In my last post about bread-making, I mentioned that the previous two loaves I’d made had started out seeming fine but after a few days they went bad. The crumb, which had previously been firm and at that sweet-spot between dry and moist, started to collapse, becoming dense and damp in the centre. It wasn’t a problem I’d had before so I started wondering what was causing it: under-proving, over-baking, some dodgy flour?
Or the heat.
Surely it was something to do with the heat? Although I baked with decent results last summer, when July and August similiarly peaked at around 40C (100-plus in ye olde Fahrenheit), this year my bread seems to be suffering.
Even the nice durum wheat-strong bread flour loaf I baked last Thursday. Although it was great on Thursday and Friday, by Saturday morning, when we headed out of town for a night, it was suffering from the same problems. We got back last night, and the crust that was left was in a very sorry state.
So this is how it looked after it had cooled on the day of bake:
And this is how it looked after three and a half days.
Sure it was a few days old, and getting stale (particularly around the edges, near the crust), but the core has gone all damp and dank, fizzy and yeasty. Not pleasant.
This yeastiness got me thinking: has it started fermenting again? The yeasts used in the dough were killed by the oven of course – the bread was baked at around 230C, and yeasts die at around 60C. So are there wild yeasts in my bread bin for example? I mooted this question with my friend Michele. He’s not a baker, though he is a master brewer (at Mastri Birrai Umbri, whose wares we were enjoying Saturday night), so he knows his yeasts.
He asked if I had fruit near where I stored the bread. Yes, I said, there’s a fruit bowl near the bread bin. It’s a great time of the year for seasonal fruit here in Roma – the region is cranking out apricots, plums, peaches, Coscia pears, figs, etc etc etc. Even someone like me who doesn’t much like fruit is enjoying this bounty.
But maybe it’s messing up my bread. Fruit, even when rinsed, has abundant wild yeast cultures on its skin. Just think of advice you might have read about starting a natural leaven/sourdough: use some grapes, or raisins, or a some rhubarb (not strictly fruit, but close enough). These wild yeasts will be thriving at the moment, as the weather is humid and hot, as Rome heads for high summer. Even now, without the oven cranking at 240C, the kitchen is 30C. A pretty nice temperature for yeasts, moulds and bacteria.
So maybe the wild yeasts are finding my bread and starting to feed on it. Which might indicate that I’ve not proved long enough, not leaving the yeast I’ve used in the bake long enough to cosume all the natural sugars in the flour. I’m not sure.
Fellow bakers – any thoughts?