Novice Baker has questions about commercial additives
I'll use King Arthur Flour as an example, but these comments could apply to other vendors of flour also. And before proceeding I should say I have no complaint about King Arthur Flour; my experience with their flour and their web site has always been positive. But:
I note that they market a number of additives (and often include these additives as suggested ingredients in their featured recipes) for example "Roll Dough Improver;" "Rye Bread Improver;" "Whole Grain Bread Improver." The web site does not disclose the components of these commercial additives. The advertising photographs give no additional information beyond the names of the products. To find out what's in any of them, I gather one must purchase the item and then read the label.
I'm all for anything that improves/enhances a recipe, but even as a novice baker I would prefer to know how to achieve that improvement myself and know what the enhancement should be expected to accomplish, and why. In the case of "Roll Dough Improver" the item is advertised as an additive to make it easier to roll out dough that otherwise is difficult to handle. The agent apparently is a "dough relaxer." I gather the rye and whole wheat recipe "improvers" include seasonings but perhaps other components also. One can only guess.
I would like to know what opinions are held by experienced bakers frequenting this site as to whether they have used these products and found them worthy. Are they impossible or impractical to duplicate in their own kitchens at home? Would any respondent be willing to suggest specific itemized "improvers" and "relaxers" one can add instead of the commercially available products? Philosophically I would prefer ingredients I can add myself in quantities I choose when and where to vary, to remove the mumbo-jumbo and return to the baker the satisfaction of achieving the results personally with as much individual control as possible. Or can you refer this reader to literature which deals with this?
Related question: I see no reason to purchase small quantities of sourdough starter commercially unless one intends to bake sourdough bread only sporadically. Can anyone offer an additional advantage?
Thank you very much.