pH's role in color

by Laurie Gorton
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Crust and crumb colors of finished, chemically leavened baked foods are largely based on the product’s final pH, observed Kim Powell, commercial development specialist, bakery, Innophos, Inc. “Each leavening acid will buffer slightly differently, resulting in color differences. The lower the pH, the less color development in terms of brown notes will be observed. The higher the pH the more browning will occur.”

Formulators use this fact to adjust color by manipulating the ratio of leavening acid to bicarbonate base. For devil’s food and chocolate systems, often excess sodium bicarbonate is used to help deliver the color of the chocolate. As much as 25% excess bicarbonate may be added just to adjust the pH. The color of the chocolate can go from red to black-brown.
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