Providing a comprehensive flour quality analysis can position a milling operation as a trusted resource for bakers.
Olivier Le Brun
Product & Applications Specialist
A lot can happen during the growing, harvesting, storage, and processing of grain for flour, which ultimately impacts the composition of a product. It is essential to know the performance of the grain or flour to help ensure a bakery’s success. Given today’s high prices for flour and ingredients, bakers depend on their millers to provide optimal blends that ensure they are starting with the best-quality ingredients.
Many millers today conduct Alveograph tests to prove flour quality for their baker customers. The Alveograph is a well-known testing method to analyze dough tenacity, extensibility, elasticity, baking strength, and other properties. The Alveograph test allows millers to analyze and optimize blends of wheat and flour or adapt them as needed for their customers.
However, the Alveograph test is only a single aspect of flour and dough quality analysis. As the initial line of defense against flour quality issues, millers can serve their customers better by expanding their abilities to analyze more rheological and functional attributes of flour. By providing a more complete story on flour quality, millers will be better equipped to address specific demands and improve relationships with bakers.
Starch Damage Analysis: Addressing the Cause of Sticky Dough
Although protein receives all the attention when describing flour quality, it is important to remember that flour is nearly 70-80% starch. Some millers may not know that flour contains two types of starch: intact and damaged starch.
All milling, industrial or performed in a laboratory, will inevitably produce a certain amount of damaged starch. When we look at the behavior of a damaged starch granule compared to that of a native granule, we see that:
Its water absorption capacity has been multiplied by nearly 10
It is much more susceptible to hydrolysis by amylase (an enzyme with the ability to break down glucose chains that make starch)
This means that the amount of damaged starch in flour significantly affects water absorption, impacting dough stickiness if there is more water than the proteins in the flour can handle. Additionally, damage starch also affects final product color, quality, and texture.
With a term like “damaged starch,” one may consider damaged starch to be negative. On the contrary, starch damage requires balance. As shown in Figure 2, an optimal level of damaged starch depends on the product type and production process. In any case, millers should consider the impact of damaged starch on final product quality and recognize the importance of measuring it.
How to Take Stronger Command of Starch Damage Analysis
Easy-to-use technologies to measure starch damage content exist today. For example, the CHOPIN Technologies SDmatic is a fully automated, enzyme-free testing device that measures iodine absorption in a diluted flour suspension (1 gram of flour). Over the 10-minute testing period, the more the iodine is absorbed, the more starch damage is present in the flour sample.
Verifiable data on starch damage content ensures millers are supplying their baking customers with flour with properties suited for their specific products.
Simulate the Baker’s Production Process to Predict Flour Behavior
From evaluating wheat at the point of delivery, developing flour blends, or adapting flours for final uses through precise dosing of additives, a lot of guesswork goes into the miller’s evaluation of flour quality.
From the baker’s perspective, the best way to test flour quality after delivery is to put it through a small-scale baking trial. Unfortunately, routine baking trials can become time-consuming and costly for many bakeries.
Even after the baking trial, the baker may have the final product’s result but lacks clear information on how or why the product result occurred. This leads to subjectivity and frustration; typically, the miller is the first to blame if products are out of specification.
Many millers have begun using dough characterization technologies – such as the CHOPIN Technologies Mixolab 2 – to analyze the rheological behavior of dough subjected to dual mixing and temperature constraint. These instruments include a recording kneader to measure the torque produced by the dough between two mixing blades, allowing for the analysis of the following:
Dough rheological characteristics (hydration capacity, development time, stability, etc.)
Protein weakening due to mixing and temperature
Starch gelatinization and retrogradation, which relates to product shelf life
How Dough Characterization Technologies can Create a
Stronger Line of Communication with Customers
Dough characterization technologies are a great way to provide a proactive service to baking customers. Because important dough properties, like mixing behavior, protein weakening, and others, can be quantified, millers can develop a database of flour specifications for specific customers. This effort takes the guesswork out of evaluating flour quality and improves communication between millers and bakers.
Improve Your Flour Quality Analysis Lab to Improve Customer Relations
A miller’s reputation depends on their ability to deliver flour to their customers within specifications for quality. Using Alveograph tests as a benchmark for quality and flour performance is excellent. Still, it is only one piece of the puzzle in a more comprehensive evaluation process. Expanding capabilities in a flour evaluation protocol helps to close the loop on any quality control unknowns.
Not only can these technologies provide a fast return on investment, but it helps to build trust between millers and bakers by reducing mistakes and improving product quality for all.