The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Enzyme additives listed in flour ingredients?

MsL's picture
MsL

Enzyme additives listed in flour ingredients?

Hi.  i'm not sure if this is the right place to post but I'm sure folks who have allergy issues are experts in ingredients lists.  Does anyone know if enzymes ADDED to flour have to be listed in the ingredients on the flour bag (in the US)?  I could not find this info on the FDA site.  Thanks.

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

You might as well assume that any flour intended for use in fermenting bread dough has had enzymes added.  The source of the enzymes is generally either malted barley flour, malted wheat flour, or what's termed "fungal" amylase.  I have no expertise in the subject of allergens in food, but I have read that there are bakery workers who have developed a reaction to flours that contained the fungal variety.


If wheat berries are left alone to ripen on the stalk, fall on the ground, and eventually become new sprouts, amylase will eventually build up enough naturally within the berry to convert stored starches into sugars that can support the early life of the new plant.  Farmers can't let the wheat get anywhere near that level of self-generated amylase before they harvest it, or the flour milled from the berries will have so much amylase (and resulting sugar) that any bread dough would be sticky and the fermentation would be too rapid (or entirely unpredictable).


So they harvest well before the berries might be near full ripening.  The wheat then goes to the mill, and while it is being ground into flour, the lab techs there will analyze the flour for its enzyme levels, which will almost always be less than what's ideal for predictable fermentation levels.  They then add enough amylase to bring the content back to a defined level that is known to produce reliable fermentation rates without making the dough too sticky.


Malted barley or malted wheat are just dehydrated, sprouted grains that have been ground into a powder.  As mentioned before, when grains are sprouting they have abundant levels of amylase present.  By making a powder of the dried sprouts, a technician or baker can adjust the levels of amylase in flour or dough to their liking.


Using malt to adjust amylase was about the only way for a very long time, but I guess in recent decades millers have started using amylase obtained from some kind of fungal base.  I don't know much about it, but the reason I believe this was developed as an alternative is that the amylase from a fungus is fairly well isolated, while malted barley or malted wheat have other enzymes present that could potentially complicate the fermentation process. 


But, as I mentioned before, there are at least some known cases of allergic reaction to fungal amylase.  People like me, who are sensitive to molds, might be one type of person who could have issues with the fungal amylase.  I don't know about any allergies to malted wheat or barley, aside from their gluten content, but that certainly doesn't mean there aren't any.


BTW, "Pastry" and "Cake" flours generally don't have enzymes added (in my experience) because the mill producing them assumes that those flours won't be used in fermented dough.  So if you use a "Pastry" flour to make a lean bread dough, there may not be much browning.  For cookies, tart doughs, and cakes, though, the added sugar, eggs, or fat in the formulas takes care of any requirements for browning.


High Gluten Flour, Bread Flour, and All-Purpose Flour generally do contain some type of amylase addition, however.


I apologize if anybody dozed off there . . . but your question about enzymes seemed very specific, and I wanted to provide a perspective of why enzymes are added and how they are sourced.


--Dan DiMuzio

MsL's picture
MsL

Thanks for that incredibly thorough and interesting answer, Dan, and also for the info that added enzymes are not required by the FDA to be listed.  (I was afraid of that.)  I have been getting contact dermatitis from some flours but not others and suspected it was caused by added enzymes; I can't be allergic to the enzyme itself since flour contains it naturally and I sometimes don't get reactions, so it must be the sourcce of the added enzyme that I'm allergic to.  It's excrutiatingly painful -- death by a thousand paper cuts.  : (


 


Thanks again to both of you.

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

Actually -- your distributor has to provide you with a spec sheet for the flour if you request it, I think.  Anything added to the flour should be there.


If their flour has one identified type of amylase, then try a flour from a different miller with the other one.  They should be able to provide you with the info.


Sorry to hear of your predicament.


--Dan DiMuzio

MsL's picture
MsL

Do you know how the enzymes actually work?

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

My knowledge of enzymatic action hasn't been tested since college chemistry class around 30 years ago.  There are some experts in chemistry and microbiology (and maybe biochemistry) who frequent TFL.  They may chime in here if they see the thread.


I know of a few specific enzymes that work to degrade certain specific substances, but I can't explain how that happens on a molecular level.  I can also only speak in general terms about yeast or bacterial metabolism during fermentation.


--Dan DiMuzio


 

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi,


This enzyme helps to catalyse the breakdown of the starch element into sugars which the yeast can feed off.   Too much amylase, and the fermentation will proceed too rapidly.   This results in a sticky and unstable dough as final proof ends and the oven beckons.   The loaves drop as they hit the oven.   We called this "gummy dextrose" at the previous college where I lectured, and prior to that, studied.


Insufficient enyzymatic activity will mean fermentation is slow to get off the ground.


Dan mentioned cake and pastry flour above.   These flours have been ground finer, exactly for the purpose of use intended.   This results in a greater degree of starch damage.   The result is effectively the same as that described above.   Fermentation proceeds at a rapid pace, thus all the sugars become used up very quickly.   That is why there is no colour in the loaves made from these cake flours.


Of greater worry to me is the other functional enzymes now used in breadmaking.   I don't believe any of these are currently added to flour as standard practise, as Dan explains above for amylase content in the stronger flours.   Certainly in the UK now, various pre-mixes are available for the likes of say "ciabatta".   I dread to think what sort of nonsense is mixed into these, but you can surmise there will be a veritable cocktail: so, don't buy them if you have any sort of allergy issue with regard to enzymes.


Commercially, many bakers use some kind of proprietory dough conditioner in their breads.   Most of these contain a whole range of enzymes, I'm sorry to say.   Obviously, legislation may well be different in the USA, but over here there is quite a convenient little loophole which these dodgy ingredients manufacturers have managed to exploit.   While chemical additives have to be declared, usually in the form of E-number and function, or if not by full name, sadly enzymes are exempt from this.    They are categorised as "processing aids", don't ask me to explain why that should exempt them, it's a major scandal to me.


We are exerting considerable pressure on these companies through the Campaign for Real Bread, but we are relying on new European legislation to tighten up procedures.   The fight continues, but so far we have had mixed success persuading our own Food Standards Agency to work in a positive way with Brussels


Hope this helps


Best wishes


Andy

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

I never knew that starch damage was so much higher in cake or pastry flour. 


Your comments about preassembled dry bread mixes is spot-on.  I did some consulting for a wholesale bakery in Northern Virginia that claims to do all-natural, artisanal breads (which, I discovered, was a complete fabrication).  While I was there, they had 3 techs from a company called Puratos, which manufactures all sorts of bread bases, conditioners, etc.


Their knowledge of bread chemistry was brilliant, but they apply it to forcing the dough-making process to happen very, very quickly and very, very predictably.  Their faux baguettes were, in fact, very predictable.


Predictably tasteless, and lacking in texture or aroma.


--Dan DiMuzio

SteveB's picture
SteveB

Enzymes catalyze the conversion of a specific substrate into product.  While the enzyme aids in this conversion, the enzyme molecule itself is not changed and can therefore be used in many catalytic cycles.  Enzymes operate by lowering the activation energy, i.e., the energy required to initiate the reaction.  They do this typically by reversibly binding the substrate and holding it in a particular conformation so that a second reactant can more easily approach and come in contact with the substrate to perform the requisite reaction.


 


SteveB


www.breadcetera.com


 

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

I never knew that  . . . .


Well . . . umm.


I know so little about it that I can't come up with a way to express what I didn't know.


--Dan DiMuzio