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KennethT

Chemistry in Baking, and "Modernist Bread: The Art and Science"

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Is there a discussion in the book about the purpose of adding ascorbic acid?  I just saw the contest #2 in which the recipe called for it.  I'm curious because a woman I know on the internet used to work in a bakery in Vietnam, and said that to get similar results to the banh mi there, you need to add ascorbic acid.  Does it act as a gluten relaxer?  Traditional banh mi have a very tender and crisp crust, and a very light and tender, relatively closed crumb.

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Even my bread flour contains ascorbic acid!

There are a few paragraphs devoted to ascorbic acid. 

 

 Serves as both reducing agent and an oxidizing agent. 

 Early in the cycle it strengthens the dough to help fermentation.  

It helps strengthen the flour. 

Prevents dough from becoming gray when left in the refrigerator. 

 In professional scenarios where mixing is done in an enclosure and less oxygen is available, ascorbic acid breaks down the gluten and makes the dough more extensible.  It is also described as a good bet for increasing volume. 

Does that help any?

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6 hours ago, KennethT said:

Is there a discussion in the book about the purpose of adding ascorbic acid?  I just saw the contest #2 in which the recipe called for it.  I'm curious because a woman I know on the internet used to work in a bakery in Vietnam, and said that to get similar results to the banh mi there, you need to add ascorbic acid.  Does it act as a gluten relaxer?  Traditional banh mi have a very tender and crisp crust, and a very light and tender, relatively closed crumb.

 

If it helps, according to MB (but not Wikipedia) Ho Chi Minh used to be a baker at the Parker House Hotel.

 

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On 11/15/2017 at 6:03 PM, Anna N said:

Even my bread flour contains ascorbic acid!

There are a few paragraphs devoted to ascorbic acid. 

 

 Serves as both reducing agent and an oxidizing agent. 

 Early in the cycle it strengthens the dough to help fermentation.  

It helps strengthen the flour. 

Prevents dough from becoming gray when left in the refrigerator. 

 In professional scenarios where mixing is done in an enclosure and less oxygen is available, ascorbic acid breaks down the gluten and makes the dough more extensible.  It is also described as a good bet for increasing volume. 

Does that help any?

 

Is this the few paragraphs, a synopsis of the few paragraphs or just a snippet?

 

I have certain pizzeria clients in various parts of the world that, for different reasons, can't obtain strong enough flour, so they increase the strength of their dough with ascorbic acid (AA).  I've managed to make 10% protein flours act like 13%.  The one downside that I've seen is that, like the prevention of gray mentioned above, AA's preserving effects seem to prevent the desirable flavor byproducts one strives for in extended fermentation. In other words, extended fermentation is a kind of controlled spoilage and AA seems to work against that.

 

For this reason, and because there are other oxidizers, such as bromate, that are FAR superior dough enhancers, I only recommend AA if you have absolutely no access whatsoever to stronger flour- at least for the home baker. In a commercial setting, the extensibility gained in a lower oxygen mixing environment is something I hadn't heard of and will have to test.

 

How do the Modernists fall on bromate? Are they furthering the paranoia or, like the scientists they paint themselves to be, have they looked at the science to understand it's innate safety?


Edited by scott123 (log)

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I think I covered most of what they say about Ascorbic acid. 

 

Haven’t really looked at bromate.  I think my brain is already overloaded but if I have a little more brainpower tomorrow I will see what I can find out for you. 

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6 hours ago, Anna N said:

I think I covered most of what they say about Ascorbic acid. 

 

Haven’t really looked at bromate.  I think my brain is already overloaded but if I have a little more brainpower tomorrow I will see what I can find out for you. 

@scott123,

I was able to find only one brief mention of potassium bromate. They note that it’s added to some flours to improve strength of the dough and help bread rise but it is considered a potential carcinogen and has been banned in some places but not in the US. 

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12 hours ago, scott123 said:

 

How do the Modernists fall on bromate? Are they furthering the paranoia or, like the scientists they paint themselves to be, have they looked at the science to understand it's innate safety?

 

 

I don’t really see paranoia about bromate - the scientific (animal) data indicates some possibility of carcinogenicity and based on this it is banned in many countries around the world (with US one of the few exceptions). 

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1567851/

 

https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/a?dbs+hsdb:@term+@DOCNO+1253

 

 

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6 hours ago, Honkman said:

 

I don’t really see paranoia about bromate - the scientific (animal) data indicates some possibility of carcinogenicity and based on this it is banned in many countries around the world (with US one of the few exceptions). 

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1567851/

 

https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/a?dbs+hsdb:@term+@DOCNO+1253

 

 

 

You're not seeing paranoia because you're only skimming the surface. What you came up with took, what, about 2 minutes to google? :) Good science is about digging deeper- about getting all the facts.

 

First, there's never been a connection between bromate and cancer in humans.  Humans are not rats, and rat based studies have been shown, time and time again, to produce different results in humans. The links you posted even references the fact that the findings for rats aren't even applicable to mice.  If the findings aren't applicable moving from rats to mice, how the heck are we going to know how humans will react? Milling workers in the Eastern half of the U.S., where bromate is the standard for commmercial flour, have historically been exposed to high quantities.  If there was a connection between bromate and cancer in humans, you'd see it in this population. You don't. Again, look at the links you posted.

 

Even if the link between bromate and cancer in humans could eventually be proven, a good scientist comprehends the connection between dosage and risk.  They don't feed rats bromated flour bread.  They don't even feed them bromated flour.  They feed them pure bromate- in massive quantities. Bromate is added to flour in quantities below 20 parts per million.  That's per million *pinky finger tip to mouth*.  After baking, the residual bromate in bread typically measures 1/1,000th of that- parts per billion. That's billion, with a 'b' :) Bromate is naturally occurring. It's in the water you drink- bottle or tap.  As we speak, California, the land of paranoia, allows more bromate in water than the quantity that ends up in bread. In other words,  if you sit down and eat a slice of bromated flour pizza, the glass of water you drink with the pizza will likely have more bromate than the pizza does. That's the dose that we're talking about.  A trace of a trace.

 

To put this in further perspective.

 

black pepper
tea
coffee
cocoa
cinnamon
nutmeg

 

all contain known carcinogens.  Not potential carcinogens. Not carcinogens for rats that may be carcinogens for humans.  Known carcinogens.  We consume these foods without batting an eyelash because the quantity/the risk, like bromate, is so infinitesimally small it doesn't matter.

 

Bromate phobia is completely and utterly ridiculous. It stems from a bunch of short sighted WHO bureaucrats, who, 50 years ago, when confronted with the possibility that bromate might be a carcinogen, instead of actually figuring out if it actually was dangerous, just made the decision that it couldn't remain in the finished bread- which at the time,  it didn't- with the technology they had to measure it. Instead of actually doing their job and protecting the public, honestly, they just said "maybe it poses a risk, maybe it doesn't. Who cares?  It's not in the final product, anyway, so we can just pass a regulation that it can't be."  Fast forward 20 or so years to a point where technology improves and instruments can measure the parts per billion in baked bread, and, rather than look at the misguided logic that brought them to their previous ruling, they just doubled down with the 'can't be in bread' regulation, and combined with 'we now know it's in bread,' and, voila, ban.  And, then, once you have a ban, the public, rather than figuring things out for themselves, looks at it, and assumes that if it's banned, it must be unsafe- the tail wags the dog.

 

Beyond it's innate safety, nothing can touch bromate as a dough enhancer.  Anyone that tells you that ascorbic acid is just as good is talking out of their behind. Ascorbic acid will never give you the same volume or dough handling ability. There's a good reason why you can't buy a slice of unbromated flour pizza East of the Rockies, it's because it creates a vastly superior product.  I'm a pizza guy, not a baker so I can't unequivocally say that bromate always makes better bread, but the best bread that I've ever had, in my entire life, used bromated flour.  Nothing else I've ever come across had that level of volume and tenderness of crumb.


Edited by scott123 (log)
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3 hours ago, scott123 said:

 

You're not seeing paranoia because you're only skimming the surface. What you came up with took, what, about 2 minutes to google? :) Good science is about digging deeper- about getting all the facts.

 

First, there's never been a connection between bromate and cancer in humans.  Humans are not rats, and rat based studies have been shown, time and time again, to produce different results in humans. The links you posted even references the fact that the findings for rats aren't even applicable to mice.  If the findings aren't applicable moving from rats to mice, how the heck are we going to know how humans will react? Milling workers in the Eastern half of the U.S., where bromate is the standard for commmercial flour, have historically been exposed to high quantities.  If there was a connection between bromate and cancer in humans, you'd see it in this population. You don't. Again, look at the links you posted.

 

Even if the link between bromate and cancer in humans could eventually be proven, a good scientist comprehends the connection between dosage and risk.  They don't feed rats bromated flour bread.  They don't even feed them bromated flour.  They feed them pure bromate- in massive quantities. Bromate is added to flour in quantities below 20 parts per million.  That's per million *pinky finger tip to mouth*.  After baking, the residual bromate in bread typically measures 1/1,000th of that- parts per billion. That's billion, with a 'b' :) Bromate is naturally occurring. It's in the water you drink- bottle or tap.  As we speak, California, the land of paranoia, allows more bromate in water than the quantity that ends up in bread. In other words,  if you sit down and eat a slice of bromated flour pizza, the glass of water you drink with the pizza will likely have more bromate than the pizza does. That's the dose that we're talking about.  A trace of a trace.

 

To put this in further perspective.

 

black pepper
tea
coffee
cocoa
cinnamon
nutmeg

 

all contain known carcinogens.  Not potential carcinogens. Not carcinogens for rats that may be carcinogens for humans.  Known carcinogens.  We consume these foods without batting an eyelash because the quantity/the risk, like bromate, is so infinitesimally small it doesn't matter.

 

Bromate phobia is completely and utterly ridiculous. It stems from a bunch of short sighted WHO bureaucrats, who, 50 years ago, when confronted with the possibility that bromate might be a carcinogen, instead of actually figuring out if it actually was dangerous, just made the decision that it couldn't remain in the finished bread- which at the time,  it didn't- with the technology they had to measure it. Instead of actually doing their job and protecting the public, honestly, they just said "maybe it poses a risk, maybe it doesn't. Who cares?  It's not in the final product, anyway, so we can just pass a regulation that it can't be."  Fast forward 20 or so years to a point where technology improves and instruments can measure the parts per billion in baked bread, and, rather than look at the misguided logic that brought them to their previous ruling, they just doubled down with the 'can't be in bread' regulation, and combined with 'we now know it's in bread,' and, voila, ban.  And, then, once you have a ban, the public, rather than figuring things out for themselves, looks at it, and assumes that if it's banned, it must be unsafe- the tail wags the dog.

 

Beyond it's innate safety, nothing can touch bromate as a dough enhancer.  Anyone that tells you that ascorbic acid is just as good is talking out of their behind. Ascorbic acid will never give you the same volume or dough handling ability. There's a good reason why you can't buy a slice of unbromated flour pizza East of the Rockies, it's because it creates a vastly superior product.  I'm a pizza guy, not a baker so I can't unequivocally say that bromate always makes better bread, but the best bread that I've ever had, in my entire life, used bromated flour.  Nothing else I've ever come across had that level of volume and tenderness of crumb.

 

 

In my job I have to work with animal and human data regarding multiple disease indication, including oncology, on a daily basis. Based on your comments it is rather obvious that you have little idea about how any kind of (pre)clinical studies (including epidemological ones) are conducted. There is enough data in animals and humans which indicate potential renal toxicity with bromate exposure that warrants caution (and bans) in using it in material for human consumption. 

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42 minutes ago, Honkman said:

There is enough data in animals and humans which indicate potential renal toxicity with bromate exposure that warrants caution (and bans) in using it in material for human consumption. 

It's group B2 right now, and is being considered for upgrade only for direct oral dose: when baked in bread the KBrO3 is converted to KBr.

 

From Kurokawa Y, Maekawa A, Takahashi M, Hayashi Y. Toxicity and carcinogenicity of potassium bromate--a new renal carcinogen. Environmental Health Perspectives. 1990;87:309-335:

Quote

The residual levels of KBrO3 at currently acceptable flour treatment doses have been reported to be negligible in bread (32,34). In fact, no carcinogenic action was detectable after feeding bread-based diets in longterm bioassays (49,50). Therefore, in consideration of the fact that almost all KBrO3 added to the flour is converted to KBr during the bread-baking process (34), future concern should be directed toward the toxicological effects of KBr in humans (105); so far, no promoting and only weak mutagenic activities have been demonstrated for this compound (8,62).

 

That said, I'm unable to track down any studies on the toxicity and/or carcinogenicity of potassium bromide. 

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Raymond Calvel objects to potassium bromate use on the grounds that "...the gustatory properties of the flour are profoundly changed for the worse, and the taste greatly diminished."  The Taste of Bread p18.

 

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On 11/16/2017 at 6:07 PM, scott123 said:

 

Is this the few paragraphs, a synopsis of the few paragraphs or just a snippet?

 

I have certain pizzeria clients in various parts of the world that, for different reasons, can't obtain strong enough flour, so they increase the strength of their dough with ascorbic acid (AA).  I've managed to make 10% protein flours act like 13%.  The one downside that I've seen is that, like the prevention of gray mentioned above, AA's preserving effects seem to prevent the desirable flavor byproducts one strives for in extended fermentation. In other words, extended fermentation is a kind of controlled spoilage and AA seems to work against that.

 

For this reason, and because there are other oxidizers, such as bromate, that are FAR superior dough enhancers, I only recommend AA if you have absolutely no access whatsoever to stronger flour- at least for the home baker. In a commercial setting, the extensibility gained in a lower oxygen mixing environment is something I hadn't heard of and will have to test.

 

How do the Modernists fall on bromate? Are they furthering the paranoia or, like the scientists they paint themselves to be, have they looked at the science to understand it's innate safety?

 

Hi @scott123! Although we don't weigh in on this particular debate in Modernist Bread, bromated flour is included in our overview of types of flour and added ingredients on page 249 of Volume 2. The flours we use happen to be nonbromated because it works best for us, however we believe that bakers should use whatever flour provides them with the best results.

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4 hours ago, Modernist Cuisine Team said:

Hi @scott123! Although we don't weigh in on this particular debate in Modernist Bread, bromated flour is included in our overview of types of flour and added ingredients on page 249 of Volume 2. The flours we use happen to be nonbromated because it works best for us, however we believe that bakers should use whatever flour provides them with the best results.

 

Respectfully, you absolutely 'weighed in on this particular debate'  by calling it a 'potential carcinogen.'  Approximately 50,000 American pizzerias use bromated flour. By calling it a 'potential carcinogen,' you're implying that an entire industry is potentially putting their customer's lives in jeopardy.  If that's not 'weighing in,' I don't know what is.

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8 hours ago, scott123 said:

 

Respectfully, you absolutely 'weighed in on this particular debate'  by calling it a 'potential carcinogen.'  Approximately 50,000 American pizzerias use bromated flour. By calling it a 'potential carcinogen,' you're implying that an entire industry is potentially putting their customer's lives in jeopardy.  If that's not 'weighing in,' I don't know what is.

 

KBrO3 is a potential carcinogen and thereby bromated flour can be potentially carcinogenic dependent on how somebody is using it (baking time, temperature, etc) It would be irresponsible by MB not to call it potentially carcinogenic without new, peer-reviewed data. The industry is not the problem - it is the other way around - more customer should be aware about potential risk of their food.

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