The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Ascorbic acid

frogg's picture
frogg

Ascorbic acid

Hi

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
holds99

Frogg,

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
PaddyL

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.

Meat5000's picture
Meat5000 (not verified)

Yep this is what I was going to post. Commercial bread recipies often contain Vinegar to boost rise.

Ascorbic Acid is often used as a preservative in other foods.

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

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

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/6345/multigrain-oatmeal-sandwich-bread

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!

SOL

frogg's picture
frogg

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

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

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
nicodvb

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
Doc.Dough

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
FlourChild

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
Doc.Dough

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
Janetcook

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,

Janet

ecapel's picture
ecapel

Hi! I am a hobbyist Baker and love answering science-based baking questions!  I did some research here, being the biochemist I am, I was perturbed with the incorrect use of "oxidizer" and "reducer" that is rampant in the baking community because I am, unfortunately, obsessively anal (lol). I even found a Lalleland Baking document that incorrectly categorized ascorbic acid as an oxidizer. So the reason ascorbic acid is an ingredient in instant yeast is the following: when yeast is busy converting glucose into carbon dioxide (the gas that makes our bread rise), glutathione is a chemical that is being produced within the cell as well. Glutithione is what we call an oxidant, oxidizer, (oxidizing agent ALL meaning the same thing), it takes hydrogen molecules from acids (reductant, reducer, or reducing agents), to do its job. Now this process can interfere with the yeast producing carbon dioxide for us in bread dough so we add ascorbic acid (a reducing agent because it can donate hydrogen molecules), to sequester glutathione so it no longer interferes with the yeast digesting sugar into carbon dioxide. So ascorbic acid in essence silences chemical processes happening in the yeast so it can focus solely on being our little carbon dioxide- producing slaves by reducing glutithione! Chemistry is baking's best friend!

So you can either get instant yeast or add a small amount of ascorbic acid to your yeast for a fast rise when you're blooming it. Good luck, I hope my answer made sense and was helpful! I personally prefer slower rising yeast though: the slower rise gives the dough time to develop better flavor.

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

So here is a followup question.  Does Ascorbic acid help when using starter instead of instant or commercial yeast?  

ecapel's picture
ecapel

So when you have starter, you have a community of different organisms. Bacteria and yeast both. The bacteria you have is that which grows naturally on whatever whole grain was used to start the starter, and you capture wild yeasts from the surface of the flour as well as the air. It is a perfect cooperation where the bacteria digest the starches in the flour to sugars used by the yeast to digest into carbon dioxide. Lactobacillus bacteria is the primary species types in all starters and they also produce lactic acid. This naturally supports carbon dioxide production, in the most optimal way as this is a cooperation that has evolved naturally through evolution, by the yeasts in the place of artificially added ascorbic acid. So no, there is no reason to add ascorbic acid to starter yeast. And really, the best ferment is a slow ferment: this is the best way to get the optimal rise from the perspective of inflating your gluten structure slowly and gradually, and the perspective of giving the bacteria optimal time to digest the flour starches to develop flavor as well as yeast food, and also to let the lactobacillus bacteria synthesize the enzymes that digest gluten: conferring gluten-tolerance of real sourdough eaten by gluten- sensitive individuals! 

corvus's picture
corvus

fwiw a lot of the fast acting  instant yeast has improvers like that in it already anyway so doubt you'd get much improvement. I hear you on the broad misuse of terms also being anal and fellow biochem grad, although not been in industry lab role for long time as moved into IT industry and last one I was in was pharma industry as never worked in food. You and others interested in the details of what gets added and why may find "Handbook of food products manufacturing : YH Hui" of use, the baking section is like Stryer for food products and I find a lot of info from it useful it as hobbyist baker and cook.

ecapel's picture
ecapel

Interesting, thank you for that resource! Funny you should say you worked in pharma industry research, I have my Pharm.D as well as my BS! The more I am understanding about potential impacts of processed foods on the microbiome, the more I want to find work specializing in GI pharmacy. It was actually through growing my own starter that I saw a likely connection between candida overgrowth and celiacs: almost skin to microenvironment in white bread leavened only with sarccomyces. Baking can illuminate a lot haha!

ecapel's picture
ecapel

So when you have starter, you have a community of different organisms. Bacteria and yeast both. The bacteria you have is that which grows naturally on whatever whole grain was used to start the starter, and you capture wild yeasts from the surface of the flour as well as the air. It is a perfect cooperation where the bacteria digest the starches in the flour to sugars used by the yeast to digest into carbon dioxide. Lactobacillus bacteria is the primary species types in all starters and they also produce lactic acid. This naturally supports carbon dioxide production, in the most optimal way as this is a cooperation that has evolved naturally through evolution, by the yeasts in the place of artificially added ascorbic acid. So no, there is no reason to add ascorbic acid to starter yeast. And really, the best ferment is a slow ferment: this is the best way to get the optimal rise from the perspective of inflating your gluten structure slowly and gradually, and the perspective of giving the bacteria optimal time to digest the flour starches to develop flavor as well as yeast food, and also to let the lactobacillus bacteria synthesize the enzymes that digest gluten: conferring gluten-tolerance of real sourdough eaten by gluten- sensitive individuals! 

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Thanks,  I have read that a small amount of ascorbic acid was helpful in general, but did not know whether that applied to sourdough breads as well.   

ecapel's picture
ecapel

You're very welcome!