Why does bread smell so good?
veryone loves the smell of bread while it’s baking and of a freshly baked loaf. We all know that bread is a staple food, and a great source of nutrition growing up and indeed throughout our adult lives. So it’s not really that surprising that the smell of baking bread evokes strong memories of comfort, family time and happiness.
Researchers at UCD carried out research to find out why that is the case. Their survey found that 89% of people said the smell of bread made them happy, with 63% saying it evoked happy memories. According to Dr. Amalia Scannell at the UCD Institute of Food and Health “Incoming smells are first processed by the olfactory bulb which starts inside the nose and runs along the bottom of the brain. The olfactory bulb has direct connections to the two brain areas that are strongly implicated in emotion and memory.”
So what is it exactly that we are smelling? Food chemistry plays an important role of course, along with the mixture of ingredients - flour, water and yeast. In fact, without the yeast, the typical smell of your loaf wouldn’t develop when these ingredients are combined and heated as the bread is baked. We all know that the yeast helps the bread to expand and rise, but that’s not all it does. The compounds that are released in the bread mixture as it is being made, during the fermentation step and during baking, all contribute to the aromas that develop and are released. During the baking step, the caramelisation and what is called the Maillard Reaction, help to produce the characteristic smells.
Another study, reported in the Huffington Post, found that the aroma of freshly-baked bread can also make you a kinder person! The findings by the Université Bretagne Sud
in France, and published in the Journal of Social Psychology, suggests that certain smells can trigger a more positive mood, which leads to a greater degree of altruism in strangers. Perhaps this is a bit of a stretch, but we here at the IBBA certainly agree that freshly baked bread smells good, generates a feeling of well-being, and perhaps then makes us feel more positive towards others. Either way, what’s not to love?!
For more information, check out:
- Aroma Chemistry – The Smell of Freshly-Baked Bread - https://www.compoundchem.com/2016/01/20/bread-aroma/
- Bread Science: The Chemistry and Craft of Making Bread, 2006 by Emily Buehler
- The Huffington Post (2012) – “The Smell Of Fresh Baked Bread Makes Us Kinder To Strangers” https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-smell-of-fresh-baked-_n_2058480