The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

No Smell or Weird Smell - No Bread Smell

plvannest's picture

No Smell or Weird Smell - No Bread Smell

I am trying to get back into making bread after a twenty year hiatus, and one thing has me really puzzled.  I've done the NYTimes no-knead a couple of times, some white bread a couple of times, and an oatmeal & honey loaf.  Some came out--some didn't, but that's not the puzzling thing....

Where has the smell gone?  I remember the smell of baking bread spreading all through the house.  It was lovely and rich and just flat out wonderful.  Now there's not hardly any smell whatsoever.  (OK, the smell from the way over-proofed oatmeal/honey loaf was strong--horrid yet strong)

Has something changed in the formulation of powdered yeast in the last few years that makes it not smell?  (I used Fleishmann's Dry Active and some other brand of instant for the NYTimes).  This has me so very puzzled.  I even used the old recipes, but there was no great smell.)

My nose seems to be in working order--I even called in a disinterested third party to help sniff.  Nothing...or at least nothing like before.  I swear, back in the day, you could smell the smell of fresh bread cooking from outside and down the drive.

Am I doing something wrong?  Has something changed?  Or, am I well and truly losing my mind :)

Pamela Van Nest

PaddyL's picture

Maybe it's the oven.  Do you have one of those self-cleaning, highly insulated ovens?  When I make bread, they can smell it downstairs in the flat below, and in the summer with the windows open, the people next door can smell it.

plvannest's picture

Thanks for the response, PaddyL

The oven is only a couple of years old, and yes, it's self-cleaning and probably fairly well insulated as it's one of those units that has a microwave on top with the oven underneath.  It's so very disappointing to do the work and not get the smell....that's half the fun of bread baking, isn't it?

DerekL's picture

When you remove the lid of the pot does the smell appear?

plvannest's picture

DerekL, that's another level of the puzzlement.  When making the No-Knead bread (have done it three or so times) there's no smell when I open the pot.  There is NO smell no matter what I do.  The bread tastes fine, but to me, there's no real aroma when you are eating it warm, either.  Since there's no warm bread smell, the taste seems rather bland.  After it cools so you aren't expecting warm bread smell, the taste is fine.  It's just this no smell problem. 

I've been out mucking stalls this morning, so I am fairly certain my nose is in working order :)

cordel's picture

Sometime smell goes selectively. I have noticed over the past twenty years or so that I have ceased to be able to smell some odours, while remaining quite sensitive to others. The best thing, is that I can't smell the cat's litterbox, while my husband can. On the other hand I can smell flowers that he can't smell. There are other examples, but those are my favourites.

plvannest's picture

Cordel, thanks so much for the suggestion.  I thought maybe it was just me, but I had my husband sniff, too, and he can't smell any "baking bread" aroma either.

Of course, it could be both of us since we are approximately the same age.  Going to have a young friend come over and see if she can smell anything.

Dwu3193's picture

Have you always used the same brands of yeast? Did both brands give off the aroma? Because, I remember fleischmann's giving off a nice beery aroma while red star had a weak, somewhat fruit smell when I changed to it.

plvannest's picture

Dwu, I've always used Fleishmann's.  For the regular bread it was Fleishmann's Dry Active and for the NoKnead it's Fleishmann's Rapid Rise. 

Has Fleishmann's changed their formula or strains? 

All I know is that it's very discouraging to bake bread and not have the house smell of fresh baked bread.  May be forced to go buy a candle or something LOL.

plvannest's picture

I'm going to get to the bottom of this as I seem to be the only person in the world having the problem. LOL

Next batch, I'm going to take some of the dough and put it in the little toaster oven to see if I can smell it there.

Also, am running the "clean" cycle on the oven as it had quite a bit of gunk in the bottom.  Maybe burning gunk was covering up the lovely bread aroma?  (I wasn't able to smell the burning gunk either, but maybe it was just enough to mask the bread smell.)

Going to bring in a young person to smell around so in case it's our old sniffers have packed it in. :)

Surely there's a solution!

LindyD's picture

Grasping at straws now, I wonder what type of flour you are using.

If you bake anything else in the oven, i.e., cookies, turkey, can you smell it?

My (natural gas) stove is less than a year old, very well insulated, and has a self cleaning oven.  The aroma of whatever I bake fills the house.



plvannest's picture

I ran a cleaning cycle on the oven.  I watched the rising like a hawk.  Used regular honey rather than buckwheat honey, AND I tried this recipe:

Success!  Two gorgeous loaves and a wonderful smell all through the house.  I don't know what made the difference, but it's GREAT!

AnnieT's picture

Just a thought - in my very early bread baking days the recipes called for larger amounts of yeast and quickly baked bread. These days most of us are using much smaller amounts of yeast and longer drawn out methods. I seem to remember bread tasting yeasty too. Of course I am now of an age when nothing tastes or smells as good as it used to... A.

Atropine's picture

This happens at my house too.  I cannot smell the bread I am baking, but my husband remarks on it when he comes into the house.   I sometimes can smell my baking if I leave the house for a bit, then come back in.

Just a thought-- the receptors in our noses get fatigued pretty quickly.  Part of the problem might be that you had been smelling the dough, then the baking, and your nose got habituated to that smell.  That is one reason why people wear too much cologne, or can work in a sewer and not be bothered--their receptors are fatigued.  It is why people cannot smell that their house smells like dog or cat or even bread :-).

I ran into this when scenting soaps.  I had to stop and "refresh" my sense of smell when blending scents.  One trick is to smell ground coffee.  That works sort of (better than nothing).  I believe the scent of camphor or methol might also help with that (though I cannot remember which one).

Also, as we age, our sense of smell really does change and is less sharp.

I have also found that the same is true when using sourdough--the smell of baking bread is not as strong for me in the house as someone coming in.  And that is wild yeast, so I would not think it to be due to manufactured yeast. :)