Ingredients that strengthen and soften the dough, increase loaf volume, reduce staling and soften crumb texture all fall into the broad category of dough conditioners.
Springiness, texture, crumb size, moisture and uniformity — it can be a dizzying prospect to consider the myriad of characteristics that define high quality baked foods. Uniformity equates with quality in most baking concerns. Machineability is a must to maintain proper production output and, subsequently, profit margins. As luck, or rather ingenuity, would have it, there is an ingredient type that can help in these areas.
Dough conditioners assist with most types of baked foods. Almost as many variations of dough conditioners exist as styles of baked products. They encompass a wide range of ingredients and blends designed to improve the processing characteristics of bakery foods at high-volume bakeries. Before highlighting some of the more common situations that could call for a dough conditioner, it is important to understand what a dough conditioner is and how it acts within the processing system.
Dough conditioners can be classified by their functions: oxidizing agents, reducing agents, emulsifiers and enzymes. These ingredients also fall into separate categories depending on whether a customer is seeking a natural or organic alternative. Within these categories multiple blends are available.
Dough conditioners exist in environments that use gluten for structure. Gluten starts with the protein content of the flour. When flour is mixed with water the protein forms gluten. Generally speaking, the more protein in the flour, the more elastic the dough and the firmer the final product. Protein quality also is important because flour with high protein content, but of low quality, may not perform as well as flour with a slightly lower protein content, but high quality.
The growing season, the wheat variety, weather and other environmental factors all help determine flour protein content and quality, which in turn affects the gluten. Gluten consists of very long, coiled protein molecules that provide springiness to dough and yeast bread.
Ingredients that tend to strengthen gluten are salt, milk and acids, such as vinegar or sour milk. Ingredients that tend to weaken it are fat, sugar, alkalis such as baking soda, and starch, such as rice or potato. Generally speaking, the greater the percentage of an ingredient in a formulation, the more it will affect the gluten.
While the primary function of dough conditioners is to strengthen the dough, they also may be formulated to soften the dough for improved and faster mixing; provide nutrients for the yeast to increase loaf volume or reduce staling; or to soften the texture and bite of sweetgoods, such as cake.
High fiber breads pose a different challenge. In whole wheat or dark rye, for example, the bran in the flour cuts and damages the developing protein strands. High fiber breads also can be very dense and difficult to machine, according to Mike Beavan, Ph.D., manager of product development, Watson Inc., West Haven, Conn. “Any time you have a lot of dead weight in the dough, such as ingredients that don't add to the functionality of the product, it will pose a challenge,” Beavan says.
He uses an analogy that likens high fiber breads to building a house. “When you bulk up on fiber, you're replacing a lot of the bricks with mortar. There are only so many bricks you can replace and still keep the structural soundness. But it's important to be able to claim a bread as, for example, an ‘excellent’ source of fiber. Labels, process and price are always important considerations. In a high fiber bread, the baker might have to add extra dough conditioners, so the bakery has to weigh the label claims against the extra cost,” Beavan says.
Some bakers select all-natural dough conditioners to help maintain a clean label. For example, Briess Malt & Ingredients Co., Chilton, Wis., produces malted barley flours and a combination of natural blends using wheat flour, barley and dextrose.
Dough conditioner selection depends on the type of dough being made. “If you are using a diastatic malted barley flour, the enzyme activity and the enzyme in the malted barley — the highest percentage being alpha amylase — will relax the dough, breaking down the starches into fermentable sugars,” says Judie Giebel, technical service representative for Briess. “Malted barley flours are used at a low percentage level to standardize the flour, depending on the wheat crop.”
Diastatic malted barley flour provides diastase, an enzyme that converts the starch in damaged starch granules to sugars that are used by the yeast during the fermenting period.
Bakers can measure or test the enzyme level in the flour using an amylograph. If it falls between 400 and 600 units, the flour has good strength. If it is weak, the baker can add diastatic malted barley flour to adjust the levels accordingly.
“The biggest advantage of using the natural dough conditioner with the high level of amylase is it lends optimum physical properties to the dough,” Giebel says. “Bakers will get a more uniform loaf size, increase volume and have a more symmetric loaf. It breaks down the shreds and the cracks for a smoother crust. Generally, the dough is more elastic. If your dough is too tight, as it starts to rise, it may develop shreds or cracks, but the malted barley dough conditioner aids with stretch.”
A natural barley-based dough conditioner also helps aid in browning because of the protease. When it breaks down, the protease releases amino acids that contribute to the Maillard reaction.
For an artisan-style bread, a malted barley flour with lower enzyme activity can improve the crumb internally and lend a softer texture. Malted barley flours contribute to a nice, uniform cell structure and aid in the fermentation process. The natural diastatic barley enzymes are particularly helpful in a long fermentation process, such as a sourdough bread.
Barley malt's natural humectancy helps finished products retain some of their moisture, which prevents some of the staling action and aids in shelf life.
Brolite Products Inc. Streamwood, Ill., offers more than 50 different dough conditioners, notes Dave DelGhingaro, vice president. “There are so many different types of bakeries out there, even within the same company, various locations might use different equipment or various modifications in processing. All of these factor into the choice of a dough conditioner,” DelGhingaro says. Field testing is a vital step in selecting the right dough conditioner to work in any particular operation.
“Organics are certainly growing, people want a clean, attractive label, but still need to add volume or strength or shelf life to their products,” DelGhingaro adds. “There is a big push right now for products that are perceived as more natural or more healthy. Companies are looking for an impressive label claim, but want their products to look and taste the same. In addition to functionality, cost is an issue. Keeping cost under control can be a challenge in a highly fortified baked product.”
While some bakers are moving away from bromate, the final shape of the baked product sometimes determines ingredient selection. For example, a Kaiser roll, Beavan says, is difficult to make without bromate.
“What you're looking for is an even rate of expansion, any deviation from that is going to affect the Kaiser cut. On the top of a Kaiser roll, the definition of the cut and the feathering on the sides of the cut are key quality and identity issues. Kaiser rolls should be big and bold, and customers expect them to look just like that every time. Selection of the dough conditioner, the amount and duration of steam in the oven, are both critical factors to maintaining the identity and quality of product with a particular shape, like a Kaiser roll or a hoagie.”
If bread, rolls, bagels and pizza crusts are the bakery foods of daily life, baked products for special occasions have to live up to higher expectations.
Earlier this year, Puratos, Cherry Hill, N.J., collaborated with Novozyme's enzyme technology to improve its line of cake improvers. This collaboration, according to Puratos, shows that it can provide 30 percent to 35 percent additional softness and moistness in a product made with this new cake improver compared with standard cakes. Softness and moistness can be maintained anywhere from four weeks to three months after baking.
This reportedly occurs because the ingredient slows the retrogradation of starch molecules in wheat flour, and increased freshness is achieved by keeping the crumb more cohesive and soft. Puratos measured freshness based on several parameters, such as softness, moistness, short bite or easy to swallow, cohesiveness and resiliency.
Refrigerated or frozen products, such as biscuits or rolls, are chemically leavened. “The big issue here is you don't want any reactions to occur before they're baked, so we encapsulate the bicarbonate to prevent it from reacting prematurely with the acid products,” Beavan says. “The capsule melts off in the oven allowing the bicarbonate to react so as to provide the results the customer is looking for. Or we might replace a faster acting acidulant with a slower acting one, such as glucono delta lactone, or with something that can only be activated in the oven, such as magnesium hydrogen phosphate. There are many variations available, it just depends on the environment.”
A frozen dough, Beavan explains, is mixed at a cold temperature, somewhere around 65°F, whereas a fresh dough is mixed at 80°F. “You can't have the yeast working because it will start to proof too early, so you have to mix small batches of dough at a low temperature.”
These refrigerated and frozen products help illustrate the value of encapsulating the various dough conditioners and other elements to help guarantee proper product performance under the right conditions. “An encapsulated ingredient holds the dough conditioner in place so it doesn't get released into the dough until needed,” Beaven says.
The company also sources enzymes from around the world, and with its combination of proprietary information on encapsulation and specialty milling technology, “we can pull from an encapsulate, which melts a little earlier or a little later, source enzymes that give the type of activity the customer needs, and pre-scale everything in a water soluble, edible package. We offer different tools for delivering the dough conditioner,” Beaven adds.
But no matter who or where you find your drivers, finding the right vehicle with the right speed and the right dough conditioner for your baked product and processing conditions is the first step on the road to successful, quality baking.