Dough conditioners are ingredients added to bread formulations to improve dough processing and the overall quality of baked products in high-speed production environments.

Dough Conditioners

Also known as dough improvers or strengtheners


What are Dough Conditioners?

Dough conditioners are ingredients added to bread formulations to improve dough processing, as well as the overall quality of baked products in high-speed production environments. They are usually available as concentrates or dry mixes. They’re widely used in no time dough/straight dough systems.

Dough conditioners usually contain multiple individual ingredients for specific functions and applications. Some examples are:

  • pH regulators
  • Mineral yeast food
  • Enzymes
  • Redox agents
  • Emulsifiers
  • Vital wheat gluten (VWG)

Origin

In the 1950s, the first dough conditioners came on the market in the form of pastes and liquid preparations. Then, powdered versions followed shortly after. These allowed for easier dosing and accurate scaling. Advances in functional enzymes in the ‘80s became a key focus for improving dough handling and bread properties.

Function

Functions of dough conditioners include improvements in:1

  • Dough handling properties
  • Gas production by yeast
  • Gas retention by gluten matrix
  • Volume of baked goods
  • Crumb structure and texture
  • Crust development and color
  • Product general appearance and symmetry
  • Sliceability of the baked product
  • Shelf-life by delaying the onset of staling

Nutrition and health

Dough conditioners perform a technological function in the dough. They are considered processing aids. So, they are present in minute amounts in the finished product. Except for vital wheat gluten (1 g of VWG provides 0.6 g of protein), dough conditioners do not contribute to nutrients or caloric content in human diet.2

Current clean label trends in food and bakery products has spurred the interest of high-speed bakers to use alternative ingredients. Some of the dough conditioning clean label options are organic acids, natural reducing and oxidizing agents, hydrolases and long dough fermentations. This trend has been triggered by younger generations seeking alternative ways to maintain a healthy diet and more responsible nutrition.

Commercial production

Dough conditioners are produced as fine, food-grade ingredients. For example, enzymes can be produced through industrial fermentations using food-grade microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi. They can also be extracted and purified from animal or plant sources. However, they are more expensive than their chemical-based counterparts.3

Application

Dough conditioners help with:

  • Consistent outcome and quality
  • Mechanical dough processing
  • Optimizing the supply chain

Dough conditioner mixes are usually added at 0.5–4.0%, based on flour weight. Whole wheat and high fiber breads generally require higher amounts of dough conditioners. This is to compensate for their lack of proper gluten development and for optimum dough handling properties.

Challenges with dough formulations and process variations can be mitigated using dough conditioners. This is most critical when using yeast and sourdough, which are sensitive to changes in their environment.

Another important role of dough conditioners is compensating for fluctuations in wheat flour quality. New harvests (crop changeover), weather or milling processes can create inconsistent outcome and quality issues. Using dough conditioners helps improve the flour tolerance against these fluctuations and ensures a more constant output with less waste.

FDA Regulation

Dough conditioners are regulated by the FDA in the United States as to maximum usage levels, approved sources, and production methods.1,4,5

Group Considerations
Enzymes According to 21 CFR Part 184 (Direct Food Substances Affirmed as Generally Recognized as Safe), these ingredients can be used in food in amounts sufficient for the purpose, with no limitation other than current good manufacturing practices.
Emulsifiers:  Dough strengtheners According to 21 CFR Parts 172, 182 and 184, some are limited only by good manufacturing practices; others are allowed at levels required to produce the intended effect. Some may also have specified limits on their use.
Emulsifiers: Crumb softeners
Oxidizing agents According to 21 CFR Parts 170, 182 and 184, most oxidizing agents have limits on their use in food products.
Reducing agents According to 21 CFR Parts 170, 182 and 184, most reducing agents are GRAS given their natural origin.

References

  1. Cauvain, S.P. “Functional Ingredients.” Technology of Breadmaking, 3rd edition, Springer International Publishing Switzerland, 2015, pp. 57–97.
  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21, Part 101: Food Labeling https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=101.100. Accessed 25 May 2019.
  3. Smith, J., and Hong-Shum, L. Food Additives Data Book, 2nd edition, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2011.
  4. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “21 CFR 182 – Substances Generally Recognized As Safe.” 1 Apr. 2017, https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?CFRPart=182. Accessed 2 December 2018.
  5. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “21 CFR 184 – Direct Food Substances Affirmed As Generally Recognized As Safe.” 1 Apr. 2017, https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?CFRPart=184. Accessed 2 December 2018.