Bread Tips: Calcium Chloride

My primary passion is brewing, but I also like baking sourdough breads and making some simple cheeses.  Sometimes they overlap, like yeast care from brewing to yeast care for sourdough cultures.  Another nice overlap is the use of calcium chloride (CaCl).  In brewing, it can be used to treat water to enhance the perception of maltyness in the beer.  In cheese making, it is used to make a more firm curd.  As far as I know (which to be fair, on this topic, isn’t all that much), it isn’t commonly used in bread making.

calcium chloride solution

Calcium chloride solution from New England Cheese Making

But, I have found it very useful in helping to firm up the bread, letting it rise more fully and knead more easily.  Additionally, CaCl seems to perform a similar service to the human tongue as salt, rounding out the bread and making the maltyness pop so the bread isn’t dull and lifeless.  Using CaCl, I only use 0.75% salt by flour weight instead of the standard 2% with no detriment to flavor (though I once tried going to 0.5% and quickly went back to 0.75%).

As best as I can tell, the CaCl works similarly to the action of salt.  Bread is able to rise because of the coiled springy glutenin protein in the flour.  Kneading uncoils these proteins, allowing them to lay more nicely next to one another, promoting weak branching bonds, forming a tight protein network.  In solution, salt dissociates into positive and negative ions.  According to McGee’s On Food and Cooking (you should get this book), these ions cluster around the charged portions of the glutenin proteins keeping them from repelling each other (like charges repel).  This allows the proteins to lay more nicely next to one another which promotes the creation of more weak bonding between the proteins, forming a tighter gluten network.  This will make the dough far more cooperative when kneading and promote a better rise.

So the question becomes then how much to use.  I can’t find any resources on the issue, so I calculated the dose based on the recommended amount for milk in cheese making.  I happened to have some laying around from New England Cheesemaking which specifies that it is a 30-32% concentration by weight with a recommended dose of 1/4 tsp per gallon of milk (0.33 mL per L).  Given that its the proteins we are trying to modify, and assuming that the proteins in milk have a similar electrical charge characteristic (a big assumption), I simply compared the amount of protein in each.  Milk has 8g of protein per cup, or 128g per gallon.

I happen to use three types of flour in my usual bread recipe.  From the labels, the whole wheat flour has 4g protein per 32g serving size, the bread flour 4g per 30g, and the all purpose flour 3g per 30g.  For my recipe (300g, 400g, and 100g respectively), this works out to a total of about 100g of protein.  This would suggest a usage of somewhere close to 1/4 tsp CaCl solution (more precisely a 1/5 of a tsp).  However, given the wild assumptions used here (specifically that milk proteins are electrically similar to flour proteins), I would say anywhere between 1/8 and 1/4 tsp CaCl solution would be appropriate.

If you have dry CaCl laying around for homebrewing and not the aqueous solution sold for cheese making, I would suggest making your own solution.  To get a solution of the same concentration, simply get 1/4 cup of distilled water and add 26.6g CaCl (or 50mL water with 22.5g CaCl).  If you don’t have a scale, John Palmer says that one level tsp of CaCl is about 3.4g, but I measured it at 3.59g.  2 oz (about 57g) CaCl is about 2USD.

Alternately, Austin Homebrew Supply recommends 1/2 tsp of their dry CaCl per gallon of milk, so somewhere around 1/4 to 1/2 tsp dry CaCl might be appropriate as well.  Given Palmer’s estimation, this dose recommendation would be considerably higher, 1/2 tsp being 1.7g.  1/4 tsp solution would provide only about 0.5g of CaCl.  This can be calculated by the fact that 1/4 tsp = 1.23mL and the specific gravity of a 31% by weight CaCl solution is about 1.3 (ie it is 1.3 times heavier than water which is normally 1 g/mL).  So, the weight of 1/4 tsp solution is 1.6g, and 31% of this is CaCl, or 0.5g.

I personally use 1/8 tsp aqueous solution from New England Cheesemaking when I bake my bread (along with 6g salt) for my 800g flour weight recipe with great results.  Soon enough I will try 1/4 tsp to see if it makes any difference, and if I can get away with lowering the NaCl salt concentration even further.

Life, Fermented


About Dennis
Home brewer, home chef, garage tinkerer. Author of Life Fermented blog.

4 Responses to Bread Tips: Calcium Chloride

  1. Chris says:

    Yep i also like Calcium Chloride in bread for the same reasons mentioned,but still trying to work out right amounts per 1kg.

    • Dennis says:

      Yea that’s the tricky bit. I’m not sure what scale you’re working at, but at my two-loaf batch size its hard to separate out minute changes in water and flour amounts and the effects of varying the amount of CaCl in an experimental setting. I am currently working at 1/8 tsp aqueous solution (0.25 g) per 800 g flour (lower than either recommendation), though the suggestions above range up to about 1.7 g CaCl per 800 g flour. So I would guess somewhere in the neighborhood of 0.3125 to 2.125 g per kilo of flour, which is admittedly a pretty wide range.

      If I had calculated all of this out before using CaCl in bread for the first time, I probably would have started at the 0.625 g per kilo level and worked up or down from there. Instead I worked my way up from a few drops of solution per batch, so I am still on the low side of things.

  2. SZ says:

    Boosting the Ca2+ content also adds a health benefit I’m thinking. Similar to the side product of calcium in tofu. Especially for women….

    Have you calculated the dose per serving and the RDA equivalent?

    • Dennis says:

      Its pretty insignificant. Given that a 1/4 tsp dose of aqueous CaCl is about 0.5 g of dry CaCl and each g of CaCl provides only 0.2725 g of elemental Ca, you’ll only have 0.136 g of Ca. So, if you eat both loaves of bread by yourself in a week, you’ll only be getting about 0.020 g of Ca per day.

      According to NIH, the recommended daily dose for Ca intake is 1 g per day for someone 19-70 years old. Thus, the bread would provide only 2% of your Ca intake. I suppose you could play around with completely replacing the table salt with CaCl, but I’m not sure of the effect on the bread. I don’t know if its the sodium or chloride ion that inhibits microbes; if its the sodium and you take the salt out completely, you might well let the microbe population get out of control with nothing to inhibit it.

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