The wind beneath the wings of commercial baking success

In recent years, the technology applied to the production of baked goods has changed significantly. Machines have taken over manual labor not only in industrial bakeries but also in small craft bakeries. New methods for the efficient production of baked goods require a specific quality of doughs and batters, and in addition, the consumer also demands high-quality products.

The commercial viability of any baker hinges on meeting these demands, and so they have taken to using bread improvers – also called improving agents, flour treatment agents, dough conditioners, and dough improvers – to do so.

According to the definition laid down in the German Guidelines for Bread and Small Baked Items, improvers are mixtures of food including additives intended to facilitate or simplify the production of baked goods, to compensate for changes in processing properties due to fluctuations in raw materials and to influence the quality of baked goods.

Improvers have been used for more than 100 years to support the full development of bread flour properties and to balance the natural differences in baking behavior, such as variations in temperature, humidity, flour, and labor. In this way, they enable bakers to ensure consistent premium results with every batch they bake.

Bread improvers activate the gluten and enhance the dough’s rheological and fermentation properties, which in turn leads to an increase in the dough’s strength, extensibility, machinability, stabilized fermentation, handling, and gas retention capacity.  When bread improvers are used, the result is always bread with improved texture, color, taste, composition, and tenderness. The bread also has a longer shelf-life, stronger structure, and better volume.

Knowing what bread improvers are and what they do begs the question, what exactly in their makeup gives them their dough conditioning and improving properties? Well, typically, a bread improver contains minute quantities of enzymes, emulsifiers, oxidizing and reducing agents as well as bleaching agents, each with crucial and uniquely defining properties. In this article, we help you understand more about dough improvers by exploring each of these components in detail.

Enzymes take bread baking back to its roots

Enzymes are known to universally catalyze biochemical reactions taking place in living organisms. They help to meet technological needs in several sectors of the food-processing industry, especially breadmaking.

The enzymes used in breadmaking come from various sources. Endogenous enzymes are naturally present in cereal grains found in the flour while exogenous enzymes are added to the flour and may be obtained from animal or plant organisms.

Enzymes have played a role in breadmaking since their discovery by facilitating the yeast fermentation responsible for leavening. By the late nineteenth century, exogenous enzymes in the form of malt and fungal alpha-amylases were being added to flour and dough to control and aid the breadmaking process in nascent commercial bakeries.

Over time, however, this practice was abandoned as newer chemical additives and processing aids became available. The use of these chemical additives is being phased out in many countries now, and commercial bakers are increasingly returning to exogenous enzymes to control the breadmaking process.

The most relevant for breadmaking are amylases, proteases, hemicellulases, lipases, and glucose oxidases. These enzymes improve control of the baking process and allow the use of different baking processes. They also reduce process time, slow-down staling, compensate for flour variability, and help bakers substitute chemical additives. The enzymes can be added in small quantities either individually or in complex mixtures, which may act synergistically in the production of baked goods.

Bleaching agents hold attributes beyond the obvious

In its natural state, flour might not perform well in baking or give baked products the desired texture, volume, and consistency. So, it is often made to undergo a process called aging or maturing that seems to improve its water absorption and baking qualities. With aging, freshly milled flour turns whiter in color and this process also strengthens glutens and proteins in it.

Natural aging happens when milled flour comes into contact with oxygen in the air, but this process takes about two months or more. To make flour white and consumable almost immediately after milling, commercial manufacturers treat it with certain chemical additives which are also known as bleaching agents.

Bleaching agents, when added to flour, break down the carotenoid molecules making it appear whiter, which consumers find more aesthetically pleasing. These agents are also important for oxidizing or chemically altering proteins so that they are ready to form strong gluten networks while you’re baking. Plus, this small alteration to the proteins makes the dough less sticky and easier to handle and also gives baked goods a better volume and texture.

The most used bleaching agents are benzoyl peroxide, calcium peroxide, nitrogen dioxide, chlorine, chlorine dioxide, azodicarbonamide, and oxygen from the atmosphere, used during the natural aging of flour. Some methods of flour bleaching, like the use of chlorine, bromates, and peroxides, are not allowed in the European Union.

Emulsifiers make the impossible possible

Emulsifiers bring two opposing forces — water and fat — together in unity. With emulsifiers easing tensions between these components, formulators can blend them to gain a multitude of benefits across a wide range of applications.

The binding of the emulsifiers to the lipophilic part of the gluten proteins happens during the mixing of the dough. This increases the gluten protein aggregation and subsequently the dough development time. It also stabilizes the dough so that it can withstand excessive kneading.

“In a bread formulation, there is a fair amount of water, but not much fat, so there’s less of a need to bring these two together; however, emulsifiers will still help the water and fat complex with the starch to increase loaf volume and machineability,” said Matt Gennrich, senior food scientist, Cargill.

Because bread doesn’t contain much fat, the benefits of emulsifiers can assist more with process tolerance for commercially produced bread as well as improved final product characteristics.

One of the best emulsifiers, diacetyl tartaric acid esters of fatty acids (DATEM) are thought to form hydrogen bonds with gluten and starch. This reaction will act to strengthen the gluten-starch network to improve dough stability during proofing as well as produce baked goods with increased volume, improved external symmetry, and better internal crumb structure.

When bread improvers are used, the result is always bread with improved texture, color, taste, composition, and tenderness.


Oxidizing and reducing agents allow bakers to alter dough extensibility

Bakeries around the world have modernized their production techniques with high-speed lines. This has posed an issue for wheat growers and flour millers who have been forced to select wheat varieties that give the dough extra strength. However, this is achieved at the expense of dough extensibility and softness.

To control this, bakers add reducing agents that damage the gluten structures that form so that they become more elastic, more extensible, and less hard. The shape of the product is also better retained, being less prone to shrinkage and curling. Reducing agents also reduce mixing time and save on energy, making the baking process more efficient.

Incidentally, to produce a harder dough structure, oxidizing agents are needed to strengthen gluten proteins. High-speed bakeries, lean formulations, and changes to wheat flour quality all led to increased use of these chemicals.  Fast oxidizers are ingredients like potassium iodate, sodium iodate, calcium peroxide, and potassium bromate. A slower and clean label-friendly oxidizer is ascorbic acid. These chemical oxidants have been highly effective in maximizing the potential of the wheat protein available.

Due to consumer demands for the reduction of chemical additives, and legislative restrictions on their use, glucose oxidase was introduced later on in the 1980s and enzymatic oxidation became commonplace. This offered new benefits and fitted well with consumer demand for healthy products with natural and easy-to-understand ingredient listings.

Most common glucose oxidases on the market originate from Aspergillus sp. Recently, DSM developed a new glucose oxidase originating from Penicillium chrysogenum. Biochemical analyses of this new glucose oxidase have shown that this enzyme exhibits a self-regulating mechanism. A possibly larger and more extensive gluten network is formed, improving the overall strength of the gluten network. Moreover, it allows for the dough to become elastic, maintaining its ability to stretch.

Thymly Products recently launched Thymly Phresh Beta, a new maltogenic amylase-based dough conditioner designed for low-pH doughs such as sourdough and ciabatta. Thymly Phresh Beta can help delay undesirable staling in dough and, depending upon the usage rate, can offer anywhere from two to three weeks of shelf life. “Additionally, Beta aids in increasing overall consistency in crumb structure, as well as softness, to promote a more-uniform product overall,” notes Maggie Kellenberger, research and development, Thymly Products Inc.

Availing affordable alternatives to Vital wheat gluten

Vital wheat gluten strengthens dough made with weaker flours so that it can withstand the force equipment exert on it. This stand-by ingredient, however, succumbed early to supply chain pressures, becoming scarce and skyrocketing in price, and companies are being challenged to find suitable replacements.

Bakery ingredient supplier Puratos USA offers Intens Tolerance which is their gluten replacement enzyme technology. “Applicable in most baked goods with vital wheat gluten in the formula, these technologies can offer clean label solutions that combine tolerance, strength, and oven jump, that gluten traditionally provides in bread recipes,” explains Sean Hart, R&D manager for Bakery Mixes & Improvers at Puratos USA.

Dutch food and biochemicals company Corbion also recently debuted its Pristine 3000 dough-strengthening solution that reduces the need for adding costly vital wheat gluten. Even with protein-deficient flour, the new solution produces dough with optimal machinability that results in high oven spring, soft texture, and overall consistent quality in the final product.

“These new ingredients provide significant tolerance to dough during processing, thus reducing waste due to poor dough processing tolerance. It can be used to replace chemical dough strengtheners or gluten,” shares Yangling Yin, director of bakery application, Corbion.

Demand for clean-label ingredients skyrockets

Most bread improvers are chemical based making them not bode well with health-conscious individuals who are laying more emphasis than ever before on seeking out natural ingredients that are deemed to offer nutritional value. Market research firm FMCG Gurus found that 69% of consumers say that it is important that products are 100% natural, whilst 62% say that they try to avoid ingredients that sound chemical.

Natural claims are also important in the bakery sector. Indeed, 62% of consumers say that such claims are important when buying bread, 61% when buying biscuits, and 53% when buying bakery products such as cakes and pastries. This shows that even in product categories inherently associated with indulgence, natural claims are important.

Sugar reduction has been the major highlight of the clean-eating consumer trend. However, by simply reducing or removing sugar in baked goods, manufacturers may encounter several new challenges in their sugar-reduced products, including loss of flavor, issues around texture and structure, mouthfeel and indulgence loss, sweetness loss, shelf-life reduction and reduced visual appeal of the final product.

AB Mauri developed Qualitase SR for reduced sugar. The product contains enzymes that help to maintain dough-processing characteristics that change due to sugar reduction. It reportedly works well in a wide array of baked goods including pan bread, rolls, and sweet yeast-raised products like brioche. “We’re constantly evaluating new trends and creating emulsifier, enzyme, and pre-soaked grain solutions that help craft bread bakers achieve their clean-label, freshness, quality, and consistency goals,” explains Rick Oleshak, vice president of marketing for AB Mauri North America.

As global manufacturers move toward phasing out titanium dioxide from formulations, American multinational food company ADM earlier this year unveiled its new line of PearlEdge proprietary white color solutions derived from natural sources, including native corn starch. “This rollout meets the evolving needs of customers and consumers, as brands look for titanium dioxide replacements that not only provide a bright white shade but also meet clean-label targets,” explained Hélène Moeller, vice president, Global Product Marketing at ADM.

Puratos has also been working to create enzyme-based clean-label solutions for improved freshness, texture modification, dough machinability, and more. Most recently, the company launched its Intense Puraslim bread improver, which is expected to reduce up to 50 percent of in-dough solid fat in sweet bread and pastry recipes. “Our patented enzyme technologies can lead to significant cost savings in traditionally high-fat products, such as Hispanic sweet bread, and Danish cinnamon buns which is all important considering the volatility in the butter and margarine markets,” states Sean Hart, R&D manager, bakery mixes and improvers, Puratos.


Natural emulsifiers troop to the scene

Also in line with the health-conscious trend, Cargill spent two-years testing and validating a new clean-label solution using a combination of the company’s premium lecithin products and select enzymes to replace legacy synthetic dough conditioning emulsifiers: monoglycerides and DATEM. As a natural emulsifier, Lecithin offers the same porousness, hardness, and friability as DATEM, but in a much healthier and more natural form. Cargill now offers customers three plant-sourced lecithin options – soy, sunflower, and canola – in the US and Canada.

Kerry also has in its line of bread improvers, a natural emulsifier alternative known as  Puremul. The company says the product is free from major allergens and is kosher-certified and Halal-suitable. Commenting on its launch, Tim Cottrell, Business Development Director for Emulsifiers, Texturants, and Gum Acacia, North America, said “Puremul is the only clean label solution in the market that successfully replaces the functionality of sunflower lecithin and mono- and diglycerides, helping product makers meet the rising market calls for clean, natural, sustainable solutions.”

Demand for a healthier variety of baked goods drives growth and spearheads innovation

Given the pivotal role bread improvers play in keeping bread fresh and soft, there is a considerable rise in the utilization of bread improvers in the baking industry across the globe. The global bread improver market size reached US$3.4 Billion in 2021, according to IMARC Group. The market research company further projects the market to reach US$ 4.8 Billion by 2027, exhibiting a growth rate (CAGR) of 5.87% during 2022-2027. Increasing consumption of bread and baked goods including, bagels, ciabatta, baguettes, toast bread, pizza base, tortillas, croissant, multi-grain, brioche, and many more are attributed to this growth.

Despite these promising developments, the business is still expected to face significant obstacles, such as shifting customer preferences, strict trade restrictions, and a lack of security in the supply of raw materials and other manufacturing inputs

Snack and bakery manufacturers working with the dough will always face a balancing act when seeking to deliver desired sensory characteristics efficiently. Luckily, suppliers continue to develop new dough conditioners that can rise to the occasion, and the growing interest in clean labels from both consumers and manufacturers will continue to raise the bar on clean-label dough conditioning ingredients.

This feature appeared in the Dec 2022 issue of Milling Middle East & Africa. You can read this and the entire magazine HERE