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lactic acid plus baking soda equals...

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I'm looking for information about the way baking soda's reaction to an acid effects the final flavor of quick breads. I am more of a bread baker, and I am experimenting with quick breads. What I'm trying to bake is a sourdough cornbread, elaborating my wild yeast culture with cornmeal, then using the resulting starter as the base of a cornbread batter, with the lactic acid from the culture reacting with the baking soda.

Here's my basic formula:

Starter:

Whole wheat mother starter (75% hydration): 1/3
Stoneground cornmeal 1/3
Water 1/3

Final hydration is a little less than 100%, similar to a batter.

To this I add 1T brown sugar, 1t baking soda, 1t salt, 1/3C oil (I'm trying out EVOO) and 2T ground flax seeds beaten with 6T water (roughly equivalent to 2 eggs).

When I've done it before, I've felt as though the final bread is less sour than the starter was before mixing the batter. I'm wondering if this is because the baking soda neutralizes some of the acid.

How much of an noticeable effect on acidity of the final baked good does baking soda have? Would subbing part or all baking powder keep the quick bread more sour?

I would love any thoughts people have, or ideas about this basic formula in general!

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  1. Although lactic acid isn't a direct substitute for cream of tartar they are both acids so in effect your combo of baking soda and lactic acid = baking powder.

    1. One molecule of lactic acid will react with one "molecule" of baking soda/sodium bicarbonate to yield one molecule of carbonic acid, which breaks down into one molecule of carbon dioxide and one molecule of water. So you are right, the baking soda neutralizes the lactic acid.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Joebob

        Whoa!

        1. re: Joebob

          So if I'm reading this right, there are no products of the reaction except for water and CO2, so the only effect on flavor should be to make the bread less sour. Cool; I was worried that lactic acid plus baking soda might yield some funky salts in addition to CO2.

          In case anyone's interested, when I made this last night, it came out great. Here's what I did:

          Starter: 1/3 whole wheat starter @75%, 1/3 stone ground cornmeal, 1/3 water.

          I let this ferment for 2-3 hours, until it was moderately sour and bubbling lightly.

          I beat 2T ground flaxseeds with 6T water, and stirred that into the starter with 3T extra virgin olive oil.

          To this batter I added 1/4C AP whole wheat flour, 1T light brown sugar, 1t salt, 1/2t baking soda and 2t baking powder.

          I lightly oiled a cast iron skillet (10") which had been preeated in the 400F oven, poured the battter in, and baked until it was golden on top and completely set, about 45 min.

          It's delicious.

          1. re: gabriel sanders

            Mea culpa! I forgot to mention the other product of the reaction, sodium lactate, the sodium salt of lactic acid.

            1. re: Joebob

              Ah ha, I suspected that might be the case. The bread has come out saltier than I expected a couple of times, one time in particular when it was not noticeably sour and almost inedibly salty. That helps explain it; maybe sticking with mostly/all baking powder is my best bet here. Thanks for the chemistry help!

        2. Why don't you try non-lactic milks? Rice, soy, almond, hemp, oatmeal, etc. do not have the issue with an acid drop. This is what I use for my sour dough breads and quick breads. Soy is a heavy milk, while rice is fairly light.