The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Possible Rope in Bread - Please Help!

mgeog's picture
mgeog

Possible Rope in Bread - Please Help!

Long time The Fresh Loaf lurker (such a fascinating site; I’m always learning new things), but first time poster. I think I may have rope in my bread, and I’m at a loss as to how to get rid of it.

I’ve been baking bread for multiple decades with no issues, but this summer some of my basic 100% whole wheat bread (non-sourdough) started displaying possible rope signs – wet sticky inside and off, slightly sweet smell after sitting at room temp for several days. I cleaned everything with a vinegar solution as best as I could, and then, because we were moving, I boxed everything up.

We’ve now moved and we needed some quick bread so I mixed up several loaves of soda bread (flour, sour milk, baking soda, salt) using a bowl, spoon, and cookie tray that had not been used with bread before (all of my normal kitchen stuff is still in boxes). The first several loaves were devoured within a day or two, but one loaf did manage to make it to day four when it started displaying a sticky, tacky inside and that off smell. Argh!

The only things in common between the soda bread and the earlier yeasted loaves were the wheat berries and the grain mill. Is it possible for rope to be on the wheat berries themselves? I’m using berries from Wheat Montana that were purchased in the last several years. I can’t say for certain if I’ve recently started a new bag of them as I transfer the bags into buckets and use from the buckets.

If rope can be on the berries, could it also have gotten into the grain mill? It’s a KoMo mill, so I can take it apart and brush and vacuum it out, but would that get rid of rope if it were in it?

Any advice anyone could provide would be greatly appreciated! Since I normally use a mix of hard red and hard white in my bread I was going to brush out the mill and then try making more soda bread with just one type of wheat at a time to try to better determine if the wheat could be to blame. If rope couldn’t be on the berries themselves or if rope could be on the berries and brushing out the mill won’t get rid of it in the mill then I’m stuck as to what to do next.

Jon OBrien's picture
Jon OBrien

I'd never heard of rope before, so I had to look it up. It sounds horrific and very difficult to shift from what I've read here: http://chestofbooks.com/food/baking/treatise-on-baking/Rope-In-Bread.html#.Vf3as9HEthE

It sounds as if it might need a bit more than brushing out to get rid of it.

KathyF's picture
KathyF

The above article mentions steam cleaning. Maybe the mill can be taken apart and sanitized with a hand-held steam cleaner.

mgeog's picture
mgeog

Thank you both for the prompt responses and the links! I read through the first link earlier today and thought, oh my, I can't fumigate my new house! I had seen Mini Oven's 08 posts before (that's why I cleaned everything with vinegar) and as I recall she narrowed down her issue to some flour she had purchased, so obviously it can be in flour. The question, though, is whether it can be on the berries themselves, or whether when it is in flour it has gotten into it at some after the flour has been ground (if that makes sense).

Since we just moved into this house, and, as I said, I didn't use any of the bread supplies from the old house while making these loaves apart from the grain and mill, it seems as though one of them must be to blame. I was really hoping not as I don't want to have to throw out all of my wheat, and I also don't know how to properly clean the mill! There is the possibility that it is not rope, but based on descriptions and pictures I've seen of rope online, it does seem to be rope.

As a way to try to determine for sure what is going on, I used a blender to grind hard red wheat, washed the blender with soap and then rinsed it with vinegar, and then used it again to grind hard white wheat, and now I'm going to bake two separate loaves of soda bread with that flour. I also poured straight vinegar over the bowl, cookie tray and spoon I used. I figure by using the blender rather than the mill I've removed one variable from the equation (since hopefully the vinegar and soap cleaned the blender).

Thanks again for the help. If anyone has tackled rope and/or has intensively cleaned a KoMo, I'd be happy to hear your experiences!

rgconner's picture
rgconner

DO you think it can sustain a long heat soak in the oven? Plastic might be an issue...

2 hrs at 160F is the standard for dry sterilization, I would go longer to make sure the heat reached everywhere, and I might add 10 degrees just in case my oven ran cool.

mgeog's picture
mgeog

Thanks for the suggestion! I thought I read somewhere that rope can survive higher heats than that and that is why simply baking the bread doesn't take care of the issue, but now I need to double-check that I'm remembering things correctly.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

looks suspicious.  Take it apart outside.  Don't vacuum (the vacuum bag could contaminate the whole house) go outside and brush it out there and let the wind take the dust and rope spores back to nature where it belongs. Then spay all parts and surfaces with at least a 10% Vinegar solution (normal vinegar is 5%) and let it air dry in the sun.  Do it twice for good measure.  :)

It could be that your wheat is not infected (would rule that out with some store bought flour and throw in some berries) and that at some point the mill was infected.  That would spread the infection to every flour milled afterward.

You find out the berries are infected, you might want to try vinegar solution with the wheat berries too spreading the wet vinegary berries out on a new tarpaulin to dry stirring often.  Bag up when dry.   Rinse before tempering and milling.  

Or bag up the berries and Before milling temper with a vinegar solution.  I've never done either method so this is experimental territory. 

Also I  highly recommend making a sourdough starter and start out with more than just water, unsweetened pineapple juice to lower the pH right away.  Sourdough breads tend to keep rope under control.  

Another note. No idea if the new kitchen you've moved into has ever had a rope infection?  Might consider spraying down the unfamiliar kitchen with 10% vinegar solution before moving into it.   Spraying everything inside and out!  Go away with all the cupboards open and drawers pulled out, sprayed & loosely stacked.  Find something else to do while it dries.  Also a good chance to find any drawers that need fixing.

Good luck and happy rope killing.

mgeog's picture
mgeog

but thanks for the link! Nice, short, and small enough to download quickly!

mgeog's picture
mgeog

Thanks for the info Mini Oven. In the midst of moving stress I had completely forgotten that you had said to use at least 10% vinegar in cleaning in your earlier posts. Crud! I’ve got easy access to normal 5% strength but not sure where to find 10% or stronger around here. Perhaps Amazon will be coming to the rescue!

The mill – it cost so much I’m scared to do anything that could possibly damage it, but I agree that it does look suspicious. I’ve only ground my own grains in it and have been using it longer than I’ve had this rope issue, but I did start using a new set of stones over the summer around the same time the problems started. Impossible to say for certain if there is a connection, though, as the summer was a muddled mess of packing and house-hunting. Do you think it would be safe to wipe down the (ceramic-corundum) stones with the vinegar and just be sure they dry completely, or could the vinegar and/or moisture potentially damage the stones? Could the vinegar do anything to the wood exterior of the mill?

Sourdough – I’ve got several starters languishing in the fridge and I prefer 100% whole wheat bread made with sourdough, but unfortunately my current schedule does not easily allow for it. (Thanks for posting the tip about “washing” starter, Mini Oven – I’ve used that with success over the last several years to help revive/freshen up some of my too-long ignored starters!) On the topic of acid, though, I thought that perhaps rope wouldn’t grow as easily in soda bread because of the sour milk, but I suppose it must be that the baking soda neutralizes too much of the acid?

I doubt this new kitchen could have rope, but all things are possible, so I’ve already wiped down part of it with vinegar (but the wrong concentration) as well as discovered various things forgotten by the old owners. One thing left behind near the washer/dryer was a tub of PDI brand “Super Sani-Cloth Germicidal Disposable Wipes" which states that it is Bactericidal, Tuberculocidal, Virucidal in 2 minutes and suitable for use on equipment requiring alcohol-based products. One would think that rope couldn’t stand up to that, but it also clearly states that they are only for use on nonfood surfaces, that it can cause irreversible eye damage, and that you should use protective gloves and gowns while using them so I’ve been hesitant to try them!

Thanks also for the suggestions on how to treat the berries. I’m going to wait to do anything with them until slices from my new loaves of just hard red and just hard white have sat several days to see if rope appears. I’ve got my fingers crossed that the end result won’t be two loaves with rope, but I’m preparing for the worst!

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Ok, so running while you still have the life force is recommended when the rope attacks. There is no survival from the onslaught. You, in short, are doomed. Doomed I say...,

Well maybe not to that extent but it's rather close.

I'd suggest a 5% bleach solution instead of vinegar. Soaking the mill stones and surfaces is suggested also. A complete bleach wipe of all kitchen surfaces is also recommended.

I think the post above suggesting that it is in the wheat berries is probably right - I'd toss them in any event. 

Guess you might have guessed that the "rope" is the baker's worst nightmare and is similar to the plague for bread stuffs.

Keep us posted and good luck with your eradication efforts...,

Wild-Yeast

mgeog's picture
mgeog

Thanks again everyone for all of the suggestions! Wild-Yeast, I think your suggestion to run for your life is a good one! The more I read about rope the more it sounds like it is incapable to be destroyed. Spores surviving several months in 70% alcohol?! No wonder the link at the top says that fumigation is necessary.

I’m beginning to think that rope would be a perfect topic for the hook story on a nightly newscast. I can see the headlines now - ”the hidden danger that is virtually indestructible and threatens to destroy a staple of your everyday life!”  Then some industrious soul could make a fortune marketing lactic acid “the homebaker’s last defense against this insidious pest!” or sourdough starter “the ‘natural’ way to keep the danger lurking in our midst at bay!”.  For those who don’t go for the scare-mongering there could be a feel-good marketing attempt too … “learning to live with your new friend in the kitchen, B. subtilis”. This is all tongue-in-cheek, of course – perhaps I’ve been inhaling too many vinegar and bleach fumes!

More seriously, though, I do wonder how rope doesn’t create problems for more people given how hard it is to get rid of it. For the homebaker for whom fumigation isn’t an option, it seems as though perhaps the conversation should be more about how to control rope vs how to rid oneself of rope? Or would a strong enough bleach or vinegar solution totally get rid of it?

Also, in terms of the mill stones, not to ask a silly question, but if I soaked them in a bleach solution, how would I be sure that no bleach remained on the stones that could get into the ground flour

Oh, my head hurts. Digging a hole and sticking my head in it like an ostrich sounds mighty fine right now! I’ve got my pieces of soda bread sitting in well sealed plastic bags and have given strict orders that they cannot be touched, so I guess I’ll see what the next several days bring. In the meantime, we’ve consumed almost all of the remainder of the loaves and they were quite tasty, so at least we won’t be going hungry while dealing with the “rope crisis”!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

are not affected by chemicals, they are high fired ceramic.   Chlorine will evaporate when given the chance and vinegar/salt solution can be rinsed off after a while.   That is the easy part.  The wood would be bothersome.   I have managed to rid my kitchen of rope (knock on wood) whenever it has popped up.  I don't use a mill for several reasons but spraying and drying of surfaces should do the least amount of damage to wood, metal and rubber.  Sending you a private message.

Not so sure about the Chlorine (Sodium Hypo-chloride)  recommended solution of 5%, that's straight out of the regular household cleaner bottle. ( It is bleach and it will bleach everything (and ruin things too and don't get any drops on your clothes.)  I'm sure there is a dilution before using.  Search the net too.  

I've been able to find strong vinegar in Asia markets (90%) and in the laundry section of regular super markets. (small glass bottle of 40%)  You will have to do the math to dilute to 10%.   As with most cleaning products, wear gloves and eye protection and old clothes you don't care about when doing the cleaning.  Or wear a new pair of jeans and start a new "look."  

You might also find concentrated vinegar in a drug store and if not sure how to dilute, ask the pharmacist.  They might even know a better product for your project.   What you should not do is combine chlorine products with anything else.  Do not mix vinegar and chlorine together, it forms lethal dangerous gas for people and animals.  

Do read labels and use your head.  

mgeog's picture
mgeog

Thanks for the suggestions about where to find stronger vinegar. I used to have a glass jar of the stronger stuff that I had picked up in the international section of a large grocery store, but that was several moves ago and if I do still have it, I certainly don't know where!

As for chlorine and vinegar, I've been careful to keep them separate but it definitely does not hurt to take any opportunity you have to remind folks not to mix the two together, especially given how easy it is to obtain those chemicals!

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

That's 5% (1 part bleach 20 parts water) bleach from the bottle mixed with tap water. We use it as a general purpose disinfectant - it will bleach clothes etc. so be careful of its application.

Wild-Yeast

mgeog's picture
mgeog

Thanks for clarifying that - seems much less dangerous to contemplate disinfecting with that concentration of bleach than with bleach straight from the bottle!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Mister mister as you unpack!    As you take objects out of boxes, spray mist with the 10% vinegar solution and set them loosely in a pile to dry.  Then run them thru the dishwasher or hand wash normally.  Hot soapy water and rinse.  Dry well.  And hopefully those dishtowels have been washed hot and run thru a hot dryer between here and there.  Get rid of the packing material from the kitchen.  

Prevent the humidity from building up anywhere in the kitchen.  Wash hand and dish towels soon after use and rotate often.  Keep your root veggies away from your baking supplies.   Don't forget to also V-mist and let air dry: brooms, mops, buckets, dust pans, bins, bin scoops, door matts  and just about everything that was used or wandered thru the old kitchen.  

Pray that you only have to do this once.  :)

mgeog's picture
mgeog

The vinegar finally arrived so we can start the "Great Kitchen Pickling of 2015"! I also have a possible culprit - the white wheat. Need to do more tests before can say definitively that it is the primary source of the rope, but it definitely looks guilty. Will update with more info when I know more in case anyone is curious.

mgeog's picture
mgeog

As promised, here is an update. I would love to say that I know exactly what in my kitchen was contaminated with rope, but I still do not know! On four different occasions I've purposefully left parts of 3 different loaves of bread (one with prairie gold, one with bronze chief, one with all purpose) to try to positively identify the culprit, but I have not had any luck. I was careful to clean everything used with a 10% vinegar solution to try to make sure there was no cross-contamination. After a week of the first experiment the prairie gold was looking highly suspicious. After two weeks of the second experiment the bronze chief was looking slightly suspicious (darker spot of mold than others, but didn't as clearly get distinct smell) while the prairie gold and all purpose just had lots of mold but nothing rope looking. After 2 weeks of the third experiment none of them were looking suspicious - all covered in mold but nothing that looked like rope.

I'm not entirely sure how to interpret the results. One thing that has definitely worked against me is that the temperature dropped after the first experiment and keeping the bread in a warm and dark place became much more difficult. So, I suppose it is possible that the rope is still present somewhere but the house temperature is favoring the development of other types of mold than it. We still need to eat though, and the family has gotten annoyed with my dealing with my various moldy loaves of bread, so I've picked up new wheat to use for now and am grinding and baking away while trying to ignore the whole "agh, there may still be rope in my kitchen!" issue. I figure if the rope reappears once the weather is warmer then, thanks to you all, at least I know how to deal with it!

Cjotter's picture
Cjotter

I work in a hospital and when trying to get rid of resistant bugs or go to disinfectant is hydrogen peroxide.  This has no smell or taste and breaks down to water and oxygen, so no concerns about food areas.  In the UK it's available from pharmacies.

Jon OBrien's picture
Jon OBrien

Try to buy it in any quantity and you'll have anti-terrorist forces surrounding your house, however.

dobie's picture
dobie

Hydrogen peroxide is great stuff. I keep a spray bottle of it on the kitchen counter and spray all around after a clean up. No need to rinse or dry off.

dobie

mgeog's picture
mgeog

Thanks Cjotter, Jon and Dobie for the hydrogen peroxide suggestion. I've got a good supply of strong vinegar now but it's always good to have multiple disinfectants. Question though - what concentration do you use? I think the stuff I have laying around the house is perhaps 3 or 5% but a quick Amazon search turned up some that was 35%. Would I need the strong stuff or would the weaker, easily available (and cheap!) stuff work too?  Thanks!

dobie's picture
dobie

mgeog

Just the regular stuff at any store. I forget if it's 3 or 5%, but it's right around there.

You could get the concentrated, 35% stuff from Amazon (I think there's also a 15%), but then you would also have to handle it to dilute it and all that complication.

Unless you had a need for large quantities and were willing to go thru that effort (and risk), I would avoid that and just get the regular stuff at the market or pharmacy. At that dilution, it's very effective against molds and microbes, but quite innocuous to you.

That is all you need.

Nothing wrong with vinegar, I use it often for many things but I think HyPer would be better and easier in your case.

dobie

ps - You can also add a few generous glugs (scientific term there) of HyPer into the washing machine at anytime (tho not with anything that contains ammonia; not sure about that bleach&ammonia=mustard gas thing in this case).

Peter ellis's picture
Peter ellis

Hi. "Rope"in bread.
Feel free to telephone for consultation.
Do not ignore Rope .
To prevent it,
1. wash your entire kitchen and all utensils using VINEGAR..acetic acid.

2. Ensure that ALL dust has been removed.
3 when making your bread for the foreseeable future ADD vit C  ie acetic acid/ vinegar to your standard recipe and the ROPE will not form. @2'/. ie same s your salt.

Please do not live with it can be dangerous.
from memory it is a bacteria called Bacillus Mesenteracus . a gram spore positive organism.

If you were to look at any sliced bread you will find that one of the ingredients is Vit c. this is not dded for our well being, it is added to prevent ROPE spore developing.
The other thing that you need to ensure is that your bread is baked long enough at sufficient temperature.
You will observe that Rope always starts from the center of the loaf and works outward. that is because the center did not reach sufficient temperature and as a result the spores  formed.
I hope that this is of help to you. feel free to call me on 07808922168.
Kind regards

Peter Ellis. president elect of the Craft Bakers Assn.....you might find it useful to join the  Association.
Contact me for further info.

iztokp's picture
iztokp

Hi, I have been making bread at home for several months and recently with same recipe, same storage conditions and same ingredients (even same batch of flour) last two loaves developed what is probably rope, there were no ropes, but after 4 days the center of the bread became humid and on the 5th day it was sweetly unpleasantly smelling and not a pleasant tasting moist crumb. I suspect this is consistent with the rope.

I have researched a lot about it in the recent days and I understand that what promotes rope is low acidity dough (pH higher than 5.3), humidity and high temperature. I keep really good hygiene, I make cheese and my kitchen is thoroughly cleaned with disinfectant for that reason. 

I used to bake a loaf of bread that would last one week and than bake a new one. I am using Julia Child's recipe for "pain de mie" and it is probably not really a long fermentation to lower the pH. So I was considering using using vitamin C, but as I understand from what I have read it is used mostly for gluten development and bleaching in bread baking. Do any of you know for sure that it can be used for rope prevention as well? At what concentration? I have found https://bakerpedia.com/ingredients/ascorbic-acid/ at it suggest that vitamin C concentration would be 2 grams per 100 kg of flour or 0,01 grams per 500g, which is probably a scant pinch of pure ascorbic acid. Would that be of any help with the rope bacteria? What happens if you use more? I have seen a recipe by Dan Leppard recipe using 500 mg or 0,5 g for 500 g of flour, but for different reason than rope. 

On the other hand what does a long fermentation constitute? I could lower the yeast content of the dough to 1-2 grams and do an overnight fermentation at room temperature. Would that be enough? I don't own a pH meter. Would that work with "pain de mie"? 

If I use other acidifying methods in my bread, what would that do to the taste of the bread? 

Thank you for any suggestions.