The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Thiol Questions

Palindrome's picture
Palindrome

Thiol Questions

Hello all. I'm trying to close in on this thiol issue. So many of you have been useful in helping me figure out that it is likely thiols making my dough turn to goo before it ever reaches the oven. And while I appreciate the suggestions for bringing my starter back to health, I find it wasteful to refresh my starter so often and frankly I lack the time. I think I can come to a faster (and less wasteful) solution by again delving into the acquired group knowledge.

As a winemaker, I actually love thiols and select thiol extracting yeast for this characteristic. You all have smelled and appreciated thiols. In lower ppms they create lovely grapefruit, guava, and Passion Fruit aromas. However, in higher concentrations, they can create garlic or rotten egg aromas referred to as mercaptans, but the one thing they have in common is they are all thiols. Which brings me back to bread.

I would like to know, of those of you who have had thiol related starter issues (starter turns to goo and has no gluten integrity)...

1.) How many of you have and use well water for your bread making?

2.) Does your well water smell like rotten eggs or natural gas/propane?

3.) If so, have you discovered whether the rotten egg smell was caused by sulfur producing bacteria or was it elemental in nature?

My current thinking and suspicions are that my personal thiol related starter issues are due to mercaptan producing bacteria in my well water. My well water does smell like rotten eggs, and I've been using it in my starter. I haven't gotten a new starter going yet, but when I do I plan to only use boiled water. This will kill all of the bacteria in the water as well as volatilize any remaining gluten destroying mercaptans in the water.

Thoughts? Experiences? 

David R's picture
David R

Assuming that you're correct about what's been going wrong, you will see the obvious difference in starters quite soon. I'm guessing that if the suspicion turns out to be true and your proposed fix works, then all the water you put into your bread will need to be boiled also.

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

If you have H2S in your water you probably should not be using it to try to make bread (or drinking it either).  A simple activated carbon filter will get rid of it, but you have a bigger problem below ground and you should get professional help with finding the source and fixing it permanently.  Your local health department will probably test it for you,  In the mean time a gallon of distilled or RO filtered water from Ralphs or Safeway or CVS will make a lot of dough.

Palindrome's picture
Palindrome

Hydrogen Sulfide at the levels produced by my well bacteria, while stinky, isn't harmful, just unpleasant. Around here health department water testing is more concerned with nitrogen and other more serious water contaminants. Leaving water out overnight allows the SO2 to blow off, boilng accelerates the process. However, if it's bacterial in origin, the carbon filter won't take out the bacteria which I suspect is the real problem.

David R's picture
David R

Hm. I wish I had said what Doc said.

Especially since you seem fairly sure it's bacteria - that can't be an excellent thing.

mikedilger's picture
mikedilger

Be sure it is the well water that smells sulfurous, and not just the general sink area.

I only bring this up because I've had sewer gases come up the trap in my sink, and for a number of days I was of the mistaken impression that the water was polluted.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

making a stiff dough ball with well water should tell you something. If t turns to goo right away you know your source.

I tend to boil my water for coffee in the morning and the rest goes to a pitcher of water for starter feeding and  dough, depends on where I am but it's such a routine that I get nervous using just tap water.  Kansas City will be doing the same with all the Midwest flooding going on.  If flooding is going on near you or upstream, boil the water before trouble starts.

Palindrome's picture
Palindrome

That's good insight Mini. Commercial yeasted dough holds up for me made with the same well water. But it could still be a bacteria from that water. All of my starters have started out good before they turned evil. It's possible that it might take some time for this particular bug to build its population to a critical mass that takes over. Since I store my starter in the fridge until the weekends I may be creating an ideal environment for the bacteria if it does come up from the well since it obviously is much cooler underground.

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

"All of my starters have started out good before they turned evil."  

That sounds suspicious of a maintenance problem.

Palindrome's picture
Palindrome

Then let me qualify that by stating that all of my starters since I moved a year ago have started out good before turning evil. I've never had this problem before.