Also known as Dough Improvers
What are Dough Conditioners?
Dough conditioners are any ingredients, or a combination of ingredients, that are added to leavened wheat and rye dough, improving the dough process and enhancing its bread characteristics. Dough conditioners can improve dough handling, gas formation and retention, loaf volume, crumb structure and texture, crust development and color, general appearance, sliceability of the baked product, etc. They are also known as a ‘dough strengthener,’ ‘bread improver’ or just ‘improver.’
From the early days of bread making, bakers have been tasked to produce consistent quality products, while being challenged with the variations from nature. The addition of salt, malted flour, lard, eggs and more, contributed to bread with more volume, better taste and longer freshness. Advances in science in the early 1900’s also introduced other minor ingredients (e.g. emulsifiers, oxidizing agents, etc.) that had positive effects on bread making properties.1
Since the 1950’s, the first complete dough conditioners came on the market in the form of a paste, followed later by a powdered version, allowing easier dosing. In the 80’s, advances in enzymes2 became a key focus for improving dough handling and bread properties.
Consistent outcome and quality
During the baking process, the baker is confronted with several variables and fluctuations. For example, yeast and sourdough are living cultures. Therefore, they are sensitive to variables in their environment such as temperature and humidity. Wheat flour is a natural ingredient dependent on its environment, and hence subjected to variation in quality. In addition, new harvests, changing weather, less skilled labor or equipment variation can lead to quality issues or inconsistent outcomes for the baker. Dough conditioners significantly increase the tolerance against these fluctuations and ensure a more constant output with less waste.
Mechanical dough processing
Bread and roll dividers typically process green dough at relative high velocity. The lack of development and aging can result in insufficient dough strength. On the other hand, too much floor time makes the dough difficult to process. Dough conditioners compensate for the natural oxidation and help manipulate dough rheology for optimal processing. Some equipment is capable to extrude gently fermented dough, hence requiring less ingredient support.
Optimizing the supply chain
Extended shelf-life of refrigerated or frozen dough and packaged baked goods has transformed the entire supply chain for both industrial and medium sized bakeries. Partially or entirely fermented doughs, strengthened by dough conditioners, can now be shipped frozen or cooled and baked off in the shop without compromising quality. Thanks to crumb softening3 technology and preservatives, packaged bakery goods remain fresh for several weeks, allowing further transport, longer storage and lesser returns.
Use of dough conditioners to improve bread characteristics:
1. Appealing quality will lead to customer loyalty, especially if consistency is experienced every day.
2. A soft and moist crumb with a tender bite is perceived as fresh. This freshness is the key quality indicator in the customer’s mind. Certain dough conditioners can improve these elements in the bread.
3. Multigrain and whole wheat breads are easier to handle with dough conditioners. Even though they are usually denser, a lighter texture can now be produced with dough conditioners.
Types of conditioners
The following elements are typical ingredients that are used in dough conditioners, alone or in combination with each other.
1. Oxidizing agents oxidizes the free sulfhydryl groups of gluten to form disulfide bonds, resulting in a more cross-linked protein structure, hence a stronger gluten network with more gas retention capacity. Examples are ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide (ADA), potassium iodate and potassium bromate.
2. Reducing agents have a reactive sulfhydryl group capable of dissociating the disulfide bonds in gluten, making the proteins more extensible. Typical reducing agents are cysteine, metabisulphite, denaturated yeast and modified gluten.
3. Yeast nutrients like ammonium sulphate are supporting yeast growth, especially in sponge & dough and long fermentation processes. As a result, more carbon dioxide gas is produced.
4. pH regulators adjust the pH and mineral balance in water allowing a better gluten bounding (e.g. calcium carbonate, calcium sulphate, mono calcium phosphate).
5. Emulsifiers are surface active agents. For example, mono-glycerides and SSL (Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate) binds with the starch molecule, resulting in less starch retrogradation and a softer crumb.4 Other emulsifiers increase gluten binding, resulting in a higher dough tolerance and more volume (e.g. DATEM).
6. Enzymes used in baking are proteins from a biological source that typically break down specific substrate molecules (starch, proteins, lipids, etc.) of flour, changing properties of dough formation and bread properties.5
7. Vital wheat gluten is usually added to increase the total quality and quantity of protein in the dough.
8. Other ingredients: preservatives, sugar, oils (as anti-dust or as carrier in case of paste improvers), starches, salt.
Dough conditioners will also contain non-reactive “fillers” or “carriers” to standardize their activity and ease their scaling (e.g. wheat flour, starch, calcium carbonate, vegetable fats).
- Fleming, S.e., and F.w. Sosulski. “Dough Conditioners in Wheat-Soy-Gluten Breads.” Canadian Institute of Food Science and Technology Journal 7.1 (1974): 51-55.
- Amos, A. J. “The Use of Enzymes in the Baking Industry.” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 6.9 (1955): 489-95.
- Armero, E., and C. Collar. “Crumb Firming Kinetics of Wheat Breads with Anti-staling Additives.” Journal of Cereal Science 28.2 (1998): 165-74.
- Armero, Enrique, and Concepción Collar. “Antistaling Additives, Flour Type and Sourdough Process Effects on Functionality of Wheat Doughs.” Journal of Food Science 61.2 (1996): 299-303.
- Elms, J. “Enzyme Exposure in the British Baking Industry.” Annals of Occupational Hygiene 50.4 (2006): 379-84.