What is "bread improver"?

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In your recipe for "Old-Fashioned Fruit loaf, it calls for 4 teaspoons of "bread improver." Please tell me what "bread improver" is and where I can get it. Thank you.

-- Anonymous, November 13, 2000


Bread improver is probably the name brand for one of the many products on the market designed to improve the "spring" or "kick" when a loaf goes to the oven. You would be able to substitute any improver as long as you follow the manufacturers specs. These are usually available through ingredient suppliers and/or local bakeries.

The composition of these can vary greatly, but the idea is the same. When flour is milled, it goes through a period of aging and rest. During this time, oxygen comes in contact with the flour. This oxidation improves many, if not all of the characteristics of the flour. But,

Because flour is milled in batches, and differences occur between millings, sometimes flour is not as good as it could be, or is able to age as long as needed. It is still good flour, but needs an oxidation boost to meet the requirements of the product. This is usually only an issue in the commercial baking industry to combat the pressures and difficulties in machining bread products. Oxidants are almost always used to combat the abuse of the bread during manufacturing.

Oxidation can come from the addition of ascorbic acid, ADA, Bromates, peroxides (bleached flour), etc. All of these have the effect of bringing more oxygen to the flour, which improves gluten development, elasticity, mixing times, resilience, and dough strength.

The overall is that most home bakers will not usually need to worry about these items. If you purchase high quality reputable flours and take care in how they are stored, you will be taking a step in the right direction. If you are not getting the volume you feel you want out of a product, look at the formula for improvements. If you still wish to try an oxidant, try ascorbic acid in small amounts 20-25 ppm. It is readily available and should give nice results.

Joshua Shroll R&D-IBR

-- Anonymous, November 13, 2000

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