The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Making a hash of it with Vitamin C

Andy_P's picture

Making a hash of it with Vitamin C

Hi all. I have a couple of questions about Vitamin C/Ascorbic acid powder.

The first part is a bit of a tale of confusion and woe....

I'm very happy with the "lift" on my white loaves, but my brown and wholemeal were a litle bit heavy,  so I bought some Vitamin C powder and started to use it.

Over the last few weeks or months, my brown bread has been getting worse and worse so I've been adding a little more and more of the Vitamin C powder (I'll admit to how much in a minute!)

I've now wbeen reading some previous topics about Vitamin C on here (such as this one:  Ascorbic acid) and I am now thouroughly confused about how much to use.

In that topic it says in various places:

1/8 teaspoon per "recipe"

1/4 gram or thereabouts for "a loaf" (I'm guessing a 1lb loaf?)

25ppm or so as an improver for white flour (i.e. 25 milligrams per kilogram- about a TENTH of the amount in quote #2)

And then it says "Dan Lepard proposes using 250mg to 450g of wholemeal flour. So that's almost 20x as much as routine addition to white flour."

So is 1/2 gram per kilo of wholemeal flour about right? Any idea of what that would be in fractions of a teaspoon?

(OK - time to confess now...  I'm sure I read somewhere that it should be a teaspoon per loaf, so I was being stingy and only putting in one full teaspoon per kilo of flour.

As they got flatter and flatter, I was slowly making it a bigger and bigger heaped spoonful!

I  think I was lucky the poor yeast was surviving at all!)


Second part of the question....

I can't remember where I found the Vitamin C powder and can't find it anywhere now.

But I can get Citric Acid powder. I know that citus fruits have citric acid and they are high in vitamin C, but is that all spurious? Could I use Citric Acid powder instead of Ascorbic Acid????


Very grateful for any help or advice.


gary.turner's picture

Stores catering to home brewers will have ascorbic acid.  It's used when bottling as an anti-oxidant. Citric acid is a usable substitute, except that even at low levels can impart a lemony taste to whatever it's in. Vitamin C capsules, not tablets, will do in a pinch, with the advantage of having accurate weights at very small amounts.



lumos's picture

I bought mine at a health food shop, sold as Vitamin C powder. If your local health shop doesn't sell it in powder form, you can use the tablets/pills and pound it into powder yourself.  Or you can even substitute with a few drops of lemon juice.

And when you are using it, you should only add really, really tiny amount (like a pinch or two) or your dough will be too tight.   Also, if you bake with commercial dried yeast, you usually don't need tp add Vitamin C because it's probably already added in the product (Check the ingredients on the packet).


MangoChutney's picture

Be aware that the 1-gram dosage capsule-shaped pills of Vitamin C have a lot of binder in them.  I tried chewing one once.  Yuck.

You are much better off with the pure powder.

jcking's picture

100 parts Vitamin C to 1 million parts flour is 1 gram of Vitamin C per 10kg of flour.

nicodvb's picture

I'm not completely sure, but I read several times that citric acid will most likely do the opposite of vitamin C: it will relax gluten, to finally break it down.

lumos's picture

Sorry, I must confess I don't have any experience using lemon juice in place for vitamin c myself. I only wrote it based on the advice I've read  somewhere (some of them by professional bakers). 

Chuck's picture

The difference with respect to bread making between ascorbic acid and citric acid was one of the not-quite-on-topic issues discussed in depth on this old thread. Although threads unfortunately don't come with "summaries", this post seems to me to capture the gist of it. [Note that some of the earlier posts (mea culpa:-) were incorrect, as detailed by later posts.]

If I understood the thread correctly (and you don't want to peruse it for yourself), some important things about ascorbic vs. citric acid are:

  • ascorbic and citric acid are not equivalent; neither should simply be substituted for the other
  • citric acid does not improve dough structure at all
  • a little too much citric acid will make the bread taste like lemons - be careful

Citric acid is often called "sour salt" in the bread world. It's readily available in the canning world, and is usually the main ingredient in solutions sold to keep cut fruit from turning brown before serving.

Ascorbic acid is a fairly common ingredient in "dough conditioners".

Although Vitamin C pills are more readily available, cheaper, probably already on hand, and easier to measure very small amounts, the "binder" in those pills -which differs greatly from one brand to the next- can prevent proper mixing, or even mess up the dough structure. So if you try mashing up a pill with a mortar&pestle into a fine powder, and it doesn't work as expected, get some real ascorbic acid powder. (Or get a pill capsule rather than a pill tablet, as capsules don't include suspect "binders".)


Ruralidle's picture

Only ascorbic acid with "strengthen" the gluten structure but it will also make a "holey" bread more difficult to achieve.  Use only a very small pinch (unless you have scales that weigh down to .01 of a gram) to 500g of flour - NOT a teaspoonful.  I used to use that amount and the bread is far better now I use the correct(ish) amount.  Citric acid will, as nicodvb says, relax the gluten structure and that is the opposite effect to what you are trying to achieve.

jcking's picture

I think salt has a little more to do with gluten and strength.

Andy_P's picture

Many thanks for all your helpful comments.

I'm going to try adding none all for the next couple of loaves (to get a "baseline") then just a pinch in the next batch (if I can find some more in Holland and Barret Health stores)

Next job is to find something to do with the citric acid I bought!


Thanks again. :-)

freerk's picture


I just got it delivered but haven't tried it yet, but maybe fermipan 2 in 1 could be of some use to you?

here is some info on it (in dutch alas)

It's a commercial yeast with the vitamin C built into it. Check it out!



lumos's picture

(if I can find some more in Holland and Barret Health stores)

Didn't know you're in UK. In that case, yes, I'm sure you'll find it there. That's my usual source for my vitamin c powder (it's in a plastic bottle with an orange top) and malt syrup (for bagels).  Just use a pinch or two. No more. Good luck! :)

ETA: I have written down a recommended amount of Vitamin C to add to bread dough somewhere in my file, but can't remember where it was. I'll try digging it up later and if I can find it, I'll let you know.  But  you'd need a very accurate digital scale to weigh the powder to follow it.  

Ruralidle's picture

Independent pharmacies in the UK should be able to source ascorbic acid for you.  (Large groups can sometimes be forced to use a restricted purchase list because of corporate dictates).  I get 100g tubs of pharmaceutical grade powder from my pharmacist (but she is my wife :) )!

lumos's picture

Well, Richard, for someone who's not lucky enough like you to be married to a pharmacist, you can pick it up from your local Holland & Barret, you know.....:p  But I must admit buying from a pharmacy may be cheaper. 

Also, I just remembered Lakeland does sell a small tub of ascorbic acid in their baking ingredient section, too.  Maybe theirs is in the form of concentration which is easier for a home baker to use, without a need of precision digital scale...?

Sean McFarlane's picture
Sean McFarlane

Ascorbic acid will give you a little more volume, but not really a lot.  It is more of a softener for the crumb, makes it less chewy and more...not chewy?(really depends on the amount) I know some organic bread companies use it instead of the ever so evil potasium bromate. It also give you a more acidic environment for your yeast.

If you are looking for more volume in wholemeal bread, i suggest adding some extra wheat gluten.

Andy_P's picture

Thanks again for all your replies, I'm very impressed with the combined knowledge on this board.

And just to let you know, as I said I was going to, I tried going back to basics - flour, water, yeast, salt, sugar, fat and NO fancy additions.

And produced a lovely fluffy well-risen wholemeal loaf!  :-)

lumos's picture

Congratulations!  :)