The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Ascorbic acid

frogg's picture

Ascorbic acid


I'd like to bake loaves with a higher wholemeal content ( 60 wholemeal:40 white or 70 wholemeal: 30 white) and am wondering if the addition of ascorbic acid will help to make them lighter. Does anyone routinely use ascorbic acid in wholemeal/spelt  bread making, and if so, what is your purpose in using it. Does anyone deliberately avoid it, and if so why?  Also, does anyone know where in London (UK)  I could buy it? If I were to use straigh vit C pills, how much would I add say per 3 cups of flour? Thanks.

holds99's picture


I pulled this off breadbaking911 website.  When I lived in France boulangers (bread bakers) were allowed to use ascorbic acid, in small amounts, in their bread baking, mostly baguettes, batards, etc.

Creates an acidic environment for the yeast which helps it work better. It also acts as a preservative & deters mold and bacterial growth. With just a touch of ascorbic acid, your Artisan breads, the yeast will work longer and faster. French bakers add it to their French bread, baguette or boule recipe.

If you can't find pure ascorbic acid crystals you can use Fruit Fresh (canning isle) or a crushed/powdered vitamin C tablet, but measure accordingly.  The footnote says 1/8 teaspoon per recipe.  I have used it, albeit not lately, and used only a large pinch for per 2 lb of dough.

1/8 tsp. per recipe
Howard - St. Augustine, FL
PaddyL's picture

One tsp. of vinegar for up to 10 cups of flour really helps the bread rise.  You could add a little more and it won't affect the taste at all.

Paddyscake's picture

Check out Dolf's blog..he uses ascorbic acid in his formula.  Good stuff !

staff of life's picture
staff of life

In the new SFBI book, Suas mentions that using ascorbic acid for a green flour (one that hasn't been aged) helps immediately increase dough strength.  I enjoy using freshly ground whole grains; I've thought of using ascorbic acid to help make better-risen loaves, just never experimented.  So I'm grateful for all this info, too!


frogg's picture

Fantastic information....very helpful, thank you so much.

Doc.Dough's picture

This small amount is all that is needed to act as a slow oxidizer and offset (recover from) the effects of glutathione or L-cysteine additions that enhance dough extensability when you are trying to knead a dough containing very hard flour.  It does not "acidify" the dough.


nicodvb's picture

if I used too much ascorbic acid? Would I have the same effect of added glutathione or L-cysteine due to the "missed" conversion to dehydroascorbic acid?

What other compound can be used to acidify the dough without leading it to break? I was adviced not to use citric acid.

Doc.Dough's picture

Ascorbic acid is a slow oxydizing agent; the L-cysteine is a rapidly acting reducing agent (it ties up the sticky side chains of the gluten so that they don't reattach too quickly when stretched).  You won't taste it because it will decompose during the bake. 

I can't predict what you might consider "too much" but you can certainly run a simple experiment:

Dissolve 1000 mg of ascorbic acid in water and include it in your liquids when you make a batch of dough that contains 1 Kg of flour.

Report back with the results!

PS - if you want glutathione to see the effect, just kill off some growing yeast in the microwave and add it to your dough, but watch out - it is easy to get too much and quickly make flour soup.  The L-cysteine liberated from the glutathione is what is doing the job.

FlourChild's picture

When I make pizza, I want somewhat slack, highly extensible gluten to make shaping easier and to contribute to a more open crumb in the cornichione.  According to SAF, yeast will release glutathione at cool temps, and mixing with cool or ice water or retarding/freezing the dough will do the trick.  I like to mix with ice water, though many recipes call for an overnight in the fridge and/or active dry yeast to achieve the same goal.

I wonder if ascorbic acid is necessary with instant yeast (less dead yeast to give off glutathione) or if not retarding dough?  I'll be interested to hear if it makes a difference with whole grain.

Doc.Dough's picture

The ascorbic acid is justified by its ability to undo the damage caused by the L-cysteine that is part of the glutathione.  If anything you would need less ascorbic acid with instant yeast if it truly does yield less glutathione.  In general retarding dough simply slows down the biological processes or adjusts the relative rates of both the biology and the chemistry.

Your conjecture about whole grain dough is an interesting one. Is it possible that increasing the extensibility of a whole grain dough might reduce the tearing that is made easier by bran cutting the gluten strands?

Try it and report back!

Janetcook's picture

When I first started baking bread again I purchased gluten and dough conditioners thinking I needed them to get soft breads using 100% whole wheat flour.  I never opened the dough conditioner container - if fact I returned it and got my $ back and I did use the gluten for awhile but then I discovered Peter Reinhart's book Whole Grain Baking and I get soft breads every time now without adding anything.  His method employs using 2 preferments so the grains get a longer 'wet time' and when the 2 doughs are joined together in the final mix they create a strong dough that holds all the CO2 in place and a wonderfully soft and nutritious loaf is the end result :-) ( The long soaking has other flavor enhansing effects too and I won't go into detail here because he explains it much better than I do :-) 

Happy Baking,