The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Why Baking Soda in Yeast Bread?

Rosalie's picture

Why Baking Soda in Yeast Bread?

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.

1.5 c warm water
1 pkg dry yeast
1.5 T barley malt or 1T sugar
2 c barley flour
3 to 3.5 c AP flour
2.5 t salt
.25 t baking soda
1 c buttermilk, warmed

The rest of the recipe is the usual; bake 350 degrees 40-45 minutes.


maggie664's picture

This must be a hybrid bread! The baking soda is there to neutralise the lactic acid in the buttermilk thus creating carbon dioxide as a raising agent along with the yeast and sugar action to produce the same. It's the first time I've seen a recipe using both sources. would be interested to hear what it tastes like. .M

jenniferw's picture

I have a recipe from King Arthurs' Baking catalog that asks for baking powder and Ive wondered what difference it makes also. All I know is that it foams alot when its added:) Its a quick pizza recipe that only rises for thirty minutes.

3/4 c water

1 T olive oil

1 tsp salt

2 c All purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp instant yeast

1 tsp baking powder

JERSK's picture

   I'd say the baking soda in the Fannie Farmer recipe would be most likely there to neutralize the acidity in the buttermilk. There doesn't really seem to be enough to contribute to the rising. It may also be there to make it a little more tender. The King Arthur recipe definitely sounds like a hybrid and a short cut recipe. I'd suspect you'd get pizza dough of that cardboardy type you get at some pizza joints. It would only save you about 1/2 hour of rising time so why bother? Unless you got some hungry kids just out of school and don't have time for much else. They probably wouldn't care and would probably be better than frozen.

maggie664's picture

It would be interesting to know how much CO2 from the B.P remains in the raw dough after waiting for the yeast to do its bit of leavening! M

Terk's picture

That's a good point; I don't think there would be much left. Baking soda would react immediately with the acid in the buttermilk, and I doubt there would be anything left to react after the final shaping. Instead, I'm guessing the baking soda is there to allow the yeast to function. Commercial yeast doesn't like acidic environments, hence the neutralization reaction. It might also be there for flavor, to cut some of the acidic bite of the buttermilk.

 As for why the Kind Arthur recipe calls for baking soda... that one has me stumped. There is no acid directly added to the recipe, and the dough doesn't ferment long enough for wild strains to produce any lactic acid. I don't see how the baking soda can have any effect on rising in that recipe. Perhaps it's there for flavor, to somehow compensate for the short rise. I'm reminded of boiling bagels in alkaline water, for the effect on taste.

maggie664's picture

But baking powder (as against soda) in the second recipe is what puzzles me. Because it immediately releases gas as soon as it is mixed with liquid I can't see its purpose. Yeast bread flavours don't need modifying! We'll have tp go to the source and ask them. By the way there is no King Arthur bread in NZ. M

Terk's picture

Oh! The recipe does says baking powder! When I read it I saw baking soda. Well, that explains it then, it is there for leavening.

Your right that it would immediately release gas (when the tartaric acid and baking soda goes into solution.) However, commercial baking sodas nowadays are twice acting. When the temperature increases the baking powder releases another burst of CO2 thanks to the reaction of Calcium aluminium phosphate with sodium bicarbonate (which, if I remember right, happens at 145 degrees Celsius. I don't have my book with me.)

richshewmaker's picture

I suspect that the baking powder contributes to the rise in both phases of its activation. In the initial, immediate reaction, it will produce many tiny starter bubbles which will then grow from the added CO2 contributed by the yeast during proofing. The heat activation in the oven will produce even more CO2, which, in combination with the oven spring, whould result in a very light, high loaf.
It would be interesting to make the bread both with and without the baking powder to compare them for texture and flavor.
I make biscuits with yeast, baking soda, self-rising flour (baking powder), and buttermilk, and they're wonderfully fluffy AND flaky. Google "angel biscuits" for an assortment of recipes. The one I use is from Bread Alone, by Daniel Leader, but I've fiddled with it a bit.

maggie664's picture

Thanks Rich. But wouldn't the CO2 from the BP dissipate considerably before the dough has proofed? i.e. when I make a batch of 24 whiitebait fritters (a NZ delicacy), shallow frying 4 at a time, I have to add more BP to the mixture about 3/4 way through if the last ones are to be as risen as the first lot. M

maggie664's picture

Thank you for that info. re calcium aluminium phosphate. I wondered what that was there for! The whitebait fritetrs still need that 3rd (and 4th) boost though! M

Devanne's picture

While it may not be common practise, it is possible to use both together.  Yeast is a living organism which produces Carbon dioxide  and alcohol as it breaks down sugar.  When the sugar has been exhausted, this action will stop.  Also, if the temperature is high, the yeast will be killed.  Some receipes use coarse flour (wholemeal or bran particles) that could rupture the pockets of carbon dioxide as the dough is proofing,  causing some of it to escape and the dough to fall.   Such receipes could use the help of baking powder to supplement the leavening action.  This way, you have the benefit of the yeast flavour (and whatever leavening the yeast achieved) and the  leavening action of baking powder under baking temperature.   Naturally, you don't want to use too much baking powder so as not to compromise the yeast flavour. Basically, yeast leavens the dough before baking, while baking powder leavens it during baking.

sgmoye's picture

There are a couple of recipes at the KA site that call for baking soda -- one of them is for English muffin bread, now my  very favorite recipe. The puzzle is that there are no acidic ingredients in the recipe. But the real puzzle is that the very small amount of baking soda (0.25 teaspoon) has a profound influence on the texture and taste of the crumb and a crucial impact on the crust, making it English-muffin-like crunchy. Clearly, the small amount of baking soda would have little or no effect on the rising of the dough. I have found no information about this interesting phenomenon.

By the way, the original recipe calls for plain milk. I use buttermilk which does great things for the flavor; it also completely eliminates the possibility of any soapy taste associated with even small amounts of baking soda.

If anyone has any insights about this, I love to hear them.

PetraR's picture

Often baking soda is used for a fluffy interior in baked goods such as cake, pancakes and I believe the same goes for bread.

Buttermilk is used for the same purpose.

doughooker's picture

Buttermilk biscuits use buttermilk because it is acidic. When you add baking soda, it reacts with the acid in the buttermilk and produces CO2 bubbles. This causes the biscuits to rise.

NGS1018's picture

I was reading the original post about baking powder which is used in addition to yeast in some Bosnian bread to give it extra rise when the dough hits the hot oven.  It helps form the pocket in the pita-type bread they make.

Baking soda is sometimes used to help form a crisp brown crust (especially in pizza dough).