Yeast, Bacteria, Temperature, And Taste

by A.J. Coltrane

While browsing I’d been noticing a bunch of references concerning the effect that temperature has on flavor during fermentation, though I hadn’t been able to find real, concrete specifics.

While looking for that information and re-reading Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible, I came across this [pg 30]:

…When chilled, the yeast goes into dormancy, slowing its activity and producing more alcohol. The decreased activity gives the bacteria a chance to feed on the sugar, develop more, and produce more acetic acid. Temperatures of 40F to 50F are ideal for the formation of acetic acid; 55F to 90F results in the formation of blander lactic acid. Acetic acid imparts a far more sour quality to bread than lactic acid. As an added benefit, acetic acid also strengthens the dough’s structure, although too much of this acidity would ultimately weaken it. Some bakers prefer the milder flavor provided by lactic acid.

Emphasis mine. The angels weren’t singing or anything, though right now I’m thinking it’s a key component of flavor development that I’d initially overlooked/undersold.

On a not-unrelated point, within the last year Iron Chef Leftovers and I attended a bread-baking class taught by a local professional baker. The guy kind of wrinkled his nose when one of the students expressed a high opinion of Peter Reinhart’s level of knowledge and contribution to the craft. (I don’t think it was one of us, though we had previously attended a class taught by Reinhart and learned quite a bit.)

Anyway:  a quote from Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Everyday [pg 52].

Pain a l’Ancienne Rustic Bread

I first introduced the concept of cold-fermented wet dough in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. While the idea isn’t new or original, it has blossomed during the past few years into various no-knead, overnight rise permutations…

Maybe it’s just me, but it feels to me like Reinhart is taking credit in a backhanded kind of way for the no-knead idea and the general increase in popularity in the use of the refrigerator to retard fermentation. “it has blossomed the last few years into… (these other guy’s come-lately stuff)”. It’s a fairly common thread that runs through his writing — I can see now why the guy might have wrinkled his nose.

It’s just me, right?


Note: The Bread Baker’s Apprentice is still highly recommended.

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