The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Ascorbic Acid Scaling?

edroid's picture
edroid

Ascorbic Acid Scaling?

I’m curious what you technical types think of this: 

I live in an extremely dry climate in Idaho, and for some reason my starter tends to get funky every now and again. I have found that the addition of an extremely small amount of ascorbic acid freshens things up with one feeding. I use an extremely small bit on the end of a knife, which I can only guess is about 1/1,000 of a gram, to add to my 250 grams of starter. It seems to work miracles. 

The incredible book by Michel Saus; "Advanced Bread and Pastry" recommends a scaling for ascorbic acid as a dough conditioner of 10 parts per million, which I think converts to a bakers percentage of 0.001%. 

The new "Modernist Bread" has a recipe for Modernist Country Bread which shows the addition of ascorbic acid that is literally over 200 times higher than the Saus book at about .23%! 

Anyone use ascorbic acid as a starter conditioner? Anyone tried using ascorbic acid as a dough conditioner of tried the modernist mega dose?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

has anything to do with the behaviour of the starter.  

Adding acid to the starter would certainly lower pH to more favourable dough conditions but so should the bacteria in the starter if it is allowed to do so naturally.  Skip the slow fermentation, then acid needs to be added.  I might re-evaluate how I maintain my starter if I keep having to add acid to keep it "balanced."  

edroid's picture
edroid

Hi Mini,  I should have been more clear. I don't think the dry climate has to do with the starter either, but I do think the dry climate has to do with the flour biota. I am a believer in the theory that local starters are unique to the area. In other words, bring a starter in from an outside area, and it will slowly revert to a local type. My guess is that the dry climate is one reason why my local starter biota is unique. Also, I don't have to "keep adding" the ascorbic acid, just once in a blue moon, maybe once a year if it gets funky. I am solid on the starter technique, having maintained and established starters for over a decade. I know that I could simply keep feeding a funky starter, and it would straighten itself out, but by adding the ascorbic acid, it comes around in _one_ feeding. Debra Wink refers to ascorbic acid in her incredible essay titled "pineapple juice solution". She started using ascorbic acid before pineapple juice to alter ph, but she abandoned it's use due to the fact that her vitamin c tablets were buffered.

Justanoldguy's picture
Justanoldguy

I just baked a loaf with 600g of freshly milled flour, a mix of hard red, hard white and Durham, and added 4.5g of ascorbic acid, a teaspoon, to the flour before adding the water and allowing it to autolyse for 45 minutes. The theory behind using it was it would serve to counteract the thiol present in freshly milled flour and enhance the formation of gluten. I normally use less than that when I bake this loaf with 200g of KA unbleached flour and 400g of freshly milled flour. I hope the Baking Police will let me plead ignorance and avoid a substantial fine for upping the proportion to 0.75%. I can't really tell that it made any difference taste wise because I included two varieties of wheat that I hadn't used before. The loaf has good flavor and rose adequately for my plebian purpose (a sandwich loaf). I ain't at all technical unless you include flying by the seat of your pants as a level of technicality. 

Justanoldguy's picture
Justanoldguy

So, here's a closer look, metaphorically speaking, at the seat of my pants. How did I come up with this high of a proportion of ascorbic acid? I derived it from the label on a box of Vital Wheat Gluten. The product I used recommended 4 tsp, 12g, of VWG per loaf. The breakdown of the nutrition in the standard serving, 12g, revealed that 8g of that would be protein. The product's ingredients were listed as gluten and ascorbic acid. I went out on a limb and figured that the protein was gluten. That left 4 of the 12 grams as ascorbic acid. I toddled into my local health food store and bought a quantity of powdered ascorbic acid. It wasn't cheap but it contained 101 1/2 teaspoon servings. I bake about 1 loaf a week, that's almost a year's worth of bread if I go a full tsp per loaf. I can live with that and if I use a certain proportion of off-the-shelf bread flour I can and do cut back on the ascorbic acid, going with 1/2 or 1/4tsp. Yeah I was flying by the seat of my pants but I didn't get very far off the ground or loose track of the terrain features below, no big deal.

edroid's picture
edroid

Heh. . . Love your "seat of the pants" 

I used seat of the pants incorrectly when trying to figure the dosage of ascorbic acid to put into my starter. I just went back and reread what Debra Wink had to say on ascorbic acid dosing, and I had incorrectly remembered her dosage. She seems to have settled on 1/2 teaspoon, or 2.5 grams of ascorbic acid per 120 grams of flour. She said that ascorbic acid “may be the ingredient of choice for purists or professionals”, but declined to recommend it because she felt it was hard to purchase. Since Amazon will now bring it to your door (a kilo of ascorbic acid for less than $25!!!!), it seems like ascorbic acid should be the new “pineapple juice” . . .

From my non scientific experimentation, an amount far, far smaller than 2.5 grams is effective to brighten up a funky starter. . . 

albacore's picture
albacore

I have no experience of ascorbic acid as a starter refresher, but I have occasionally used it in short time yeasted doughs.

The renowned Professor Calvel seems to have been a big fan of it and indeed, I think most French bakers must be, as it is present in a lot of French flour when you buy it.

If you decide to try it, from what I've seen on this forum, and in other recipes on the net, a lot of people are vastly overdosing when they use it.

When it is used in the "no-time" Chorleywood process (with which 80% of UK commercial bread is made, rightly or wrongly) the addition rate is 200ppm or 0.02%. I can't imagine that higher rates will serve any useful purpose.

Also, a lot of posters erroneously refer to it as having an acidification effect on dough. At the recommended rate, I doubt if it has any effect on dough pH at all.

200ppm works out at 0.2g per 1kg of flour. I do have a scale that can measure 0.2g, otherwise you may need to accurately weigh a weight that your scale can handle, make up a solution in water and add a known volume of it to your hydrating water.

Lance

 

edroid's picture
edroid

Lance, That is exactly the point I was trying to make; ascorbic acid scaling is all over the map. From Michel Saus recommending 10 ppm for dough conditioning, to Nathan Myhvold recommending over 200 times more as an addition to his modernist country bread recipe!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

What exactly do you mean by the starter "straightening itself out?"

If a better rise or trapping of gas, then I would expect that from a dough enhancer but what other indicators can be noted when working with say...  very liquid starters or gluten free starters? 

Overdosing would lower pH.  Perhaps that is the reason for higher amounts in some recipes.  

edroid's picture
edroid

Every now and then (but rarely) my starter will get a bit funky. The smell will turn from clean fermented to a bit of a stinky note. Eu de leuconostoc. . . A small bit of ascorbic acid at the next feeding seems to take care of it in just one feeding. Previously I have had to feed multiple times to "freshen" the starter up. 

Ascorbic acid can be used for ph adjustment as well as for dough enhancement. . . 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

starter isn't back to "itself" after a long stint in the fridge and a flour brand change.  "Funky" fits the description right now.  Started feeding it on Sunday so it gets a week on the counter,  The lemon sits nearby threatening the Leuco's.  There is also vinegar watching and waiting.  Maybe I should split it and run a little experiment for you.  Any suggestions?

Mini

edroid's picture
edroid

It would be fascinating to see if you get the same result from a dose of ascorbic acid into a funky starter. Debra Wink set the dose of ascorbic acid at 2.5 grams per 120 grams of flour. That is far, far, far more than I have used. . . Paragraph eleven of Debra Winks Pineapple Juice Solution, Part 1, outlines her dosing experiments. I suppose the ideal would be to set it up like Debra did, with different doses in multiple starters simultaneously. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I refreshed elaborated last night...  I came up with this:

5 whiskey glasses     in each:

  • 10g whole rye flour
  • 10g boiled & cooled water
  • 5g ripe rye sourdough (with a little funk)

There are different amounts of bottled lime juice (45% lime juice, 6% Citric acid)  in each glass

1)  none

2)  5 drops

3) 10 drops

4) 15 drops

5) 20 drops

Stirred with spoon (left in the glass) and covered with plasti-crap.  Levels marked.  

Starting time 09:15  at  25°C 

Let the race and sniff tests begin!

Notes:  The lemon got used on a schnitzel so was not available after breakfast.  Citric acid is not Acetic acid but a preservative and can lower pH according to Wiki.  Citric acid can also hamper bacterial and fungal growth if too high.  (how high???)   Chances are good that my lime is only half a lime (44% water?) unless someone gives some input on the subject.  I may have to repeat the test with a real lemon. (no "biggie," - love seeing the look on hubby's face when I'm experimenting!) 

edroid's picture
edroid

Looking forward to the results! 

starvingviolist's picture
starvingviolist

I haven't gotten to the recipe by yet, but in general Modernist Bread recommends 0.01-0.07% ascorbic acid. That recipe might be an exception for some reason though.

starvingviolist's picture
starvingviolist

See Modernist Bread 3-86

albacore's picture
albacore

I can understand use of AA for specific purposes like the starter rejuvenator and use of freshly milled wheat as mentioned previously in this thread, but I don't see the point of using it for normal non-commercial bread production.

Surely good quality flour and a decent bulk fermentation time are all that are necessary?

 

Lance