The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Citric Acid in Bread as a preservative

dolcebaker's picture
dolcebaker

Citric Acid in Bread as a preservative

I read that citric acid can be added as a natural preservative, dough conditioner.  Some one wants me to make a soft french roll to use for BBQ meats. (pulled pork, etc)  He showed me what he bought from the supermarket.  They call them French Rolls.  It seems to be a French bread, but it is very light and soft.  He also wants it to remain fresh for two days, maybe three.  What is the criteria for using citric acid?  I have never seen it listed in any formulas or even discussed in any classes.  Is it a standard % of flour?   

I could also use a formulas that makes really light french bread - I'm sorry, but to me it seems almost like 'French Wonderbread', but it did have lots of little holes. I expect a recipe with malt and sugar would help make it light and airy.  A hard crust is not necessary.

dolcebaker's picture
dolcebaker

citric for sourdough, ascorbic for other bread.   Does this mean if I make a rye sourdough I should add citric acid to help it rise more? 

diverpro94's picture
diverpro94

Would that not kill the yeast with the high acidity?

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

that makes the poison. I'd more concerned on the effect of the acid on the gluten than on the yeasts.

smasty's picture
smasty

After having a piece of "airport sourdough" bread from SF, I became increasingly frustrated with the lack of any sour taste in my own sourdoughs.  I got the *brilliant* idea to add a tsp of citric acid to my bread for flavor.  I made a 1-2-3 batch totaling about 1200 g.  It's been sitting now for about 3 hours and appears to be a disaster.  Very shaggy, no signs of life...gluten acting very weird.  I just now searched the topic here to see what people have experienced.  More to come on this!

Sue

ananda's picture
ananda

As Nico suggests, the impact on gluten structure is far more important with these acids.

Citric Acid will act as a reducer and break down the dough quickly.   I would suggest it should not be used in any bread formula other than as the acid part of a raising agent for soda based breads.   even then, there are much better acids available.

The synthetic version of Vitamin C, Ascorbic Acid, is used as a dough strengthener, as it behaves an an oxidiser and thus helps to create cross bonds which link the long gluten chains in a process known as disulphide interchange.   In the UK and Europe it is now the only chemical dough strengthener still used, as Bromate and Azodicarbonomide are no longer legal.   There are enzyme alternatives, of course, but they don't like to tell you about those!

Best wishes

Andy

mwilson's picture
mwilson

With regards to the use of citric acid in bread I disagree. I have used lemon juice in in my bread on a number of occasions at 1-2% with positive effects. Any acid in dough will tighten the gluten resulting in a noticibly stronger dough that sits more upright. But too much acid will break down gluten. Using citric acid from fruit is on par with using vinegar, a common additive in commercial brown bread here in the UK.

ananda's picture
ananda

Sorry mwilson,

but vinegar is added to commercial bread in the UK only as a preservative.   Its purpose is to increase the pH in the dough.

The dough strengthener is ascorbic acid, or else an enzymatic source which the manufacturers choose not to tell us about because they don't have to.

Citric acid weakens the gluten structure

Best wishes

Andy

mwilson's picture
mwilson

I have used both vinegar and lemon juice in bread and it noticeably increases strength. The effect is very noticeable. Acid in dough will act as a preservative as you stated but it also contributes to dough strength too.

smasty's picture
smasty

Ok, one loaf out of the oven.  Here's my experience.  The citric acid pretty much ruined the gluten development of the bread.  I did get a rise, but with very poor structure.  I baked anyway and have edible bread (with great flavor!)....but a dense fragile crumb.  My first loaf had a decent oven spring, but 2nd loaf did not. 

ananda's picture
ananda

Lemon juice is added to puff paste to relax the dough and enable extensibility.

Excess acid in sourdough breads break down the dough structure at a ridiculous rate of knots

Acids found in baking powders generally have a softening effect on gluten.

etc...

And to emphasize this: the purpose and sole reason why commercial bakers use acetic acid in bread is as a preservative.   They use other additives to work on dough strength and reduction

Best wishes

Andy

mwilson's picture
mwilson

I have a good understanding of dough strength from reading and from being hands on, being able to observe the effects of acidity in bread dough. We can both agree that too much acidity will break down gluten but to say that acid doesn't tighten gluten is plain wrong.

"acidity will physically and chemically reinforce the gluten bonds, reinforcing the elasticity of the dough while decreasing its extensibility."

quote from this article about dough strength from sfbi. This quote is the complete opposite of what you said. I encourage you to read the entire article.

 

 

ananda's picture
ananda

All the baking I do at home is with natural leavens.

I also work with yeasted pre-ferments too.   I understand about the importance of acid in this context.

However; if we are talking about acetic acid, that develops late in the day in sourdoughs, and an excess of acetic acid will have disastrous results.

The problem with the SFBI article is it makes no reference to specific acids and just flags up the importance of acidity in the dough.   An overly acidic pre-ferment will produce poor quality dough [for wheat breads]!

It does, however, mention the compensations needed for a "no-time" dough.   The acid portion added as a dough improver is L-Ascorbic Acid.   The plant bakers avoid using either acetic or citric acid for this purpose....why?   I suggest it is because they are overly astringent and affect the extensibility in the dough rather than the elasticity, or the tenacity which is emphasized in the SFBI article.

Best wishes

Andy

mwilson's picture
mwilson

Well I have added lemon juice to my dough and it noticeably sits more upright because all the gluten is taught. Perhaps you should try it!

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi,

If I were to recommend experimentation with citric acid or acetic acid to the plant bakery operators I work with then I'd rightly be laughed out of their bakeries.

If I were to teach use of these additives in ways you suggest to students in College, then I would be seriously questioned, justifiably so, by my expert teaching colleagues.

I have used lemon juice in puff pastry formula at home....as a dough relaxer, and it works as I would expect.   However, I no longer feel the need to use it, as resting over a longer time period is more effective still.

Regarding the more interesting bread baking I make at home....the leavens do all the talking when it comes to dough modification.   I have no need for other enhancement and deliberately seek methods which avoid their use.

Given Sue's comment in the thread above, my advice [take it or leave it] is that these particular acids break down dough structure and are best avoided, unless you are seeking greater extensibility in the dough.

Best wishes

Andy

mwilson's picture
mwilson

Additives should be avoided where possible. Using pre-ferments and natural starters are certainly the way forward but I'm not debating that. I simply believe that acid in dough has a tightening effect on gluten which you deny. Well my observations and sources confirm my findings.

Debra has stated that acid in general tightens gluten and she suggests that the relaxation effect may be indirect.


Biga
The term is used in Italy as a generic term for pre-ferment; however, a traditional biga is a very stiff pre-ferment, using 50% to 60% water based on the flour weight, and 1% compressed yeast. It is given a long, cool fermentation at 65F and delivers ample acetic acid. This pre-ferment was developed to bolster extremely weak Italian flours and is still used to strengthen a dough via the acetic acid, which reinforces the gluten.

-Artisan Baking, Maggie Glezer.

smasty's picture
smasty

Yeah, I definitely will not add acid in the future to my bread (I was doing it for increased flavor)...but will try to coax that flavor out with more patience.  It was amazing to see the effect...it happened immediately, I could tell after the autolyse that something was wrong.  I was lucky to have something to even put in the oven. 

ananda's picture
ananda

I take your point that my comment "acid does not tighten gluten" is wrong, and will gladly withdraw that if I may?

I think we both agree that an excess of acid leads to the opposite effect; ie the dough breaks down.

 Debra's comment that it is due to protease activity increasing is very instructive.   That in itself is sufficient for me to continue to avoid using citric and acetic acids in search of dough strength.

The only common treatment agent used for dough strengthening and declared by industrial bakers in the UK and the rest of the EU is Ascorbic Acid, manufactured Vitamin 'C'.   The commercial trend, otherwise, is to use enzymes.   Commercial bread bakers would use neither citric nor acetic acid in dough to seek to strengthen it.

Best wishes

Andy