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rgural

ascorbic acid

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James:

What if any are the negative aspects of using ascorbic acid in proper amounts either by the miller or by the baker? Kaplan mentions people denouncing it as a killer of flavor and Phillippe Viron mentions that it penalizes conservation, is there any evidence supporting either of these views?

Thanks,

Roger


Edited by rgural (log)

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Roger:

I apologise for making yiu wait so long for an answer, and my answer will be brief because I hope that Hubert Chiron, who is hugely more qualified than I to deal with this will be adding a few things.

The problem might not be the ascorbic acid, but the misuse of ascorbic acid. Ascorbic acid can be beneficial when difficult flours cause doughs to lose strength during the second rise ( i.e. the shaped loaves) and flatten-out as they bake. It can also be useful when one is retarding shaped loaves ( i.e. keeping raw shaped loaves in the refrigerator overnight before baking them), freezing raw croissants, etc.

Using ascorbic acid more as a " dough improver" ( a term which becomes truly disingenuous when applied to potassium bromate, etc), that is, to artificially create the 'maturation' of the dough is another matter. It is possible to cut down on the bulk fermentation of the dough and count on ascorbic acid to giveit the necessary " architecture" to hold its shape, be baked, etc. The problem is that relatively long bulk fermentation of the dough has always been the cornerstone of great bread, which gives the finished loaf flavor, texture, and keeping qualities has been eliminated.

All of this could mean that lack of flavor ( Kaplan) and lack of keeping qualities (Viron) are not some directly poisonous cause/effect effect of the ascorbic acid, but the shortening of the fermentation process, a use for ascorbic acid of interest only to bad bakers.

I hope this helps,

James

ps have a look at the yeast query, which is related to this

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Roger,

I have reread Hubert Chiron, who says that because ascorbic acid can be forgiving to bakers in the sense that the shaped loaves can rise a bit too much without danger of deflating before going into the oven, this is not a desireable thing for the end reslult especially if it is done systematically, on purpose....

Remember to have a look at the yeast question

Sante!

James

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James:

Unfortunately I see the sytematic misuse of ascorbic acid on a regular basis. Where I work it's done both after the baguettes are divided and the pieces are left to rest (actually proof) for up to 1.5 hours and again in the final proofing. The result it seems, and perhaps you can confirm this, is a tighter more regular interior, and a whiter crumb. But the loaves are huge.

With regard to your response to the yeast question, if one were to make the basic french bread (ex 10-9 from the Taste of Bread) one batch with the ascorbic acid and one without, all other things being exactly the same and assuming a good quality flour:

-would the AA dough have a shorter first fermentation and a longer proof? Would the longer proof in any way compensate for the indirect limitation of organic acids as a result of the accelerated maturation? Or is it entirely wrong to reduce the first fermentation with the AA dough?

Any advice on a resource to learn how to read and better understand an Alveogram?

Thanks for taking time to respond.

Roger

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Thanks for the question.

First, a quick comment/query on the recipe which you mentioned : 1 1/2 hours seems like a very long rest for the dough pieces between weighing/preshaping and the actual shaping. If the dough pieces rise so much that they begin to fall, then they have probably lost strength and will lose gas and the large bubbles as they are shaped ( of course, if there is not enough of a rest. shaping will be difficult, and those additional bubbles formed during the rest don't get formed.).

The formulas in the Calvel book are meant to be followed as written, with or without the ascorbic acid and the intended role of the a.a. is remedial. . It is the primary fermentation ( aided in many recipes by preferments ) that give strength and structure to the dough. My own use of ascorbic acid is only occasional unless there are flour problems ( limited to the occasional retarded batch, and, perhaps, frozen raw croissants ) but if I've understood things correctly, the only danger in Calvel's intended use of ascorbic acid is that the shaped loaves can rise longer before going into the oven ( with bad effects upon texture) and that therefore this should be avoided.

Recipes which make bad use of ascorbic acid are structured very differently from those in the Calvel book and probably call for greater amounts of ascorbic acid, lots of kneading at high speed, a reduced primary fermentation, but longer fermentation of the shaped loaves, similar to the intensive mixing recipe which he could only bring himself to describe rather than giving it in detail. Just for fun, you could always compare it to what you see at work.

I confess that my experience with the alveograph is extremely limited. I have only once seen one in use, and although I have a reasonable idea of the ideal shape of the curve, and the importance of the various numbers, that's it. When I stopped in to see Jeffrey Hamelman at King Arthur Flour about ten days ago, he was teaching a class about the alveograph and other testing equipment, and the students thought I was kidding when I said that I could stick around and learn something, I wasn't He would be the guy to ask.

That said, when Raymond Calvel came to the Culinary Institute Of America to teach a conference with the American Bread Bakers' Guild, much attention was paid to the alveograph results and other data when it came time to choose a flour, and this permitted rejecting a number of the samples out of hand. The final step, however, in making the final choice was to make test batches. Professor has used other American and Canadian flours with very good results, but on that occasion, it was King Arthur Sir Galahad ( all purpose).

Best Wishes

James

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