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Bread aroma especially sourdough sweet breads

Deedub's picture

Bread aroma especially sourdough sweet breads

I've been on a journey developing a sourdough to make brioche and panettone. So far the performance of the sourdough to produce these sweet breads has been satisfactory apart from one aspect, the finished bread develops an acidic odor mixed with a kind of meaty/wet carpet smell, which is not very attractive, especially compared to a commercially made panettone. The odor is definitely more perceptible in the crust and to me is a by product of the baking process amongst the acidity. Here's the geeky part for those who are interested in my theory of it's origins: the maillard reaction (chemical reactions involving heat, amino acids and sugar) in relation to sourdough breads with high sugar and high egg content and low pH is going to result in some different by products than unfortified breads. A scientific article has shown that certain combinations of amino acids and glucose in an acidic environment, and after high temperature treatment can result in a meat like smell, though not tested in a bread baking context. Especially this article refers to amino acids methionine and cysteine ie sulfur containing, which you'll find abundantly in egg protein. Egg+sugar+acid+baking=funky smells? The egg dose I'm using is in accordance with many recipes and is one egg and three yolks within a 650g total dough weight. 

Other reason for the by products is a young sourdough that has yet to develop a stable population microbes. My stiff sourdough itself has absolutely no off odors before incorporation into dough, and it performs strongly and rises actively. Plus I'm actively deacidifying the sourdough starter before dough incorporation, as prescribed by expert bakers.

Simple question, has anyone baked a panettone (or similar) bread with sourdough and produced off flavors like mine?

mwilson's picture


I have baked many panettoni and encountered similar issues before.

Off flavours can be produced by a starter that is "too strong" or used at a dosage too large. It is important that the starter has been refreshed at least three times.

The pH of the primo impasto after rising should be around 5.1 and the final product should be around 5.3.

What recipe are you following?


Deedub's picture


Began with recipe based on Italian master Giorilli, a Pandoro with two doughs. 

I then formulated this recipe based on some brioche recipes:

Flour Manitoba 0  220g

Water 65 g

Whole egg  60g 

Glucose 10g

Caster sugar 40g

Salt    3g

Butter  23g

Lievito Madre (refreshed 3 times)  50g

Left to rise at room temp. of 24-26 C 10 hours or tripled volume (which was achieved in recent baking).

Then add:

Egg yolk 55g (x3)

Sugar  50g

Butter  80g

Vanilla essence 5g

Mix, leave at room temp for 30mins, fold on board, form into ball and placed in tin. Left to rise overnight 27C 6 hours. 

Bake 170C 40mins

mwilson's picture

I see a crumbly crumb. This characteristic is also indicative of a starter that is too strong.

Are you feeding 1:1 (starter:flour) every 4 hours? If so drop that back to 1:2 for a couple of feeds.

Deedub's picture

Thanks M W, I tried feeding 1:2 for twice and a final feed 1:1 prior to making another bread according to your recommedation. This time a big problem occurred, I over proofed the 1st dough to make sure it rose enough, but the dough acidity sure enough destroyed the gluten during the second mixing. I baked the dough to test the aroma and also only after the baking realised the excessively acidic taste. The aroma was good despite some acid, but gone was the previous off-flavour notes. One thing I tried this time was pasteurising two eggs prior to prep. I think pastuerising eggs has prevented egg-borne bacteria from growing in the fermenting dough.

So to sum up, I need to work on feeding the starter with care before dough mixing and would like to know any tips on recommended temperature refreshments are made at and any steps to lower acidity (eg water baths). Currently I incubate feeds in a temp controlled incubator at 26C and perform one water bath on the first feed in the morning. Thanks

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

To save overproofed dough by adding baking soda, just a little bit to counteract the acid?  Try it small scale first.  Sift one teaspoon per 500g flour in dough.  Try working it into an overproofed dough first.  The dough will immediately start rising as a reaction.


meb21's picture

I know this is an old thread but wondering do you refresh The levain every 4 hours even if it has only doubled instead of tripled? Is stiff starter better than liquid levain? Also what would cause a very eggy smell after first dough has risen? I used Giorelli recipe and only refreshed levain twice before starting. How do you all keep temp at suggested low 80s in winter kitchens overnight? I use boiling water during daytime and overnight oven light with bowl inside..,any other ideas? 

Alwayzbakin's picture

haha I’ve been keeping my starter/doughs warm by keeping them next to/on top of Christmas lights.  It’s seasonally appropriate!