Sometimes when I make bread (especially brioche) I notice a very strong, unpleasant alcohol taste in the finished loaf. What causes this and how can I avoid it?
Jennifer Davis, Lethbridge, Alberta, ca
What you are smelling is yeast fermentation—the conversion of sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. When dough overferments, it gives off a stale beer smell. Some of this alcohol will bake off, but some of it may remain in the finished bread. Dough made with a high percentage of yeast and sugar, such as brioche and other soft, rich bread products, are more vulnerable to overfermentation than crusty breads such as French or Italian bread, which use small percentages of yeast. If your bread is overfermenting it may be because the dough is too warm or, if kept overnight in the refrigerator, it did not cool down quickly enough to stop the fermentation. Try making the dough with colder water or reduce the yeast by about 10%. Brioche, especially, should be chilled immediately after mixing to control the fermentation.