Is Your Dough Showing Symptoms of Stress?

The mechanical steps that transform flour and other ingredients into baked products, produce a dough that should go easily through the different stages of bread manufacturing. However, every dough can only take so much physical work before quality declines.

Symptoms of over stressed dough include:

  • Rough or sandy crust
  • Irregular shapes with poor pan flow
  • Wrinkled crown
  • White spots

To solve these issues, first review the water addition to ensure full absorption, then review all steps where work is applied to mix or shape the dough. Adjust the mixing time after cleanup and make final adjustments to the divider, rounder, and sheeting rollers to help improve finished dough characteristics. If there is excess moisture in the proofer, you may notice white spots along with wrinkles and a rubbery crust. If these defects are plaguing your product, we recommend reducing the relative humidity in the proofer.

When producing breads and rolls, many different ingredients impact the finished product. Let's look at some key players namely: yeast, salt, and sugar.

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Yeast: Yeast's main function in breads and rolls is leavening, which is the process of producing gas (carbon dioxide or CO2). This gas, along with water vapor and entrapped air, then expands during proofing and baking causing the dough to increase in volume. The leavening of bread and rolls produces a product that is lighter and more palatable to eat. It has a big impact on the quality of the finished product. Leavening is also responsible for the volume of the finished product.

Besides its leavening function, yeast enzyme activity is largely responsible for the conditioning of the dough, which is sometimes referred to as "mellowing" or "maturing" the dough or sponge. Yeast converts sugars (starch) into alcohols and acids during fermentation. The alcohols and acids have a "mellowing" effect on the dough/sponge giving us biochemical development or maturing of the dough/sponge. Acids lower the pH and have a softening effect on the dough, while the alcohols also have a maturing effect on the gluten protein. These acids and alcohols makes the gluten more developed resulting in thin, gas-retaining cell walls. This biochemical development develops the dough so it retains its extensibility and elasticity to expand without rupturing during makeup stress and proofing. This helps with dough consistency and results in better characteristics that impact the symmetry and grain of the finished product. The distinctive fermentation flavor and aroma that is unique to yeast-leavened breads and rolls is a secondary product of the fermentation process. Fermentation gives us flavor from created organic compounds produced like acetic acid, lactic acid, aldehydes, and other flavor precursors.

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Salt: One of the main functions of salt in bread and roll production is to bring out the flavors of the other ingredients. Salt is typically used at levels of 1.50% to 2.25% (Baker's Percent or flour basis). Breads made with salt levels below 1.50% will taste bland while breads made with more than 2.25% will taste salty. The flavor of salt is usually not desirable, but salt has the property of enhancing other flavors. It also has a toughening or tightening effect upon the gluten during mixing and improves the gas retention and hence the texture and grain of the finished product. In addition, salt helps to regulate or control the action of yeast and thereby the rate of fermentation. This is due to the osmotic pressure.

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Sugar: In yeast-raised products like bread and rolls, sugar provides food for the yeast and gives a sweet taste to the finished product. In sponge and dough process, for example, 3-3.5% of fermentable solids are required for yeast activity. These fermentable solids may be from the sugar, but can also be derived from the conversion of the damaged starch in the flour to sugar. Sugar is not an essential ingredient in bread production. Sugars which remain after fermentation are referred to as residual sugars and these residual sugars have many secondary functions related to them. Residual sugars will contribute a sweet flavor although breads typically are not noted as being sweet baked products. These residual sugars contribute to crust color due to their reactions during baking. High levels of sugar will result in faster formation of crust color and will give you a darker crust color. This browning reaction will also contribute to the taste of the finished bread. Sugar, being very hygroscopic (ability to attract and retain moisture), will also improve the shelf-life of the finished product.

Understanding ingredient functionality of breads and rolls is important for bakers. Knowing how ingredients such as yeast, salt, or sugar impact the final product helps the baker to troubleshoot problems or develop breads and rolls to desired product characteristics. 

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