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Purple Focaccia Perplexity! Help!

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A few years ago I posted a critique of the focaccia recipe in Rose Levy Baranbaum's Bread Bible. To my surprise, she responded to me critique, and together we worked out some of the kinks in the recipe (kudos to Mrs. B. for being so friendly and helpful). She recommended doubling the yeast and doubling the length of the second rise, while I pointed out the crucial need to work the dough until it balls around the paddle of the stand mixer, however long it takes to reach this stage (the recipe calls merely for a 20-minute workout).

For two or three years now, I have been producing truly world-class focaccia, at once crisp and chewy with a marvelous gluten structure.

Now -- for reasons I cannot figure out -- the recipe has turned on me. My latest batches have been fallen and gluey, and strangest of all, the bread has had a distinctly purplish hue.

I cannot imagine what is the matter. Does anyone have any thoughts? Could this problem be explained by a switch from instant yeast to active dry?

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  1. Any changes in your flour? Have all of the current batches been made with the same flour (brand, type, bag).

    1. Never read Rose's Break Bible so not sure what ingredients you're working with but the typical Focaccia recipe is nothing more than yeast, water, flour, olive oil, salt and sugar. Never known those ingredients, by themselves, to produce a chemical reaction that would turn the prepared food purple. Italian garlic is sometimes called "purple garlic" but it's obviously purple when you buy it. Can't say if it would produce a purple hue in the Focaccia - never used it myself. Wondering if you're using the same utensils you've always used. Salt can react with some metals (tin for one) to produce various colors. Had your water tested lately? Just a thought.

      1. some silicone bakeware can leach out the colour into the product? Are you using any coloured bowls/utensils?

        Any way you cut it, that's just weird!

        1 Reply
        1. re: purple goddess

          The recipe is merely flour, water, yeast, salt, and sugar. The flour is King Arthur all-purpose. The only change that I can recall is a possible switch from instant to active dry yeast. I do line my pan with baking parchment, but I have been doing this all along.

          Yikes, this is a tough one.

        2. Walnuts can turn sourdough purplish, but you aren't using them, right?
          At what stage does it turn color -- during baking?
          Buy a small packet of instant yeast, and try that again. You'll either prove, or disprove, that the yeast is the problem.

          1 Reply
          1. re: bakergal

            The NY Times has a foodblog Q & A with Harold McGee in their Food section. This would be a great question to pose to him

            1. I'll try to track down a reference in ne of the baking manuals tomorrow. I can't find it tonight. But I recall reading about fungal contaminations that would sometimes get into traditional baking and the housewives could never again bake a good loaf. They thought it was some kind of curse. Now it is known to be a kind of fungus that survives the baking and multiplies as the loaf cools. The description I read was that the loaf would look normal on the outside but would be slimy inside. It sometimes happens in commercial bakeries. The cure is a thorough disinfecting of the whole environment. I don't know if that is what you have going wrong--I sure hope not. But I'll see what information I can track down and send a reference tomorrow. A commercial baker in your area might be able to advise you. But don't bring a sample to show him. If it is a microbe, you would only spread the infection.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Father Kitchen

                Me again. I just Googled "Bread Spoilage in Baking" and the first entry that came up was a reference to Google Books and Raymond Calvel's "The Taste of Bread." The infection he discusses is a bacteria known as "ropy mold." He describes it and gives correctives for it. I would suggest you Google "ropy mold Calvel" and you should get the pages you need to look at. Good luck.