The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Use of bread dough improvers in commercial bakeries

LeoD's picture

Use of bread dough improvers in commercial bakeries

I'm curious to know how often bread dough improvers (or conditioners) are used in commercial bakeries in Europe and in the US. Does anyone know?

In Brazil, it's a common practice for bakeries to use such products. You can find it in paste or powder format, and it may contain ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, alpha amylase, lipase, etc. Even bakeries that call themselves artisan bakeries may use improvers in Brazil.

Bob S.'s picture
Bob S.

There are a wide variety of dough improvers that are approved for use in the United States (probably more than in any other country). These include oxidants, bleaching agents, emulsifiers, anti-staling agents, and anti-mold agents. They are widely used in commercial bread products. The only bread improver used in Europe (to the best of my knowledge) is ascorbic acid.


LeoD's picture

Thanks, Bob.

I was thinking more on the cultural side... when it's allowed, how often do bakeries use such products in artisan breads. The higher quality breads that you find in the US or Europe. Are bakers using improvers on them? 

Because it's been a disappointment to find that in Brazil the use of improvers is so widespread Maybe it's because wheat flours here are not great. So I wonder how it's like in countries where flour is good.

Thanks again.


IceDemeter's picture

the bakeries here (Canada) where the flour conditioners such as azodicarbonamide, alpha amylase, or lipase are added - it is the mills that add them.  Essentially, professional bakeries count on their flour suppliers to give them a consistent product (in terms of protein content, ash level, humidity, and overall performance).  The mills are dealing with multiple grain sources, with variations in these properties, and so add in varying levels of conditioners / enhancers for a relatively consistent end product.  What is disappointing (understatement) here in Canada is that any of these conditioners added to the flour by the mills do NOT have to be listed on the ingredients listing on a finished baked good (they just have to list "flour"), so a consumer has no way of knowing what, if anything, was added by the mills.

The bakeries that do a more "artisanal" product more often seem to use such "enhancers" as diastatic malts, ascorbic acid (occasionally), eggs, dairy, sweeteners, and fats for some of their loaves, and appear to often try to source flours that have not had conditioners added by the mills.  Of course, there are still some who use already "enhanced" flours from the mill, and then choose to further "enhance" their product by using commercially mixed dough enhancers.  It is an individual business choice, and there are no standards to adhere to for their product to be called "artisan".

There are some bakeries who choose to really promote that they do not use any enhancers, and do not use enhanced flours.  Naturally, they charge more for this, and claim that the mills charge them more for "non-standard" flour.  I haven't tried to purchase either version commercially, so have no idea if that is true or not.  It is up to the consumer here to do their own research to find those bakeries, and to pay the additional cost, if that is a priority to them.  Fortunately, there are also some smaller bakeries that use standard consumer flours or mill their own.  There are a variety of standard consumer flours that have no additives (other than the government dictated vitamins and minerals), since the consumers don't have the same need for consistent performance that a large bakery does.

Honestly, it seems to me that the vast majority of consumers have no idea that there might be additives to the flour, and it wouldn't occur to them to ask.  Those who are passionate about their baked goods (such as those of us on here!) could very well not know the labeling laws here in Canada, and might not realize that additives made to the flour at the mill are not required to be listed on the ingredients label of their finished baked item - and so don't realize that even their careful avoidance of any product showing the enhancers on the labels doesn't mean that their loaf doesn't have enhancers in it.

Personally, I would prefer that any additives made to the ingredients of a product also be required to be listed on the ingredient label of a finished good, and there are some which I would avoid and others which I have no issue with.  Whether a bakery or an individual wants to use flours or consume baked goods that have enhancers / conditioners in them is their choice - but the information should be on the label so that they are making an informed choice.


LeoD's picture

IceDemeter, thanks for your comments!

The situation that you describe is the same as in Brazil. Here the mills "correct" their flours and don't need to write the "corrections" on the package labels. They claim that they wouldn't be able to do so, since every lot of flour would have a different set of ingredients and would require a different label.

The bakers use those flours and also add improvers/enhancers on top of them, in the recipes.

To me, honestly, it's very disappointing. I try to avoid chemical additions as much as I can.

I must say that it surprises me that this happens in Canada given that Canada is famous for having top quality wheat grains. (but as you said, it could be for consistency of the product, not because of bad quality...)

I wonder how it's like in Europe.



BakerJoe's picture

They're widely used in the UK, most common improvers are



Ascorbic acid

Crumb softeners are widely used too, usually what we call 'clean label' - enzyme based so we don't need to declare on packaging, only the wheat flour used as a carrier for the enzyme.

A new wave of protein engineered (PE) enzynmes has just (in the past 18 months) started coming through from suppliers which are especially effective on fruited, enriched doughs.