The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Blue Cheese and Protease Attack

longhorn's picture

Blue Cheese and Protease Attack

A friend experienced what appeared to be a protease attack earlier this week while making a Blue Cheese, Walnut, and Fig sourdough using the Tartine approach. The loaves began normally - up to forming and then sat with little change. Rather interestingly this was done in parallel with a batch a Tartine aux Cereales using the same sourdough starter and dough recipe. The loaves without blue cheese performed admirably. My friend told described the problem to me and wondered what about the blue cheese might have led to the problem.

Suspecting protease failure, I Googled blue cheese and found that much if not most blue cheese has protease added during its manufacture. As a result the Blue Cheese loaves would have a higher level of protease than the regular dough. Cool winter kitchen temperatures mean longer fermentation and proofing times but as I understand it enzyme activity is much less temperature sensitive than the yeast. This apparently allowed the protease to destroy the gluten before the yeast could finish and the bread be bakes. 

I wanted to document this because the TFL site has recorded many successful efforts to use blue cheese in sourdough. In looking at other recipes using blue cheese it is interesting that most that I can find that use blue cheese IN the bread use ADY or IDY rather than sourdough. Others form the bread. slash it, and insert the blue cheese in the slash. Others put it on top. Peter Reinhart is one of the few who suggest putting the blue cheese IN the loaf and he says to do it in the last two minutes of kneading. Apparently that minimizes the spread of the cheese protease in the dough.

It appears that mixing the blue cheese in early or having a long proofing time (low temps or low yeast activity) with blue cheese breads is a potential source of problems.



LindyD's picture

This is a lovely blue cheese rye formula from Daniel Leader's Local Breads.  The blue cheese is added when the loaves are shaped.  Made with a firm levain; no yeast.

Leader notes that the loaves will not rise very much during the proofing.

I've made it a couple of times as have other TFL members.  Here's one blog with some nice photos.

It's been a while since I last baked it, but I recall it's quite tasty.  

longhorn's picture

I looked at that book but must have missed it. 

There is no question that blue cheese can be great in bread, I haven't done that one but I do Reinhart's recipe periodically. I love it. And I haven't had any trouble with it but...felt my friend's experience should be shared!


LeadDog's picture

I have made the one from Leaders book and always folded the Blue Cheese into the dough instead of mixing it in.  Great tasting bread must be the folding of the Blue Cheese in that spared me the problem.

longhorn's picture

The fact that blue cheese bread usually works suggests its aggravation of protease attack is not a given. I think you are right, folding it in is probably better than a full "knead". In addition, it is not obvious that ALL blue cheese has added protease and even if done I would expect a range of addition levels so some blue cheeses would be "safer" than others.

I have never had the problem either but I have not, to my knowledge, made blue cheese walnut bread in cold weather.

My friend added her cheese at the end of the knead as Reinhart suggests. But many of us could easily add the cheese at the beginning and that would clearly invite a higher likelihood of failure. This failure also suggests it is probably helpful to be sure to proof blue cheese/walnut bread at elevated temperatures to keep the yeast active and more and not depress it below the protease (so it has a chence of rising before the protease takes over).


breadsong's picture

Hello, I just picked up Mr. DiMuzio's book, Bread Baking - An Artisan's Approach, from the library and am thumbing through...and there's a formula for Bleu Cheese Bread with Toasted Walnuts. 
In the notes to the formula, Mr. DuMizio advises to not add the bleu cheese crumbles directly to the dough during mixing, or they will break up and make the dough too short. When the dough (minus the cheese) has finished mixing, take it to the bench and stretch it without tearing it into a rough rectangle. Spread most of the cheese crumbles over the dough, fold it as you would for a laminated dough, and then perform one or two more sets of folds during the bulk fermentation.

It looks like a really good book so far. I hope his comment is helpful to you!
frrom breadsong

longhorn's picture

there is an interesting consistency in that the authors seem to reliably suggest adding the blue cheese late and typically in a gentle manner, but they never explain why. I think this failure serves as a beacon to WHY!



txfarmer's picture

Firstly, I have made the one from Local Breads with no problem. There are blue cheese in and on top of the dough:


Post proof

Post bake:

HOWEVER, I am having tremendous trouble making a ww cottage cheese sourdough loaf. The symtom is exactly like what you decribled: everything is fine, up until proofing, then it grows some, but far less than what's expected. No ovenspring whatsoever. Does cottage cheese also have extra protease? How about ricotta cheese? I am making these loaves with extra long fermentation time (with a 12 hour retarding period in the fridge), so protease would have had enough time to destry the gluten.

Another point is that the above mentioned blue cheese loaves were made in the summer of TX, and there are nearly 50% of rye, so the rise was fairly quick. 3 hours bulk, 90min proof, which means protease activity may not be that much. Had I retarded the loaves, like I am doing with cottage cheese loaves, I might encounter trouble?

Thanks for posing the question, food for thoughts for me as I am experimenting with the cottage cheese loaf.


longhorn's picture

A quick Google search using "Protease" and "Cottage Cheese" suggests that ALL milk products contain protease. (How true that is and how variable the level is I have NO idea!) I am going to guess that the problem with cottage cheese MIGHT lie in the liquid if you are using that. It seems the goal with blue cheese is to not mix it in very well. The liquid in Cottage Cheese might spread the protease through the dough OR it may be that cottage cheese is very high in protease?? This is all speculation but...

If you use the liquid you might try draining it and or even drying it (a bit) to reduce its moisture and potential protease mobility in the dough????

Like you, I have never had problems but I my kitchen is almost always warm so relatively fast proofing times which helps the yeast!

Thanks TxF