As the holiday season creeps closer, you may find yourself preparing to cook and bake a variety of foods for those special meals. One ingredient that you may not know can improve your bread-based items is ascorbic acid. In addition to being a source of Vitamin C and pool stain remover, it can improve the quality of bread dough and is used widely in commercial bakeries.
Ascorbic acid helps support the formation of the gluten network in bread by facilitating more oxidation during the rising process. This means it often takes less time for the bread to rise, but it also usually yields more resilient and better quality dough as well. The addition of ascorbic acid is especially useful if using a bread machine to knead the bread. Loaves baked with ascorbic acid are often larger with a finer crumb and are less likely to have large holes develop from air expansion during the rising and baking process. In addition, should you need to freeze some dough to be baked at a later date, ascorbic acid preserves the quality of the dough. Freezing dough often kills a significant percentage of the yeast needed to make the bread rise. Adding ascorbic acid compensates for that loss.
Ascorbic acid is also famously used as a food preservative that can extend the shelf life of many different foods. If used in bread dough, it does significantly increase the shelf life of the bread. If making guacamole or other avocado-based foods, ascorbic acid prevents the unsightly browning from occurring, keeping it looking fresh for much longer. If a solution of ascorbic acid water is made, it can be sprayed on a variety of fruits and vegetables to preserve them for longer as well.
For optimal results in bread baking, it is recommended to use a 0.03% ascorbic acid to flour ratio. A higher concentration of ascorbic acid does not increase shelf life any further, so that is the ideal percentage to use. For a dough mixture of 5 lbs of flour, you would want to use approximately 1 teaspoon of ascorbic acid. One important to step to remember is to ensure the ascorbic acid is thoroughly mixed into the dough, otherwise it will not be nearly as effective. For preventing browning in other foods, a good sprinkling of powder on the areas exposed to air should do the trick.
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