Ascorbic acid

JohnD's picture

 ASCORBIC ACID….why use it?


Probably the first thing to clear up is that everybody is free to use non injurious additives in their bread. This is done by all the major bread making companies (bakeries) and is the chemicalised factory bread of commerce. In this piece, Im attempting to examine the use of ascorbic acid in craft/artisan bread-making, and these are my opinions, which aren’t designed to convert anybody, but simply open the question for discussion. There are obvious correspondences with the use of chemicals in food per se.

There is no “dogma” of conformity associated with the questioning of the use of ascorbic acid in bread-making. It is more in the realms of truth of information, because some don’t publically admit that they use it, and a questioning of its use is simply for valid reasons in the same way one can and needs to question the use of any chemical additives to food. It is stated that to experiment with it is harmless, and one must agree, but this is different to using it as a matter of practice in breadmaking, especially that which claims some lineage or quality which distinguishes it from ordinary factory bread.

It is curious the amount of home or craft bakers who want to try ascorbic acid in their bread because it supposedly makes the bread “better”.

Even more curious is the amount of craft bakers who maintain some claim to “authenticity”/ “tradition” and who use organic flours, but regularly add ascorbic acid to their bread.

Ascorbic acid is NOT vitamin C , which is a complex of bioflavonoids, including ascorbic acid. Ascorbic is an isolate of vitamin C . Vitamin C does not work in the same way in a bread dough as does ascorbic acid, which has its own function. Therefore there can be no claim to ascorbic acid being “natural”, eventhough the latter term is devalued by modern marketing, it has an inherent meaning which clearly excludes chemical refining. The ascorbic acid generally used is not even isolated from naturally occurring vitamin C. It is an analogue which is manufactured by chemical means usually from glucose which is chemically isolated from white refined sugar. It would seem reasonable that this sort of provenance would preclude its use in any bread which claims some lineage or association with tradition or which claims status as healthful/wholesome.

Usually, labelling a bread as organic/traditional/authentic, or giving it a traditional title could be construed to mean that the bread is made according to some form of lineage, which could presumably include ingredients and method….such as sourdough. That ascorbic acid is a modern chemical isolate, would seem to preclude its use in any breads which claim some form of lineage or historical quality.

A “whats the problem” approach by a user is actually a type of ignorance, as this sort of baker clearly doesn’t care about their product enough to understand the process or the nature of the addirtive they claim there is too much “fuss” about. This sort of baker would clearly use any means and any method to sell their product and are outside of the scope of this article, which they would probably not be lucid enough to consider anyway. Here, im more referring to those bakers who have some craft and claim some lineage for their bread, but appear to have an ambivalence about the use of additives. Therefore Im attempting to put the use of ascorbic acid in some sort of perspective or context so that its use is more clearly examined…which surely cant be a bad thing?

Unquestionable is that Ascorbic acid is a chemical additive which it is claimed “improves” the bread or makes “better” bread. What do we mean by “improve” as this term has been subsumed by the bread industry as a synonym for “additive”. How does it make the bread “better”…this is a value laden term, which has to be assessed by technical and organoleptic criteria. As the recommended quantity to use is really tiny, it is easy for the baker to use too much, which is easy to taste, especially in a sourdough or for that matter any bread which should taste of the traditional criteria, but too much ascorbic leaves a noticeable taint.

That it is “better” in some way is perhaps a misnomer, validly replaced by “convenient”- for the baker who then doesn’t really have to engage with the process, but can rely on the chemical to do it for them….which is the antithesis of the idea of craft (artisan/non-factory) baking.

Also claimed is that “it completely disappears” in the process and leaves no residue. In this case it is the only substance in the history of chemistry which does so…even the effect on the dough as technically observed is a legacy whether detectable or not…and  certainly the taint left when too much is used proves that it does not disappear magically, but has left a discernable residue for those who can taste.

As the important ingredient in the Chorleywood bread making process which was developed to make wonder bread, it is seemingly incongruous to use it in a “craft” bread or a bread which has a claim to some lineage or other quality…..using it brings such bread back into line with the chemicalising of food/bread characteristic of the chemical modernity of the 1950`s, now in disrepute as so many additives have been withdrawn as new knowledge reveals them to be injurious in some way for example, potassium bromate.

It would seem reasonable to assume that the aim of craft bakers is to make additive free bread, which was certainly the initial impetus to break away from the factory bakeries and make food which had a new quality, untainted by additives. It would appear ignorant not to realise this, and a “no-brainer” to put additives in bread which claims to be different from chemicalised bread….no matter what claims are made to the contrary, bread which contains ascorbic acid is “chemicalised”.

With regard to tradition or authenticity, that the French legal definition of for example a “baguette de tradition Francaise”, excludes the use of ascorbic acid, would appear to indicate its use is not within the sphere of “traditional” or “authentic”. Some bakers will shrug off concerns about the use of AA in breadmaking by saying that French bread makers use it…as if this was a claim to some form of authenticity.

The news is that French bread is as awful as anybodys bread, and for example the French are the biggest consumers of McDonalds stuff outside the USA, so the claim or perceived superiority of “French bread” is spurious, eventhough the French have a lineage of good bread and concern for good bread, and that authentic bread made in the traditional way is available there…well it is also in the USA, Australia, the UK and other modern economies…the “new” good bread is a world-wide phenomenon and was initiated outside of France, notably in the USA and Australia.

It can be claimed that ascorbic acid affects the sourdough process, so that it is not the same process (or bread) as that used by a baker who does not use ascorbic acid. This is clearly evident…it does change the sourdough process, giving a discernable effect…otherwise it wouldnt be used. Sourdough with ascorbic is not actually sourdough. Chemically, the gluten/gliadin hydrolysing action of the organic acids and enzymes in a sourdough is changed. They no longer break down the gluten/gliadin matrix in the same way, perhaps AA de-activates proteolytic enzymes which would appear reasonable, as their function is to breakdown protein which after all form the structural matrix. This could be crucial for those who eat sourdough because they have a sensitivity to gluten/gliadin., and is proven because this is the noticeable effect of using ascorbic acid…the bread structure (gluten/gliadin matrix) is higher and lighter, in fact barely altered by the fermentation as it should be in an authentic sourdough. In short, bakers use it to stabilise the dough so that it holds on longer and gives greater volume, both of which can be achieved by good craft and the intelligent scheduling of doughs, and with the time–based quantification of the amount of leaven used.

It would actually be more wholesome to add yeast to a sourdough to achieve greater gassing power than to use ascorbic acid, which demonstrates that its use in sourdough is a kind of subterfuge really.

Next question is the desireability of adding chemicals to an age-old process which has been revived to relieve us from the assault of chemicalised food. Seems a misunderstanding of the place of sourdough bread in the scheme of things… have in fact lost the plot….which is a kind of ignorance.

This is actually about the greater question of the use of chemicals in food. It is not congruous with the notion of good wholesome food, which often breads containing ascorbic are claimed to be, and which is definitely claimed for sourdough.

Just because ascorbic has no proven ill-effect, it doesn’t make one immediately overtly sick-doesn’t mean much as we now know from the bitter experience of chemicals which were previously used in food…or medicine or the environment for that matter. There is a long list of chemicals which have been previously used in bread, but which are now banned….from the erucic acid containing oils with which tins used to be greased , now known to be carcinogenic, to for example potassium bromate, which is useful to examine.

Bromate was used for decades in bread until its harmful effects were discovered….that it causes kidney damage. Bromate was used because it yields dependable results as it makes stronger and more elastic dough. Alarmingly, ascorbic acid is the chemical chosen in factory processes to replace it, as it performs the same function in bread making, and is itself under suspicion from some authorities…because blatantly obviously, if it has the same effect on dough as bromate, it may well have a similar sort of as yet undetected toxicity?  Interesting is that Britain`s Committee On Toxicology has Ascorbic acid under scrutiny. In any case it is obviously a very powerful substance the use of which should be questioned, and this questioning is not in the manner of an “anti” stand, but as ive said is simply prudent as we are talking about food here, and I re-iterate, food/bread which is often touted as superior to factory bread in some way.

The lyricism and beauty of the baker-as-artisan or craftsman/woman is lost in the use of chemical additives. If there is any art in baking bread, especially sourdough, it is lost by the use of additives to do the job for you. Instead of using craft to achieve good bread, one uses a chemical crutch…almost like an addiction.


Stefen Tradtion... 2011 August 23

Indeed  "ASCORBIC ACID ....why use it ?"

as JohnD originally posted in his opening line of this debate....  



The ANSWER from those that use it is:- ........................??





panfresca 2011 August 23

John, this thread has become circular, where you completely ignore everything said which contradicts what you want to believe, and just peddle the same old misinformation.

I thought George's passionate outpourings were a terrific expression of the lot of the modern baker, and as good a justification of the use of AA as I've read anywhere, even though I'm sure the high priests of sourdough might want to burn him at their altar. Seeing you deliberately ignored it first time around, it bears repeating:


It's not trickery or sleight of hand to fool the unsuspecting customer, or with zooming profits in mind, I can tell you. It makes running a bakery simpler knowing that the natural fluctuations can be ironed out. Low-yielding certified organic grain harvests, currently the norm in Australia here, mean one delivery to the next can, and does, vary in regard to the properties of the flour. When the season has been really bad, having organic flour is a luxury without asking for it to be perfect for bread making and consistent from week to week, delivery to delivery. Sure, if I only made the doughs here every day and didn't have to rely on staff to mix and react to changes, things might, might be hunky-dory. Unfortunately this is not the case. I have delivery drivers to contend with, wonder-chefs who want consistency and perfection delivered NOW!, customers who are suddenly food-critics and blogging individuals who think they are the centre of the world and pass judgement on the smallest infraction to their cafe late not to even start on the headache associated with OH&S,  GST and tax compliance. Food conglomerates that can pump out 'bread' at $1 a loaf and the cornucopia of things to deal with running a small family business in a pathetic retail climate that is unlikely to improve in the short term make for a pathetic life as a business owner and baker. 


Stefen Tradtion... 2011 August 24

Welcome to every business owner's world....

Some of us do this and still manage to bake REAL BREAD without crap addivitives, just using Organic Flour -Water-Sea/RIver Salt- Levain. and our business contiues to grow... 


JohnD's picture
JohnD 2011 August 24

Thankyou Stefan for the really useful information. I very much appreciate your balanced and considered response.

Stefen Tradtion... 2011 August 24


Thank you for starting this debate many years back, it's a pitty it has taken so long to get traction, but like many things in this society if does not get traction until it well and trully enters the mainstream and gains critical mass.   

I started the baking game as  teenager on an old 'Full' Scotch Oven, with an old school baker, who baked the most divine loaves from just water-flour-river salt and levain, ever since then any bread that is not 'Real Sough Dough' tastes like ....hmmm what is the word the yuppy baker's love to use.... oh,,, yes crap...! 

 In my ancestor's day they just baked real bread, they did not have modern additives to use and relied on the timming of of nature, and for nature to take its course and work in harmony ( as ooposed to harm-money) with nature to produce REAL BREAD. 

Now that 'sourdough' has gained crtical mass everyone is cashing in on name. A name that once meant something in terms of the ingredients and the integrity of the process. Personally I have not a thing against anyone doing what ever they want and adding what ever they want to bread... or food.. but please have have the decency to call it waht it is.... and please, truth in labelling, advertising,ingredients list and point of sale.   

Must laugh aboutt he personal attack's that we have both endured, and the paradox that people think we are one and  the same?? Anyway would love to catch up with you when next your are in Melbourne and share some Real Bread..


Maybe if I had come to baking by way of accountancy/law/engineering/advertising/design/IT or some other form of yuppydom then perhaps I would have a different view of what is REAL or is that make believe??



Stefen (or was that Stefan or Bill .... or...... )


JohnD's picture
JohnD 2011 August 24

Thankyou....Great, would love to thanks Stefen....I came to Sourdough from Foreigh affairs/school teaching, I reckon you either discover the truth or a delusion wherever one comes from, but as you indicate, todays thought stream is so polluted, that some just see Sourdough as a way of cashing in on a trend, which will happen in P-M economies....its the classic Simulacrum that the post-modern philosophers such as Baudrillard predicted,but im for holding the line..............or am I writing to myself? somehow could seem mildly psychotic that someone would actually think Im posing as you, one has to laugh, but also pity.....

panfresca 2011 August 24

.... is one member posting under 2 names half baked?...

and so this farce, like a good starter, keeps being refreshed...

Stefen Tradtion... 2011 August 24

Kym, JohnD and Myself (Stefen) are two different bakers. We have similar beliefs and views is that so hard to understand...?

Or is your contribution to the debate still attcking the man and suggesting some type of one man conspiracy?  BTW... you and your felloww AA fanatics. are free to add what ever '.........' you want to your bread,  just be honest with your customers, your labelling, your advertising and your point of sale materials. 

Better still learn to baker REAL BREAD - Read Sourdough, the non modern chemical kind, the REAL BREAD that is made from - Water-Orangic Flour- Sea/River Salt- Levain ....! 

panfresca 2011 August 24

 Look, there's plenty of evidence (not least because you don't seem to be able to remember how to spell your own name, slight gaffe for someone intent on a bit of subterfuge), but really it's just a bit of a sideshow that doesn't bother me greatly, just wondering why anyone would be lame enough to do it. And your very simplest solution to all of this, which strangely you don't take (oh, I wonder why...) is to say who you are and what your bakery is. I'm not holding my breath, because that would require a dose of reality.

Typical of your own torrent of abuse is to call me an AA fanatic, which is pretty silly when you think about it. I haven't actually used AA in my bread, though I have no objection to it. If you bothered to actually read what I'm saying, it's more that your demonisation of AA is so very far from the truth of what AA is. Plus your rose coloured view of selected chemicals and additives (hey, salt has a far more chequered history than AA, yet you're happy to include that additive in your bread, for that's what it is - an additive).

Some of the most inspirational and able bakers in Australia, the UK, Europe and the US do use AA when appropriate. And others don't, and that's their choice, but I'm sure these giants of the industry would all be totally bemused to have some fanatical firebreathing crank telling them their choices are akin to the use of thalidomide and other horrors... my only consolation is that such irrational and extreme language is so offputting to the majority of people.

Finally as a postscript, much of what you write is based on assumption and misinformation, so it's quite entertaining that on no evidence whatsoever you assume that I'm a commercial baker.


Stefen Tradtion... 2011 August 25




(( One aside in reply, If I made an assumption about your baking, it was that you are a amatuer baker, just going by the photographs that you have posted. ))   

Wonderful news that you Bake REAL BREAD.

panfresca 2011 August 25

 talking to a brick wall. You don't even make sense, but reinvent reality by the minute. 

You now claim to have thought I was an amateur, even though you wrote this: "you want to your bread [sic],  just be honest with your customers, your labelling, your advertising and your point of sale materials."

Not only can't you remember who you are, you can't even remember what you thought 5 minutes ago.

This whole thread has become a madhouse, thanks to you two/one. 

Stefen Tradtion... 2011 August 26

"Just another brick in the wall..." Yep, love Pink Floyd, great music to bake tooo in the wee hours of the morning. Just love baking real bread: Water - Organic Flour - Sea/River Salt - Levain - (no crap 'modern chemcials' just good honest whole foods, big beautiful loaves with no L-Ascorbic Acid or another other bread improver, no crap flour either.. but the finest Australian Organic Flour ) Love educating customers about real bread and real food.  Stefen, Stefan, John or could I be Kym's left hand...? LOL  ( yes it is really Stefen - ( We used to think that I had a personality disorder unltil all ten of us agreed that I am ok ) Live Long, Live Well, Bake Well, Eat Well,  Love and Laugh. 

Graham's picture
Graham 2011 August 24


Acerbic Acid.

by George Washington · More by this author { 2011 August 11 }


Graham, this is partly your making. What have you got to offer? Some pertinent rulings by Food Standards here or overseas organizations about the health risks associated by bread conditioners such as ascorbic acid? Will you vacillate further or can you give a final decision about this subject and put it to bed before it affects my customers' perception of our bread making process and ultimately our business, based solely on hearsay?


Oddly enough I was in Melbourne on holiday when this post exploded, and in fact did not notice it until today. Please forgive my late entry.

The current ABA Standards were intended as a tool for bakers to distinguish their genuine bread over the industrial stuff. Provision has been made for artisan bakers who use so-called 'soft' additives of gluten and ascorbic acid. John has opened up the possibility that AA may actually turn out to be a hard additive. John's line of enquiry is valid because no one actually knows for sure.

ABA Standards do not suggest that the use of AA makes a bread industrial. However the standards recognise that breadmaking with AA is closer to industrial process than processes that use traditional methods (such as fermentation) to manage baking variables. 'Traditional' is a vague word, but you know what i mean.

At present there are approximately 90 bakeries world wide that have chosen to become associated with ABA. Some of these bakeries have paid their dues and and been approved to display the ABA Standard and logo on their products (a logo next to the bakeries name at the above link does not indicate approval - this is an issue we are addressing now).

Self-regulation is an important part of our standard, which relies on the ability of the baker to be their own worst critic. I must admit that reading some of the responses to John's post I am starting to wonder about my belief that good bakers inherintly blame themselves first when issues arise (this trait has been used to great advantage by some flour mills over the years...we usually blame our technique way before we suspect poor quality flour).

ABA receive feedback from customers about bakeries and have removed 1 bakery that was clearly an industrial bread plant (feedback is welcome anytime). We are not interested in bakeries that mis-represent themselves.

It is important to recognise that the individual standards apply to products, not the baker. For instance we know of one bakery that makes a traditional sourdough (no additives), but use AA in their yeast breads. The standards are flexible enough to accomodate this.

ABA is not propped up by any grant or trans-fat company sponsorships. The low fee structure doesn't quite cover trademarks, design and managing the Trust. ABA is independent and can go anywhere the artisan bakers who support it want it to go, with the aim of providing clarity to industry and consumers.

For this to happen it requires bakers to be confident with the ingredients / process they use and not become too disturbed about talking about issues such as this. It is your choice to use AA.

Please PM me if you would like to propose any changes or initiatives to where the ABA is headed. Graham



Tiff 2011 August 24

 I was sent a link to this article by an alarmed friend, and after reading the comments war I had to sign up and post.


Firstly, The identity of JohnD/Stefan can likely easily be established by an administrator checking the IP they're posting from.  Their writing styles and stance really are quite eerily similar, I would have to agree.


Articles of this type annoy the hell out of me. So you have some concerns about an additive. You are unclear regarding the science.  Do you a: post a scaremongering and inflammatory article frightening all sorts of people into believing they are being poisoned by a shadowy league of evil politicians/bakers/scientists with no reference to any peer reviewed scientific journals or even actual understanding of what it does do the dough other than 'something weird'  or b: Something more useful or beneficial to the industry/home bakers.

Don't get me wrong, I am all against chemical additives on the whole and in favour of organic farming and traditional baking methods. However, there are so very many things that are an actual worry or danger out there, attacking substances as innocuous as this is infuriating.


While we're on this subject, what about all those crazy people adding Sodium Bicarbonate and Tartaric Acid to their cakes, hey?  Plus, Dihydrogen Monoxide! Someone should write about the ubiquity of that in baking. It's use is a given, and it has an undeniable effect on the outcome of every bake. It's the elephant in the room and no doubt.



Stefen Tradtion... 2011 August 24

Tiff,,,, Love your post...! 

I  too am alarmed that people can sell crap modern chemicalised food and pass it off as good food....!!.

I was attacked for just joining and posting comments that could be infamatory I see you have joined only 47 minutes ago... Get ready for the modern chemical -AA lobby thought police to attack you...!! Yes your style and stance is similar to some other Prol's posting here...How do we know who you and all the chemical bakers really are...??  

Seriously, how ridiculous is some of this debate...!  What has everyone got against honesty in ingredient lists and telling customers if the BREAD IS REAL BREAD or a modern chemicalised version of bread. 


TELL ONE ...TELL ALL... LET us raise this debate to all and get Canberra to finally pass legislation for truthfull standards in Food Manufacturing and Food Sales...!! 

JohnD's picture
JohnD 2011 August 24

Those things arent being put in sourdough bread, the article is about the use of ascorbic acid in sourdough bread.

 scaremongering and inflammatory? yes to all the 50 people who read this I suppose, poor things hope they recover.

by the way, your writing style and stance sound quite eerily similar to another poster on here?


Stefen Tradtion... 2011 August 25

 Sour(Sough)dough bread for millenia has been and is 'just' 

Water-Organic Flour - Sea/River Salt - Leaven ....anythig else is Modern Chemicalised Bread.  

That's it... anyone is free to add whatever they want to bread.. but just call it what it hard is it...? One has more integrity to post as anyone else, yes as bizarre as that may seem, One is his own person..! Some baker's I know in Mebourne (fellow REAL BREAD bakers) have followed this and are in stiches; and they happen to Know both John D and Myself..and they bake REAL BREAD.  

Honesty in Advertising, labelling, standards, and all insundry information and the like......!! Personally as said many times before, add what ever you want to your bread / food.. just be honest about...! 

At least we are now getting coverage of Faux Sourdough VS REAL SOURDOUGH, perhaps The AGE can host a round table discussion and report on it....?    


Alarms.... ring ...send the link lets get a REAL FOOD - REAL BREAD movement up and running in Australia...!! SAY NO TO CRAP MODERN CHEMICALS IN OUR FOOD CHAIN... Write to the newspapers, tell your local member.. shout it from the roof tops......!! Mobilise the Masses....!! DEMAND HONESTY IN FOOD LABELLING..... make it the beginning of a new period of honesty and integrity in the food industry. 





Graham's picture
Graham 2011 August 25

Tiff your comment about admins identifying people via their IP address is obviously a complete distraction...but must be responded to. There are only 2 admins on this site, myself and my son. We would never seek to identify someones identity via the backend...if you post anon or sudo then that is how you remain. To those posters who think we know who you are....we don't...I have not got time to worry about which personality i am talking to. Graham 

Stefen Tradtion... 2011 August 26


Do you have displayed on the ABA website or could it be displayed on this Sourdough web a list of bakery's that bake Sourdough without any modern commercial chemical additives and a list of bakery's that bake a mdoern version of chemically enhanced loaf with a sourdough starter.? 




Graham's picture
Graham 2011 August 27

At present ABA standards are for products, rather than the bakery itself. This is because some bakeries do a range of bread, from holistic no additive bread, to bread with AA or added gluten.

Certain types of bakeries are completely excluded from joining the ABA, including those that use commercially formulated additives or synthetic trans fats such (e.g. margarine).

Over the next few months we will be encouraging listed bakeries to complete the product standards table for their breads, just like this bakery has done. They will also be asked to complete the ABA questionnaire, which provides more information about their baking process. I expect some bakeries to drop off during this process, and for some to be gained too.

It is a very simple and clear way for bakers to promote the type of bakery they are (by providing more details on the products they make). Bakeries that are not interested in clarity will not be interested in using this system.


Until someone comes up with a good alternate argument, malt is classed as a traditional ingredient considering the long relationship between brewers and bakers (additionally many bakeries, including ours, make their own malt). Additionally, I imagine that the earliest of bread would have intentionally or otherwise have included germinated grains (mashed or ground)...which of course malt when they enter the oven.


In Australia and New Zealand it is already compulsory to list ascorbic acid, as it is all other ingredients, on the label. The problem with bread labeling is that an exemption is granted for bread packaged in front of the customer. The regulators concept is that the customer is able to ask the person packaging the bread what is in the bread.



In reality a baker or someone else with full knowledge of what is in the bread, is not often the person wrapping the bread, and may not be able to rattle off all the ingredients in front of a customer. It also places the customer in a potentially humiliating situation; it makes them out to be a fancy-pants nit-picker it they are in a renowned artisan bakery questioning the authenticity of the bread in front of adoring staff and customers. Many of the posters in this topic are obviously not so bashful....but a large part of the population are too embarrassed to ask questions like this in public.

Most artisan bakeries package their bread in front of customers, or wholesale it to other shops unpackaged where, once again, it is packaged in front of customers. Therefore no requirement to label bread

Some bakeries are eager to communicate what they do and post an information sheet or basic ingredient list next to the point of sale. Other bakeries feature ingredients prominently on their website. Bread franchises and supermarket bakeries often use dubious ingredients...but it is easy to find out what is in the bread from their website and/or a bread information "data sheet" behind the counter that shop assistants will read to you word for word.

Once again, we need a simpler way for bakers to promote the features of their goods and provide clarity to customers.

(ABA site is back online now)


davo 2011 August 26

Getting pretty hot in here.

As a home amateur sourdough baker and someone who buys sourdough (and even at times yeasted and no doubt "chemicalised") bread from time to time I thought I'd add my 2 cents worth.

I can understand that AA helps with the process. I can understand that it mightn't be harmful. But I don't (from my consumer's point of view) think it's reasonable not to note that it's an ingredient. I'm probably not going to die from eating "sourdough" that's made with bakers yeast and has a little SD culture and flavour "enhancers" (odd word because having tasted some of this stuff its dreadful). But just because it's not going to harm me doesn't (for humble old me) excuse not listing all those ingredients. I may not be harmed by AA. I may or may not have some personal (possibly irrational) objection to eating something that includes a lab-manufactured ingedient (whether or not it's actively harmful). I think that as a customer, I just should know. You can say that SD with any minor additive is SD. I don't think that you should add chilli flakes to SD without advising someone that they are in there, whether or not they are a health risk. And it's not just a question of whether or not the bread is still "sourdough". To me, it would be "sourdough with chilli flakes". just as SD made with AA should,  if sold commercially, ideally ( to me) be called "sourdough with ascorbic acid".

I think there's a reasonable expectation when you buy sourdough, that it's made of stuff that a caveman could put together - flour from milled grain, salt from a rock or evaporated out of salt water (and presumably salts used in SD baking don't have additives that people should be aware of), and water from rain or river. As a customer, it mightn't frighten me terribly that SD has AA in it, but I'd like to know, and frankly if two bakeries were next door and I knew (because it was on the bag or on the blurb next to the loaf) that one used AA and the other didn't, I'd buy the one without. It's as simple as that. I'd feel a little cheated if I bought the one with AA and onlly found out later because it hadn't been made obvious to me. As a customeer, don't I deserve to be told the difference?


I have a separate question. If I make an all-white SD (usually I add a fair bit of rye), I will often add a little diastatic malt. Now, I understand that this is sprouted barley that's dried and ground (effectively a grain product that a caveman could make with water and a stone (well, two stones)). I know I can make white SD without it, but I do get a better rise with it, and I consider that it's a natural enough grain product. I suppose it doesn;t really matter as it's just for my home use. What do the commercial artisan bakers think of diastatic malt? Do commercial SD bakeries add malt, and if so do they label as such? 

PS I'm a real person, only home bake, and have never met or corresponded with any of the protagonists in this thread!


panfresca 2011 August 26

Davo, that's the thing about this debate - it has gone on without any reference to reality or truth.

For instance I sometimes use Himalayan salt in my loaves, and there are according to the label, 80 trace elements in that salt. Only about half a dozen are listed. Should they also be listed on the bread's ingredients? If not why not, according to the logic of the AA antagonists?

And, apart from the fact that almost nothing about JohnD's description of Ascorbic Acid is scientifically correct (eg, look up bioflavonoids and see if they have anything to do with Vitamin C - they don't), the amount used is trace level (a teaspoon in 25kg), and is I believe used up/converted during the process, so it doesn't survive as AA, therefore is not an ingredient in the final product. If you started having to list everything in your food which existed at that level, your label would be hundreds of pages long...!

Of course, anyone who has been involved with the food industry for more than 5 minutes knows all this, but ignoring it and indulging in baseless fearmongering makes for great internet flame wars, regardless of the damage it might do to real, practising artisan bakers ... 

davo 2011 August 26

The difference to me would be that the trace elements in the salt are not synthesised in an industrial process and added.

Iodine is added to some salt. Now most on here would no doubt run screaming from iodised salt, but its use has actually reduced goiter rate massively in many areas in the world - there was one australian aid program that implemented this somehwere in China - that I recall seeing a doco about. Much of the iodine related goiter issues are I gather related to deficiency, but too much can also be bad - so what is possibly helpful or otherwise might vary from person to person. My missus had her thyroid removed because of Hashimoto's disease, so I'm a little bit informed on this.

But anyway, my point would be that there's a difference between trace elements that exist in, say seawater or certain rock salts, and what is refined and added purposely - like iodine. And I would put synthesised AA into that basket, too.

I'd imagine most on here would want to know if iodised salt went in their sourdough, even if it may not only be neutral in terms of impact to them, but actually in some cases beneficial (in health terms, I'm not arguing about taste here).

If there is absolutely no danger in using AA, why wouldn't you just label clearly that the SD contains it?


panfresca 2011 August 26

No reason it can't be put on if you want to - and every artisan baker I know who uses it is completely open about it, contrary to John's insinuations.

But there is no legal requirement to put most trace elements on packaging - as I said, if you did have to the packaging of most things would be bigger than the items they packaged. [Edit: how they got there is not particularly relevant - what they are is the important thing - would you feel the same way if one of those trace elements was arsenic, for example?]

And to repeat, AA is one of the commonest, most benign organic compounds there is - the vast majority of living organisms synthesise it themselves; primates don't, but require it, so it's nothing like iodine which is a very dangerous substance in anything but very tiny ammounts - or even salt for that matter. Don't buy John's baseless and inaccurate tirade against AA - the form you buy is indistinguishable chemically from that found in nature, indeed is now largely produced in a natural process using enzymes. That's why this whole beatup is so laughable and misguided.

John is pretty much the only person I know who pushes this line, pretty remarkable when you consider how many thousands of loony conspiracy websites exist out there. He has been beating this sad little drum for decades, and nobody has jumped onto his bandwagon - neither artisan bakers nor any food standards organisations anywhere in the world. That's not to say every artisan baker uses it, or agrees with its use - just that nobody has gone to the extremes making the silly and wrong claims John has. And some of the most inspirational luminaries in the field do use it appropriately and are entirely open about it - there's no secrecy at all, and why would there be. Fear and fanaticism should always be resisted.

davo 2011 August 29


... inaccurate tirade against AA - the form you buy is indistinguishable chemically from that found in nature, indeed is now largely produced in a natural process using enzymes. That's why this whole beatup is so laughable and misguided.


Yep, you're rightabout the use of enzymes, but "largely" covers a few things that your average hippy vegan wouldn't be too keen to know about: the industrial process for making AA also uses acetone and sodium hypochlorite (bleach). It's not exactly made the same way as lemon juice... Now, i'm not saying that the end compound is any different than one that does come from lemon juice - I honestly don't know - but it ain't quite like the production of AA as you buy the powder is a natural process. I reckon if you asked the average punter where "vitamin C" that might be put into bread comes from, and then asked them if it would surprise them that the process used such things as acetone and sodium hypochlorite, you would get a few surprised looks.

Geoffy 2011 August 26


Ascorbic Acid is Not Vitamin C by Dr Tim O'Shea

by Stefen Tradtion... · More by this author { 2011 August 23 }


Despite the verbal diarrhea that could only point to your bleating, lunatic dribble, John, next to the "by line" click on "More by this author" (see above) and it links to your page. Pretty damning stuff. Nice try though.


No-one is bothering about your cause. What we are making is better than the industrial crap supermarket stuff. You should be glad that "sourdough" has taken off, instead you still beat the broken record about pure food.


Put a sock in it.

farinam's picture
farinam 2011 August 26

This link always connects to the person who originated the blog not to the person who made the entry so of course you will always go to JohnD.


JohnD's picture
JohnD 2011 August 28

wow, why so supressive.?. you dont seem to be able to handle other people having and expressing an opinion which differs from yours..."Geoffy`s world"....seems to be the abusive and bullys world... the "broken record "  of just insulting people. If you dont like what I write, simple, dont read it, after all nobody is bothering about my "cause" it seems except you?....but this is just think I would be the for? why would I do that....whats to gain? duuuuuuh....I give my permission to Graham to check the freakin addresses, but i would hope he wouldnt bother because its just a moronic idea...go ahead please check..."pretty damning stuff" LOL you watch too much TV mate....

As to your contention that "the market has moved on"...funny everybody who makes exceptional bread without using chemicals...that is who can actually make real bread...seem to be selling plenty? It also betrays your ignorance of making good seem to be saying it cant be made without your chems.

Next point is that you are not making sourdough are actively interfering with the process by adding chemicals. Seems like its too hard for you to comprehend that the AA prevents gluten/gliadin breakdown, which is why it is a proper sourdough, this matrix is broken down into digestible fractions...yourAA prevents this from happening, therefore the sourdough process from happening...its not exactly rocket science.

By persisting with your claim that AA is a natural chemical you contradict what is well known, even within the bakery industry...Ascorbic acid is a chemical analogue of a fraction of natural vitamin C, and it is made in a factory by chemical means, but clearly you know better.

Stefen Tradtion... 2011 August 29

"One can't put a sock in it, currently as one writes, one's mouth is full of REAL SOURDOUGH, smeared with REAL HOMMUS, just as one's ancient ancestor's  have eaten for thousands of years, washed down with some ancient non chemically enchanced cardamon tea"  

Honesty, Integrity, Respect ....?? Perhaps this whole debate is a metaphor for the society we currently live in??

Is it too much to ask for...?  Truthful point of sale advertising, labelling, indredients list, National enforceable standards, REAL SOURDOUGH - Water - Organic Flour - Sea/River Salt - Levain.  

'The truth will set one free ----- The opposite will enslave one'

Geoffy 2011 August 26

How many different people do you need to be to try and push this lame subject. Each time I look, there's still only about three of us. You, kym and I?.


No one is listening so go on, blow you hardest. You won't be vindicated, it's a natural substance that is chemically produced. You are wasting your breath.


By the way, the chia flour worked great guns. Bigger prove, good flavour and no AA. Why don't you arm yourself with some real facts, not this fake imitation stuff that's manufactured in your chemical deprived head (maybe too much LSD, THC?) and make some helpful suggestions rather than poisoning off the possible positive response you may have initally sought. Or do you only want to create alarm and misguided panic? That's it isn't it? You want to be the doomsayer and be proven right that you made the call and was ignored? Otherwise you would have suggested a viable alternative rather than attempting to create havoc. Removing AA is not a solution, Organic flour is too variable to use in a consistent, busy medium size business. The market has moved on from accepting rough, irregular bread like you used to make, our customers won't take too much variation, a viable successful business needs that. That's my tip. If chia flour helps me get the dough conditioning and tolerance I need and is cost effective and reliable in its supply, I would consider it. If not, something else.


Make a succint, useful suggestion please - JohnD, Stefan, Davo. (all these still link to your blogs, try a little more separation to your accounts next time. lol)



davo 2011 August 26

I sure as heck am not either of those other guys. If you want to know (not that I really care) my name is David Lam, I'm a 47 (nearly 48) year old half chinese, half italian, born in Alexandra Victoria, environmental engineer, who lives in Eltham, has been baking sourdough at home for about 3-4 years since a guy (Danubian on this forum, although he's not been on here for a long time I think) posted about it on a fly fishing forum that I frequent. Have a look on the flyfishing forum Flylife - I'm Slammer on there, and I'll respond if you post on there, in fact you can PM me on that site and I'll send you my mobile # if you really want to check my existence. Boris/Danubian has just been posting in recent days about catching Marble trout in northern italy - I'm sure you'll find it fascinating. Now, if you reckon this John/Stefen guy has just planted about 10 years worth of posting about fly fishing on Flylife JUST to fool you on this sourdough forum, then I'd suggest you have some really quite serious problems! Quite what the blog reference is about I don't know - don't recall ever entering one, and without looking I can't imagine any comes up on my profile. I don't really care whether you believe me or not, but the pity I think is that I reckon I have put up some reasonable concerns and queries from the perspective of the consumer - which I am - and you've laughed them off as though I don't exist or my queries aren't valid (makes me wonder about buying a product from a person who would treat customer enquiries so imperiously).

See, I actually do see a difference between additives that are purposely added (like AA) and a trace element that is present naturally in flour or salt (or water for that matter). And it's not because I've been brainwashed by some person that you think I actually am anyway. It's just that I like to know stuff like that. And I'd like to think that whether or not you think my concerns are valid, I am entitled to them. Those that add AA might well be open about it, but I'd ask whether they clearly label their contents as including ascorbic acid (I've never seen it but maybe I haven't looked hard enough). If they all do, then fair enough, I can read.

My question about diastatic malt was genuine too, but I'm not holding my breath about getting any serious response from people who don't seem to think I exist. 

Anyway, the imaginary kids have finished eating their imaginary pizza, it's 8.38 here in Deltora (err, Eltham) and I still haven't mixed my bread dough for 4 imaginary loaves tomorrow....

davo 2011 August 26

So, Geoff, I've told you who I am. P'haps you can do the same or at least tell me where you bake so i'll know where my consumer-side-of-the-counter queries are not welcome. And I can vote with my feet.

Stefen Tradtion... 2011 August 29

Davo if that really is you and not me or JohnD, tears of laugher rolling down my cheeks, what a beautiful couple of post's.  Bake well...! Shalom Stefen.

Panevino 2011 August 27

What do the commercial artisan bakers think of diastatic malt? Do commercial SD bakeries add malt, and if so do they label as such?


I was wondering the same thing.  I add it when the flour demands it.  I don't think bakeries are as shy to mention malt as they are AA.  Recently when I was having some trouble getting my white sourdough to rise, the mill suggested I use their dough conditioner.  I mentioned that I make an all natural product and he said that their conditioner was "label friendly."  That's the new buzz word in the food industry, kinda like the word "green."  I think that is the point - malt really is label friendly and AA is not, that's why some bakeries refuse to list it as an ingredient.  But the customer has a right to know, regardless of what the baker thinks.  Go ahead and use AA, just inform the customer that you are adding it to the bread.  Seems simple enough to me.  Nothing to get to worked up about.

davo 2011 August 27

Thanks Panevino, and well said about the right to know regardless of what the baker thinks.


By the way, thanks also Farinam. It would seem that based on Geoffy's theory, Geoffy is also JohnD!

panfresca 2011 August 27

 ...if they use AA. This is a storm in a teacup which exists pretty much here in this thread and not out in the real world.

Davo, you have a right to be miffed, it's pretty obvious you are not a fabrication.

I do wonder why you just ignored everything I said about AA, including  that I suspect by the time the loaf is baked, there isn't even that tiny trace element. But I have no problem with anyone who wants to know what's in their bread.

Stefen Tradtion... 2011 August 30

Many of Melbourne and Sydney's baker's hide the fact that they put AA into bread, some even put a wee bit of sugar in as well, and not mention of that either. In the not so distant past at least three of the bakery's in Melbourne's supposed top selection of bakeries hide (hid) the fact..!  

What happened to integrity? The customer has a right to know..!

Stefen Tradtion... 2011 August 31

KymH or should I say as ou now call yourself 'panfresca',

Yes, it is Stefen, I am not JohnD or Davo or anyone else, this is getting really boring, and YES those that know me, know that I am a passionate traditional baker and have love of REAL FOOD - REAL BREAD and REAL SOURDOUGH --                                                                                       NOT CHEMICALISED CRAP FOOD AND CRAP BREAD, comprehend?

Hey, but if people want to bake crap bread and people want to buy it and eat, so be it! As long as the baker's are open about the fact as to what they put in their bread, It just aint for me or my colleagues or customers. 


JohnD's picture
JohnD 2011 August 27

"label friendly" sounds like a track from Frank Zappa! Guess the opposite is Goth labels with dark warnings?

Diastatic malt has to be a benign additive. Its a very old traditional product and is simply made by sprouting grain and minimally roasting it...or most simply by sprouting wheat /barley grinding it and adding to a dough. Just simple processes, no chems although some makers use growth promotants on the sprouts, and there are organic types available. It fits Michael Pollans reasonable criteria for "natural".

I think it works well on the too strong wheats,Canadian/khazakh/Australian prime hard which are low on flavour and need long fermentation to achieve the best bread...the di-malt assisits the breakdown and adds flavour and vigour and a potentially enhanced crust colour (bloom). I found that adding regular(non-di malt) to a sourdough increases the acidity because the yeasts arent maltose fermenting but the lactic bacc are, so go crazy, but its still good bread, and the malt flavour remains.

Using di-malt in a dough with a softish flour containing lots of enzymes already, probably because the wheat sprouted on the ear before harvest, is a sticky-crumb-disaster (also a Zappa track) used to be the bakers dread to get such flour. I had it for a few weeks once in the 80`s and we thought we`d lost the plot...ergot poisoning or something, nothing worked til we found the cause and mixed the flour with a different flour

davo 2011 August 27

I didn't pay too much attention, because as I say, I don't know that AA is particularly harmful - frankly I'm not sure I could be convinced the stuff about it being actively bad for you in those amounts, but that's not really my point. My point is about whether it fits that basic formula of what you expect is actively placed (not there as a natural trace qty in the standard contents) in your sourdough, and that if it doesn't, you should as a customer be advised in bold type - that's all.

On the other hand, I certainly wouldn't say that because someone suspects that it's used up it's the same as it not going in, in the first place. I could say that I suspect minor trace amounts of arsenic (it's probably present at around 10 mg/kg in the garden soil you don't perfectly wash off your carrots, and much higher if you are in the central goldfield areas, you know) wouldn't harm you either, but that doesn't mean I'd expect anyone to be very keen on anyone adding it to their sourdough... I'm not equating the substances, just saying that a "suspicion" of impact or non-impact isn't really relevant.

JohnD's picture
JohnD 2011 August 28

Thanks for your comments Davo.....If "those amounts" can have such a dramatic effect on a dough, why isnt it plausible that it has further effects we dont know about. After all, Bromate was used in "those amounts" and caused kidney damage. It is well known that small amounts of substances can have a dramatic effect, especially if consumed regularly, which a point ive been trying to make, but keeps getting lost amid the abuse.

If id written this piece about bromate 10 years ago, I would have recieved similar has nearly everybody who writes about the role of chemical additives in food..

If you look at the evidence which raises suspicions about AA use, it is valid...why else would a body like the British committee on toxicology be looking at it of there wasnt a degree of suspicion? Im not the only one who thinks this way. Suspicion of impact is what happens before every can you say its not relevant?

panfresca 2011 August 29

Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is a reference you read in a book somewhere, so quite old? It's not a reference I can find anywhere else, despite the fact you make so much of it. Who is this Committee? And if the reference was made so long ago, why have we heard no more of it?

Like every other ingredient used in food or medicine, AA has been through extremely thorough testing on multiple occasions, yet has always come through with flying colours - and for obvious reasons despite your factless fearmongering. You rely on innuendo and misinformation for your one man campaign - it would be nice if you stuck to known, provable facts, instead of these quite scurrilous links to things like Thalidomide, DDT, bromate etc. 

Stefen Tradtion... 2011 August 29  

Hmm and some people think that this process belongs in the process of making sourdough...! And then want to claim that they make/bake natural organic sourdough..!  

Ascorbic acid as opposed to naturally occuring Vitamin C,  is niether natural nor orangic it is franctionated substance and not a whole food. Franctionated substances are known to have an effect on the body chemistry and are not a form of easily obtainable (if at all)  nutrition for the body.   

panfresca 2011 August 29 you go along. Do you understand any of the terminology at all relating to biotechnology? It appears not.

No, it's not a fractionating process - where did you get that from? Certainly not from that website.

It's a biological process, which produces organic ascorbic acid identical to that in nature. (There are actually 3 processes which can be used).

Well at least we have established that this whole thread is a fraud, because neither halves of your personality (Stefan/John) have even a basic understanding of what ascorbic acid actually is.


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