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Flour protein quality test could eliminate need for test-baking

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 16-Oct-2008

The European Bakery Innovation Centre (EBIC) has introduced a flour protein quality testing kit which it claims accurately determines protein quality by measuring gluten changes during dough mixing and could eliminate the need for test-baking.

Protein quality is generally an important indicator of good baking results but as it varies between wheat harvests and batches of flour, it has been a long-standing problem for bakers, affecting the quality of finished products.

There are two flour testing methods currently in use, but EBIC researchers say that neither is entirely accurate, meaning that test-baking remains the most common way for bakers to test protein quality for their products.

Most standard tests work by using a farinograph to create a fingerprint of various aspects of the flour, including the quantity of protein, but this is not necessary linked to baking quality.

Chemical testing, on the other hand, can be problematic in that other flour components can interfere with determining protein quality. Bakers therefore tend to use the time-consuming process of test-baking batches of goods to determine flour quality.

Modified method

EBIC’s new testing kit has modified the usual farinograph procedure, which works by measuring a dough’s resistance to mixing blades, by also monitoring gluten changes during dough development. In turn, this gives bakers a clearer picture of a dough’s tolerance to overmixing and the texture of the finished product.

A spokesman for EBIC told BakeryandSnacks.com: “There is always a demand for quick measurements determining protein quality of flour which is linked to processing and baking quality…This method is quite unlike other methods – not a fingerprint of the flour, but a quality parameter linked to processing and baking quality.

Quality assurance

The researchers claim that this could provide a means for millers to monitor the quality of flour they supply, ensuring the best blend for different purposes, as well as for bakers to ensure consistent product quality.

With regard to how this new kit builds on existing test factors, EBIC’s spokesman said: “Most of the other quality parameters give some information of the flour but are, as such, not directly linked to processing and baking quality of flour. Therefore several parameters should be combined.”

The flour protein quality testing kit consists of four 300g containers of mixture, which is added to flour in a quantity of 15g to 300g of flour. Measurements are taken as the dough is mixed, as the time it takes for certain chemicals to change within the EBIC mixture corresponds to the time it takes to break down the glutenin polymer.

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