Why Does My Bread Smell Like Chemicals?

Published on
12 November 2021
Gareth Busby
Gareth Busby

Have you ever taken a loaf of fresh-baked bread out of the oven only to notice that it smells like chemicals? So why does my bread smell like chemicals? This is not an uncommon question for home and veteran bakers alike.

Several factors could be at play if your dough or final product has a weird smell when it comes out of the oven. The most common culprit is yeast contamination as the bread cools. But there are other issues that can contribute to chemical-smelling taste.

#1 The bread was contaminated after baking

The most likely cause is yeast contamination. After the bread is baked, the yeast in the dough will not be active. But wild yeasts from the environment or packaging can be attracted to bread causing chemical reactions. A common smell produced is a chemical smell, similar to acetone. The wild yeasts that tend to be responsible for weird smells in bread are Endomycopsis and Pichia Membranifaciens.

#2 Did you use buttermilk instead of water in your recipe?

Buttermilk has a unique smell – almost akin to chlorine! If this is the case, your dough may also have an off-chlorine, chemically smell.

#3 Did you overproof the loaf?

If you allow your dough to rise for too long, your final product will take on a distinct chemical aftertaste. Overproofing can cause excessive acetic acid production, which could be interpreted as chemically.

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#4 Does your dough have too much sugar in it?

If your dough has a high sugar content, it could be fermenting quickly to produce an odd chemical taste and odour. This is unlikely as a lot of sugar would need to be added!

How to prevent bread from smelling like chemicals

To prevent post-processing contamination of wild yeasts, clean the bread-making environment and utensils. Ensure airflow is clean by cleaning air conditioning vents and shutting windows/draughts.

You can also try another storage method. If you usually reuse a plastic bag or in a bread box, use a fresh bag and clean the storage area.

Bread that uses sprouted grains or a sourdough starter can be moist enough for bacteria to multiply after baking. Always store bread in a dry place.

Salt also acts as a preservative in inhibiting growth so refrain from skipping it!

What to do if your bread smells like chemicals?

It is best to throw out bread that smells like chemicals. It is possible that baking the loaf again will kill off any developing wild yeasts or bacteria. The core temperature of the bread will have to pass 160F (70C) for the bread to be safe to eat. This will draw moisture from the bread, making it potentially dry and unenjoyable.

Conclusion

Bread baking is a science. It takes precise measurements, the right ingredients, and timing to create bread that’s perfect for your taste buds. Making the perfect loaf of bread at home can be tricky because so many factors affect your success – from temperature to yeast to flour type. But you don’t have to be an expert baker to make fantastic bread at home.

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