The Fresh Loaf

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Trouble with the bread...HELP!

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Fireson's picture
Fireson

Trouble with the bread...HELP!

Hello Gang,

I am looking for help for my 76 year old father who has been baking great bread and rolls for 40 years but all of a sudden is having a consistent problem with his bread....the center turns "sticky" and mushy after a few days and we are not sure what is happening?  My dad is so frustrated that he is ready to quite baking so I am seeking the collective wisdom of this group for possible solutions for him. 

Here are the particulars:

My dad makes two good sized loves at a time.  He does not use any recipe anymore as he is so familiar with the process and sort of likes to "create" every time he bakes.  I am not real sure about the temp and duration of his phases when he bakes but he never had this problem for 35 years and now in the last 10 or so its a recurring problem.  He has reduced the size of the loaves and baked them longer to no avail.  Thanks gang for your consideration.

Cheers,

Fireson

MisterTT's picture
MisterTT

Rip the loaf apart and see if there are any "strings" or "ropes" that look like taffy strands when pulling pieces of loaves apart. If so, you may have some bread rope infestation, namely Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus mesentericus. The best cure for this is to throw out any remaining opened bags of flour and any unopened bags of the same brands or of different brands that were stored together and disinfect your entire kitchen/bakery. The organisms may be present in the yeast as well so just to be safe, throw that out as well.

Do not proceed to do any throwing out if you are not sure whether you have bread rope or not - make absolutely sure, otherwise you will just lose some flour and the problem will likely persist.

Some more on this particular problem here:

http://www.thebakerynetwork.com/baking-science

 

 

Fireson's picture
Fireson

Thanks Mister TT,

Yes, there is a bitter, fermented smell.  I think your are spot on.  The odd thing is that the loaves don't start to show this behavior until 3-4 days have passed by which time we are eating the second of the two loafs.  When you cut into the loaf the blade of the knife become covered with a sticky smear and you can smell it fairly strongly.  My father has been using the same pans for about 40 years.  Should we throw them out?  In perusing the information you shared it seems like its fairly serous to try to clean the kitchen environs?  I am not overly confident we could do a thorough job to ensure we have eradicated the problem.  Thank you again for your consideration Mister TT. 

 

Cheers,

 

Fireson

MisterTT's picture
MisterTT

that you have bread rope. The best thing about this is that means that your father is not at fault! The bacterial spore problem probably came with a batch of flour that was used and since baking doesn't kill the spores, it's been persisting ever since.

In a professional bakery what you would do now is disinfect the entire bakery by some sort of fumes (firms can be hired to do so), but in a home kitchen it is not very convenient, because it is expensive and there is a whole lot of prep work to be done. I am based in Lithuania, so I cannot really say if hiring a disinfection firm to do the job is a viable option where you are located, though I think that if you are in the US or Canada you should find someone and at least find out the price.

If you would want to do this yourself (I'd recommend at least giving it a try), you need to

  • Throw away any flour, cereal, grains that you have. I know this is a painful move financially, but frankly it must be done. That is just my opinion. Some sources say that adding 1 % of vinegar to the dough may help you overcome rope (see here http://chestofbooks.com/food/baking/treatise-on-baking/Rope-In-Bread.html#.Uft6ZpI3BqU ).
  • Clean all pans, work surfaces, cupboards where flour and grains were stored with some sort of disinfectant. Alcohol will work fine. Mini Oven has used vinegar with, I gather, successful results (some discussion about it here http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/8539/rope-thankful-small-kitchen ). You may want to PM Mini Oven and see what her tips are.
  • Think about what else do you use that comes into contact with flour or bread. Parchment paper, pastry brush, bowls etc. all need to get disinfected as well.
  • Get a new batch of flour and bake a couple of loaves of bread. Do not eat them. Just set them somewhere in the kitchen and wait until they get stale. Cut into the loaves and see if there's any rope inside them.

Hopefully these steps will be sufficient to eradicate the problem. I've been lucky enough to get rid of it by throwing away any bread and flour I had and have since learned to keep each bag of flour in separate airtight container or plastic bag. However, if your problem is persisting for 10 years, more extreme measures may need to be taken. The upside of this is that the health risks of bread rope are not very big (though you still shouldn't eat bread with rope).

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

And the goo smells like overripe melons (another description).  

The spores can also come into the kitchen easily with dirt, on root vegetables like potatoes and carrots so keep these things separated from your baking equipment, bread ingredients and flours.  (same in the fridge)

Be prepared to clean and disinfect the kitchen and pantry from top to bottom (needs it every so often anyway) and include the ceiling, walls, screens, curtains, fans, filters and windows and all appliances and shelves and everything in them.

It is good policy not to add raw grated root vegetables into bread.  Cook or boil them first to prevent this sort of invasion and wash veggies outside first if coming from the garden.  Leave the dirt outside.