Tip of the Week: A Look Into Our Labs

AIB International, located in America's heartland is home to eight unique labs that are the heartbeat of the company since the facility was built in 1978.

Inside the Bread Lab, students start their fundamental skills with white pan bread. They then move to other kinds of bread such as rye, potato, sour dough, hamburger, and hot dog buns.

“The Bread Lab, as well as all the labs in AIB's Pilot Plant, were formed to provide a place for hands-on learning experiences for students and clients,” Steve Sollner, Baking Professional at AIB said. “For students attending baking seminars or the 16 week Baking Science and Technology residence course, the opportunity is to actually see those baking concepts taught in the classroom in action.”

In the Bread Lab, one example of foundational baking knowledge students learn is: does water hardness affect yeast-leavened bread doughs? Read Sollner’s answer below:

Water hardness is an ingredient variable that is often overlooked by the baker. Hardness will affect yeast-leavened bread doughs. Water hardness refers to the calcium and magnesium ions in the water. Levels will vary by locality and sources such as wells, rivers, or reservoirs. Your local water company should be able to supply you with this information. Medium soft water (50 to 100 ppm) is considered to be the desired level of hardness. Soft water (0 to 15 ppm) is undesirable because it tends to lack the gluten-strengthening minerals and produce slack, sticky doughs and a finished product with a more open grain. The use of mineral yeast food served to correct for this lack minerals in the water would increase the water’s hardness resulting in improved absorption and crumb structure. Some hard waters (200 ppm and higher) are objectionable, because they can elevate the pH of the dough causing a retarding effect on yeast and enzyme activity. Enzymes work best at an optimum pH level around 4 to 5 so their functionality is greatly impacted by the dough’s pH. This prolongs fermentation and affects machinability of the dough. Additions of lactic acid, acetic acid or monocalcium phosphate are easy corrections for this problem.

The Bread Lab is also utilized to work with individual companies on product development or ingredient/equipment testing. It expands 4,781 square feet and has been designed to support either benchtop work or pilot plant scale production. Sollner also said, one of the unique things we have done in designing all our labs is to build in flexibility. By doing this we have the ability to support the training or client projects of more than one event at a time.

Our Bread Lab features state-of-the-art equipment including a horizontal mixer. This mixer can hold up to 350 lbs. of dough. The mixer kicks the dough out into a greased trough and from there it’s transferred to a divider that cuts the dough.

“Thanks to the tremendous support AIB International gets from the baking equipment companies, we have a very well equipped Bread Lab.” Sollner said.

The space provides each student who enrolls in an AIB course the opportunity to experience how bread and roll products are being produced in the baking industry today. They learn key process control points and adjustments while being involved in making decisions that will impact the finished product. The learned skills and knowledge from these labs will translate in these baking professionals being more effective in their baking jobs.

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