Food & Drink

German baker plays music to give his bread extra flavour

A baker in Germany claims his bread tastes better because he plays music to his dough at deafening levels – and says he has the science to back it up.

“There are two loves in my life,” declares German baker Axel Schmitt. “Music and baking. And so I wondered: What does my bread like to listen to?”

The 35-year-old, who in his free time plays drums for a metal band, has set up his “flavor studio” in the back room of his artisan bakery, which he keeps at 28 degrees to allow his sourdough to mature. The room’s latest additions are hanging on a back wall: large black loudspeakers.

Schmitt started training to become a “bread sommelier” about a year ago. When he finished, he became one of only a dozen people worldwide who can advise you in a restaurant what bread goes best with your wine. He and his classmates at the academy in Germany trained their noses by spending the day smelling salt solutions. At the end of his training, Schmitt had to write a research report. He came up with the idea of investigating what effects noise had on the maturation of sourdough. For 16 hours straight, he would play various music genres to the starters in the “flavor studio,” from hard rock such as AC/DC, Motorhead and Iron Maiden to Mozart.

To ensure that the results would be comparable, each type of music was played at the same decibel level: 100, about the same as holding a jackhammer next to your ear. He also experimented with ultrasound, which the human ear cannot detect, as well as the use of silence. The result? Sound does indeed change the way the sourdough matured. The biggest difference was seen between the ultrasound and the silence.

German baker bread music

For those about to bake, we salute you… / Credit:

The extremely high tone, explains Schmitt, seems to encourage the cultures in the sourdough to increase their productivity. But what’s actually happening during the Schmitt sourdough’s maturation process? The mixture of rye flour and water begins to ferment, with yeast and bacteria working in tandem to help the dough rise. The yeast produces carbon dioxide, which creates the bubbles and lightness in the dough, while the bacteria produce lactic acid, contributing to the flavor.  The noise stimulates the bacteria and yeast, explains Schmitt, which makes them produce more lactic acid and carbon dioxide.

There was a clear distinction in acid and ph levels between the dough subjected to sound and the one that had fermented in silence. After baking, the bread that was subjected to noise tasted more flavorful, Schmitt reckons.  But what flavor did it have more of?

“Well, it tastes more like bread,” says Schmitt. However, the difference between the bread that had heard ultrasound and the ones that heard music was less noticeable. Despite that result, Schmitt will let the speakers stay in his “flavor studio” in the small town of Frankenwinheim, Germany. The musically inclined bread will sell well regardless. “I’m going to start selling rock bread,” says Schmitt.

Thanks to Bastian Benrath, Wuerzburg (dpa)

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