The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baking soda in sourdough bread

AnnieT's picture

Baking soda in sourdough bread

I had read all of my library books and decided to look at my old Complete Book of Breads by Bernard Clayton, published in 1973. I was given it when a friend's mother died and it is really neat to find her comments on breads that she had tried. When I got to the sourdough section I found that many of the recipes called for baking soda, and one had cream of tartar as well. Does anyone know the reason for this? I suppose I should check out his new book to see if the recipes have changed. While it is interesting to read the old book I think I'll stay with the BBA, A

Floydm's picture

Cream of tartar is potassium hydrogen tartrate, an acid salt. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, a base. So presumably adding those is increasing or decreasing the acidity of the recipe. That could be done to change the flavor (make the sourdough more or less sour) or for the sake of chemically leavening the loaves.

We had a pretty good thread about chemical leavening over here a couple weeks ago.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

While we are on the subject. I have always wondered if anyone knows the chemical name of the crystals that form naturally as sediment in dry wines. In German, the name translates as "wine stones" which also happens to be the German name of Cream of Tarter. Is this a source or am I way off?

The name Tarter implies the nomadic horsemen known (among other things) for tenderizing meat by riding with meat under their saddles, could cream of tarter actually been the acidic crystals left from the wine (why waste wine when the crystals could be) used as a tenderizer on the meat of the Tartaren? Just someting I've been thinking about for years. --Mini Oven

apprentice's picture

Hi Mini Oven, here's what my Baker's Manual has to say about cream of tartar:

"A white crystalline compound that exists in grapes, tamarinds (date of India - a fruit used in food and beverages) and other fruits. It was formerly used for making baking powder but the practice has been largely discontinued because of cost and too fast a reaction. Cream of tartar is prepared from the sediments in wine barrels and is called Argol. The argol is dissolved in hot water, and the colouring matter removed by means of clay or egg albumin. After being purified by crystallization, it is ready for the market. No leavening capacity by itself, only in combination with sodium bicarbonate. Used alone in some recipes. For example, it's an excellent stabilizer in egg whites."

SDbaker's picture

I believe the original source of cream of tarter was the crystals formed on the inside of wine casks.

 SD Baker

rideold's picture

Putting baking soda in sourdough is to leaven the bread.  According to "the Bread Builders" the Alaska sourdough of fame was mixed with baking soda for leavening since the sourdough was kept as an acidic reactive with baking soda and not as a yeast.  Kind of like when you mix baking soda and vinegar.

deva's picture

ok?  Ratio of baking soda to starter? Or baking soda to flour?  Or something else?