The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baking Soda

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Breadhead's picture

Best way to leaven bread? Baking powder or yeast?

July 10, 2012 - 6:05pm -- Breadhead

I have never made bread with baking powder. Sitting here thinking about it though, wouldn't bread made with BP instead of yeast taste better? My thinking is that the yeast are feeding on sugars from the flour, the same sugars the give flavors to the final bread. The less sugar the yeasts eat, the more of it there is for you. Right? Perhaps you can get more flavorful bread if you make it with baking powder?

copyu's picture
copyu

Hi all,


I'm getting tired of repeating myself on "Pretzel-Related" threads where discussion of "Lye" is concerned and I always have to resist the temptation to turn the whole discussion into a Chemistry lecture. I decided a few days ago to do a little "Kitchen Science" and do an incomplete, but slightly more detailed explanation of what alkalis are all about


What I wanted to do was examine some of the claims I've read here, and on many other pretzel-making/baking/soap-making sites. I got tired of reading YahooAnswers, where someone says "If you can't get Sodium Carbonate (Na2CO3), use Sodium BI-Carbonate, because they are very similar chemicals..." This is a true, but totally vapid and rather stupid statement. Common Salt, Sodium Chloride, (NaCL) is also a 'similar chemical' to Sodium BI-Carbonate, (NaHCO3) and similar to Caustic Soda, (NaOH) because they all have only one sodium ion, per molecule, when in solution...It doesn't mean they will perform similar chemical reactions on your bread or noodle dough, however


Understanding pH in detail isn't that straightforward or easy, but as a guide-line, pH7.0 is completely 'neutral' (or in balance) and it's the measurement you should get from pure distilled water. Lower numbers are found with sour, acidic foods, such as lemon juice and vinegar, around pH3-4. Numbers above 7.0 indicate a 'basic' or 'alkaline' property. Any liquid you test will be either acidic, [low pH, well-under pH7.0]; neutral [pH7.0 or pretty close to it]; or alkaline [pH higher than 7.0]


The problems arise when people fail to realize that the pH scale is "logarithmic" [or negative logarithmic] in the same way that dB [deciBels] are in electronics. This is an "engineering solution" to dealing with ridiculously big numbers. What this means is that the difference between one point on the pH scale represents a difference of a power of ten: pH8.0 is about TEN TIMES more alkaline than pH 7.0; a solution of pH9.0 is 100 times more alkaline; pH10 is 1000 times more alkaline, and so on...A tap-water reading in many cities around the world could be as high as pH8.5, which is also the most-often quoted pH figure for Baking Soda. Caustic Soda, or 'Pretzel Lye', on the other hand (one of the strongest known alkalis), is at least 5pH points higher, meaning that it is at least 100,000 times stronger than baking soda. It is this which allows the alkali to attack the surface starch of your pretzel dough quickly and that gives the brown color and the perfect crust that many pretzel fanatics love!


What I did was make solutions using 'Aqua Purificata', the nearest thing you'll find to pure, ion-free, distilled water at a reasonable price. I measured 3g each, using my most accurate scale, of Baking Soda, Kansui Powder (the ingredients of Chinese Lye Water) and Caustic Soda (or 'Pretzel lye') and mixed the powders with 100g of purified water. I mixed each solution for two minutes in brand-new plastic containers, rinsed with the pure water and dried with heavy paper towels. I measured the pH using an $80 pH meter that is fairly well-calibrated. After 3 minutes in each solution, I took photos of the meter readings. I now think I should have delayed the photography until 5 minutes had passed, but the pics I have will give you an idea of the differences among the three main chemicals I tested


http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=different+alkaline&m=tags&w=71323838%40N00&z=m&s=int


I hope this is clear enough and useful to somebody,


Best,


copyu


 


 

guerrillafood's picture

Food Based Lye vs. Baking Soda for making authentic German Pretzels?

October 27, 2007 - 10:24pm -- guerrillafood

I am an American that lived in Germany for many years, and misses the breads of Munich so much. I have a European culinary apprenticeship under my belt and countless years of restaurant experience, but I am not able to recreate “simple” German pretzels. I find that there is a phenomenon in the American bread world. I find everyday breads in supermarkets and even artisan bakeries that look identical to European breads, but when you pick them up and take a bite, they are much softer, and well… weaker breads.

The same things happens with my pretzels.

Rosalie's picture

Why Baking Soda in Yeast Bread?

October 22, 2007 - 12:17pm -- Rosalie
Forums: 

So I was looking for another recipe to try out.  I pulled out The Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham.  On page 449 I found Barley Buttermilk Bread.  "Interesting," I thought.  So that's what I'm going to make next, converting it fresh-ground whole grain.

But, while it's a yeast bread, the baking soda took me by surprise.  Could someone explain it?  Here's the recipe for two loaves.

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