have had enough of a boost to wade out the week or two in the fridge.  Now is when you can ditch or use up the old back up starters making room and washing jars.  

drdudidu's picture
drdudidu

The sesame seeds I was using. I was buying from the market - they were in a big container on the floor, and I don't know where they come from.

As soon as I moved to wholefoods seeds the problem disappear...

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

holding sesame seeds trick."   

trial and errorer's picture
trial and errorer

Verdict is in: best loaf I've ever made if I can take another bite before the soap taste hits. I am really impressed with the great flavors of sourdough and whole wheat. Is the soapy flavor harmful? I would rather not toss this loaf if it isn't necessary. 

So now I must accept that it is my starter causing this problem. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

also, keep some lemons around and add a little to the feed water to help lower pH and boost acidity.  Do this for a while until the soap taste is gone in the starter as well as the bread.

trial and errorer's picture
trial and errorer

Thank you so much Mini Oven, I really appreciate your insight and am beginning your advised process.