Sure, you know flour. You deal with it every day as the cornerstone ingredient of your bakery products. Yet this is a complex ingredient. From types of wheat, to harvesting and milling practices, to flour grade, treatment and analysis, there’s a lot to consider.
A quick tour of flour
Different types of wheat have different protein contents. While a soft white wheat may be 9 to 10%, a hard red spring can have up to 15% protein content. The levels of protein and texture of the flour are what make the finer flours ideal for cookies and cakes while harder varieties bake better in hearth breads or noodles.
However, picking the right type of wheat is only part of the equation. Types of wheat must be milled differently, due to moisture contents and hardness of the wheat. As a result the ash level differs, in correlation to the protein levels. The final water content varies as well. The flour grade is how much of the final grain is used after milling. So while wheat flour has 100% extraction, short patent flour is 60 to 70% straight grade flour.
What you’d probably really wondering is how to handle all these variations in flour, since every harvest season changes crop quality. One easy method is using a blend of dough conditioners that include oxidizing agents. Another is through the use of enzymes. Amylase, protease, xylanase and lipase can increase dough extensibility while glucose oxidase, lipoxygenase and laccase improve elasticity. These enzymes can be combined, just make sure to check the properties after each is added!
Flour conditioners are extremely valuable. The four types are:
- Oxidizing agents: strengthen dough (i.e. azodicarbonamide, potassium iodate, calcium peroxide)
- Reducing agents: weaken dough (i.e. L-cysteine, bisulfite)
- Emulsifiers: increase extensibility and elasticity (non-ionic, ionic)
- Chlorine and bleaching agents
Discover new answers
Now that you have an idea of everything that goes into flour, you can dive into the fun part: testing and analysis! A glutomatic is the world standard for gluten quality and quantity, a farinograph measures water absorption and strength, and a glutopeak evaluates flour performance, just to name a few. Through tests like these, you can optimize your flour, test new ideas, and lift your products to the next level.
In a recent flour seminar hosted by BAKERpedia, industry members gathered to discuss situations and issues they deal with every day. It’s situations like this that help combine knowledge and build a better future of flour practices and uses.
Read a review of the class here, and get a free download of my “Flour Science in Five Minutes.”