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I'm making Russian Black Bread for the first time, and I don't tend to follow recipes exactly. (I do weigh ingredients and understand how to speak in baker's percentages, so this is generally in the spirit of experimentation.)

I added a fair amount of vinegar. (100g to 1400g dry flour-or-flour-adjacent ingredients, about 7%.) The recipe also contains yogurt, molasses, and coffee, plus I used a poolish, so there's a whole pH adventure going on in there.

This morning I see that it's rising even more slowly than I'm accustomed to with my poolish. I don't know how much of this is that it's a very wet (~80%), very enriched dough, so I did a little searching and the Internet warns not to use "too much" vinegar to avoid killing the yeast, but not in very precise terms.

Is there a recommended maximum percentage? Is it based in total pH and thus might shift with other ingredients?

Update: While I am still interested in answers to my question for improvisational food science reasons, I can now report for future vinegar-adders that the amount described above is not a problem. This batch had phenomenal spring.

These were patted almost flat like hamburger buns when I put them in the oven. They were almost spherical when they came out and are tearing along the score because they wanted more space:

Russian Black Bread rye rolls

  • If you want to come at this from a strictly sourdough perspective, though, is there information on what pH is no longer hospitable for the yeast? I can work backward from there. – Gement Jul 11 '17 at 1:25
  • Might find some insight in brewing literature - but in general terms yeast like a fairly acid environment, and other things (various unpleasant bacteria) don't. At some point it might affect the gluten? – Ecnerwal Jul 14 '17 at 1:01
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    If you want authentic Russian taste, answer would be none - as traditional black bread is just rye flour, water, salt and a sourdough starter. If you are adding vinegar, then probably your sourdough starter doesn't acidify dough enough. – Mołot Nov 17 '17 at 14:41
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Cool Russian Black Bread!

Since you gave an update I figure you might still be tracking the question.

Does your recipe use Baking Soda? That would react to your vinegar to create the CO2 needed to rise the heavy bread, but since it is a very fast reaction you would need to go from adding vinegar to oven in a matter of minutes.

I'm guessing the recipe uses yeast instead and that the vinegar is merely for a strong sour taste. I would think that much vinegar would inhibit your yeast, but since you got a good springy baked bread you are already on the right track.

Some traditional recipes rely on a sourdough starter where the yeast does the rising and the bacillus bacteria is teamed up to convert the milk's lactose into that tangy sour lactic acid instead of vinegar. You could create your own "wild yeast" by mixing your flour (rye & wheat) with buttermilk or yogurt with an active bacteria culture and adding commercial yeast (or praying to capture and grow your own wild yeast which can take a lot of time and will probably be the same yeast species based on the Sourdough Project tests).

  • Thank you! For some reason I didn't get an email notification, but I belatedly appreciate the information. – Gement May 25 '18 at 15:04

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