The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bread has a chemical taste!

mizrachi's picture
mizrachi

Bread has a chemical taste!

Twice now I've made Reinhart's Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread and each time the dough has had a distinctly chemical/solvent smell and aftertaste.  I'm having a hard time figuring out the source of this issue.  The flour, KA Organic Bread Flour, was recently purchased and used successfully in other recipes.  The other ingredients, including the walnuts and the raisins seem ok, nothing rancid tasting or out of the ordinary.  I'm using stainless steel mixing bowls and the loaves are proofed and cooked in clean bread pans.  The only substitutions I made with this recipe was replacing the shortening for butter.  I'm at a total loss here.  What could it be?  Is this a chemical reaction?  Did the flour go bad?  Could it be the instant yeast?  Help!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Check cinnamon,  Oven cleaner?  What was baked last in the oven.  Wood oven? Paint on wood?  let's see.... fat on oven walls or something burnt on oven floor?  Have someone else taste it and see if they notice it.  Are you taking any medicines that might affect your taste buds?  Um....Or have you had your hands in any solvents or cleaners?   or polishing brass or copper?   um.....  flowers blooming near the work area?   recent plumbing work?  water difference?   or mad scientists using your mixer.... or the dishwasher soap didn't get rinsed off the dishes well enough....  or the cows were eating wild garlic...  anyone cut onions near your rising dough?   Roast some of the nuts or heat one for 5 sec in the micro and see if it changed aroma.  Put some of the flour in warm water and see if it foams when a little vinegar is added.  if so there might be baking powder in the flour that makes an aftertaste.... funiture polish on the kneading table?.... that's all I can think of for now..... anyone else?


Mini

mizrachi's picture
mizrachi

No to all of these ... but I'm starting to wonder if it was bad yeast? The second batch smelled and tasted off before we even put it in the oven. And both times after it baked, the smell and taste reminded me of that chemical odor that Wonder bread gives off ... I just read a post on another site that identified this as old yeast.


Another detail - the second batch had *less* of an odor/taste than the first, although I made it exactly the same way. Yeast was Fleishman's from Publix grocery store, expiration Dec 2010.


I am completely stumped by this!!! The other loaves I made previously were just fine - and I used the same flour, yeast and butter (no shortening used) ...

xaipete's picture
xaipete

I haven't made that bread, but I do regularly bake with walnuts and KA flour and have never had a chemical aftertaste. It is possible that your shortening might have picked up some off-flavor! Maybe it is rancid. --Pamela

LindyD's picture
LindyD

How old is your cinnamon?  How about the shortening?


Has anyone else tasted the bread and made the same complaint?

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Maybe it is the yeast. I'm sure you can return it no questioned asked to the grocery store. Just make sure you get a new jar from a different lot code.


--Pamela

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

It could easily be the shortening, especially if it's the new stuff that's supposedly free of trans fat.  I'm not even sure why I think this because we can't get the new shortening here in Montreal.  I use vegetable oil as a sub for butter, but not canola.  If there's any canola oil in your shortening, or safflower oil, it could be that, because both, especially the canola, have strong tastes to them.

mcs's picture
mcs

I'm going to second one of the many suggestions by MiniO. You're not by chance using the deep dark blue Dawn ultra power dish detergent are you?  That stuff leaves a nasty smell on stainless steel, Pyrex, and plastic bowls that took me a couple of times in the dishwasher to get out (and the aroma leeches into the dough).


-Mark

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Mark, Please don't tell me that. That is the soap I use. I make a point to rinse heavily but on occasion it does linger. So what do you use?


Eric

xaipete's picture
xaipete

I use Dawn as well (from Costco, who else?) and have never had a problem with residue. Perhaps I am using too much water to rinse? I have to watch this as Santa Rosa is headed for a bad summer, water-wise. --Pamela

mcs's picture
mcs

You'd know by the smell it if it was an issue with your soap and rinsing.   When it came out a few years ago I bought it because I like the color (yes, really), but got rid of it because of this issue.  A few months ago Costco had it on sale and I bought it again (because of the color AND price) and 'rediscovered' the problem.  It's most noticable on the dough that preferments at room temperature.  Now I've got the Costco 'Environmentally Friendly' dish soap that smells OK just doesn't look as cool.


-Mark

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Mark, do you think it could be certain types of plastic containers that pick the soap residue? --Pamela

LindyD's picture
LindyD

First, I've no idea if the OP is using the Dawn product, but if that were the case, why did the other breads not have the same chemical taste?


The issue seems to be specific to one recipe.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I would bet on the water. Only cold water and maybe distilled would be my first thought.


Eric

mizrachi's picture
mizrachi

Thank you all for your responses.


I don't use any dish soaps or deteregents that might leave an off-taste, and I substituted organic butter which I melted for the shortening.  We also have pretty good water here.  That said, I still wonder if it was the yeast.  The packets of instant Fleischman's I used which left the chemical taste on each occasion was from the same three-packet series, but later this evening I made a simple loaf using a packet of yeast from a different three-pack and it came out perfectly, without any chemical taste.


 


So, could it be the yeast?  Does yeast go bad?  Would a poor batch of yeast give off this type of flavor? 


Aside from that, I can't think of any other variable that might have been responsible.


 


 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

any variety, even the good ones, so don't let them near any weapons in the house including your baking stone otherwise you may risk...  "Nightmare on Baker's Street" or "Killer Yeasties" and ev. "Return of the Killer Yeasties, Before Their Time."  


To test.... this is just off the top of my head...first open it and take a good whiff (don't get high, there are too many sd folks here that could frown on that) and tell me if it appeals to you.  Now open a newer batch and compare.    ::reserved space for odious remark::


If that didn't clear the air and find the culprit,  mix a scant 1/4 teaspoon into some water and let it dissolve.  Smell any different?  Stir a spoon of regular flour into it and thicken it up a bit.  Let it just foam in a lightly covered dish, leave the room and come back later.  (Get your nostrils to breath something else for a change and get your mind off of it before, well, just go do something else.)  You should be able to tell if it is kicking out bad gasses after a few hours especially when you lift the cover. 


If that doesn't work,  try frying half of it without any oil and half with the margarine in question to see which one is harboring criminally bad flavor.


Mini

merrybaker's picture
merrybaker

I think I know what you mean.  I haven't noticed it with this particular bread, but have with some other breads where cinnamon is mixed into the dough.  Try this: Keep everything else the same.  Don't mix the cinnamon into the dough, but sprinkle it on the rolled out dough (with sugar, if you like), and roll it up to make a cinnamon swirl.  See if that makes a difference. You might want to make just one small loaf to try it out.


Make sure you don't overproof the dough.  I think overproofing might be a contributing factor.  Cinnamon affects yeast activity (lessens it), so it's easier to proof such a dough too long.

mizrachi's picture
mizrachi

Well, I can't say for sure if the case is now officially closed, but I made an almost identical loaf this evening without the cinnamon and substituting currants for raisins.  And, as I expected, there was no chemical taste whatsoever.  So, either the cinammon messed around with the yeast somehow, or the yeast itself was bad.  Either way, I'm happy to no longer have to worry about it and I'm thankful for all your help!


 


Miz

Marni's picture
Marni

Are you using dark or golden raisins?  I find that the chemical ( sulfur dioxide?) that is used to keep golden raisins light colored has a terrible aftertaste.  Maybe there is too much of that on the raisins or even the nuts.  Just a thought.

mizrachi's picture
mizrachi

Nope, black raisins only.  But I will try a small version of this recipe tomorrow without the cinnamon.  So, if the cinnamon is overly-feeding the yeast then it would yield an off-taste and that would be the fascinating conclusion to this perplexing issue!


Again, thank you all for helping out here and I'll update asap.


 


 

deblacksmith's picture
deblacksmith

Some types of yeast can produce esters.  For example ethyl acetate, (pare flavor, fingernail polish remover) and ethyl butyrate (pineapple).


Back more that 40 years ago, while in college, I worked for a small chemical company that was part of Wrigley's Gum.  We made flavors for some of the gums from ethanol and acetic acid and ethanol and butyric acid.  While we did this in chemical reaction stills, Wrigley's used to do this back in the 30's and early 40's using special yeasts in a fermentation process.


While our normal bread yeast should not do this, (I don't think so at any rate) some yeast will.  You need ethanol, which we for sure have, and some organic acid.  Rancid butter contains butyric acid.  These are all a guess on my part.  You may have had more than 1 type of yeast in your yeast packet.


One thing about esters -- it takes very small amount for us to taste them.


Dave

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

out of habit under running water in a strainer.  Takes all of 3 seconds.

Funkx2's picture
Funkx2

I have had this same problem. The smell is definitely "solventy" it seemed like a combination of ammonia with a cholrine kick and taste... first time I noticed it was after baking, about halfway through the loaf. I thought it was my yeast culture and endeavored to try it one last time before scrapping it. During the second test loaf. I started to smell/taste the solvent right in the middle of the kneading process (sensitive smell).  Then I found this thread while the dough rose.  The difference between these loaves and the previous was a new kneading surface. I used to knead on a marble counter top which I cleaned with a different cleanser, and I started kneading on a cutting board to facilitate cleanup. I read this thread and found the infamous blue dawn ultra. Problem solved. Same yeast, retested all surfaces taste gone. Washed my cutting board with Dawn ultra made a new loaf same gross taste. 

tgrayson's picture
tgrayson

I would never use any sort of dishwashing soap on the countertop. Removing all traces of it from anything requires flushing it with water, which is tough to do outside the sink. I keep a spray bottle of water for most cleanups on the counter, and then I'll follow up with "Method" as necessary and then I'll follow that with more water spray. I use paper towels rather than rags, so that I don't keep pushing the chemicals around.

That said, I would never knead dough directly on the countertop. The main problem is that my countertops are quartz and the speckled pattern makes it really hard to verify the countertop is clean. It seems that no matter how much I scrub, when I run a clean paper towel across the surface, it comes away with some stuff on it. Instead, I have a huge, thick, wooden cutting board that I store mounted on the wall. When I must manipulate dough, I put it on the countertop. I clean it by scraping and using water spray.