THE POWER OF CHEMISTRY: RED BEET SOURDOUGH

I will start by blowing your mind. Below, same exact recipe for sourdough bread, with or without vitamin C added to the formula.

For the past year I’ve been playing with adding beets to bread, both using beet powder and roasted beets, but my experiments failed in the color department. Everything tasted pretty good, but the beautiful red color of beets was consistently lost during baking. I had resigned myself to brownish breads until I remembered using vitamin C to preserve the color of basil for freezing. Works like magic. Sorry, it is actually pure science. Vitamin C is a powerful anti-oxidant, and the browning reaction is simply oxidation of compounds during storage or cooking.  I searched Google University and found out that others had already figured it all out and many bakers use vitamin C in their beet-containing breads.

RED BEET SOURDOUGH
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

Comments: I was absolutely shocked by the results! You might think that the same outcome could be achieved by using some lemon or orange juice, as those fruits are loaded with vitamin C. It turns out that a whole lemon has about 20mg of vitamin C, so clearly not enough to do the job. I used purified ascorbic acid, borrowed from our lab, but I know home bakers use vitamin C tablets, usually each one contains 500 mg, so one or two tablets will be what you need. I intend to use that in the future and report back.
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Same bread without vitamin C, nothing wrong with it, except that the beautiful red color is lost during baking. Even though, as you see in the composite below, until you put the bread in the oven, all seems totally fine.
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I hope you consider playing with vitamin C if you had issues with your bakes using beets.  It would be interesting to add it to other things that involve color, be it spinach or butterfly pea flower.
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And let me tell you, Red Beet Sourdough makes amazing croutons!
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12 thoughts on “THE POWER OF CHEMISTRY: RED BEET SOURDOUGH

  1. I’ve seen you comment on this before. I thought that this was less related to oxidation than to the chemical behind a beet’s color changing based upon pH (i. e. that it’s a pH indicator). Was I mistaken?

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    • no in the case of beets is oxidation – butterfly pea flower is a pH induced change of color, but it’s not that it LOSES color in a certain pH, it simple goes from purple to blue.

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    • Just to continue a bit on the subject – the idea of trying vitamin C on the butterfly pea bread is out of curiosity – it is possible that some oxidation also happens with the compounds that give the color, so maybe adding vitamin C the blue would be more evident (although I was happy enough with it when I made my blue-ish loaf). Vitamin C is a reasonably weak acid – I have not measured the pH of the final dough with or without it, but the change is quite likely negligible. However it is a powerful anti-oxidant

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  3. Hi, I am confused in which amount of vitamin C I should use. Is it 1% of the flour or it’s just 1 gram? Also, did your dough was too hydrated? I mean because beetroot is mainly composed by water and also the rest of the water you added. Thank you!

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    • I used a little less than 1 g – My dough was not terribly hydrated, I think it will depend on the beets you use, so if you think your beets are pretty “wet”, hold back on the water a bit and feel free to add more flour – I often adjust it a bit as I mix the dough, if it feels too loose I will sprinkle additional flour and go on from there.

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  4. Hi, I have a question about the amount of vitamin C you use. You say the correct amount is 0.9%. I would assume that you are using baker’s percentages and that would be 0.9% of the flour but the amount you use in your recipe doesn’t seem to be 0.9% of flour or any other ingredient. Perhaps you can clarify. BTW- your bread looks amazing. I can’t wait to try this out.

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