Flour Treatment and the Improvement of Flour

There is a huge demand for flour improvers these days, in the baking trade and in the food industry. In the past, fifty or sixty years ago, millers were not faced with this topic – except, perhaps, in the context of some very special sideline tasks such as the first attempts to vitaminize light-coloured flours (now generally known as "flour fortification"). After the hardship and privation of the war and the years that followed, the world's populations were satisfied with what grew on the soil, what farmers and cooperatives delivered to the mills and what could be shipped across the oceans in the context of world trade. And if the worst came to the worst one delved back into the past. Holger J├Ârgensen discovered it in 1935; P.R.A. Maltha confirmed it fifteen years later: ascorbic acid offers a reliable way of closing many a gap in quality (J├Ârgensen, 1935; Maltha, 1950). This, along with the intelligent use of malt flour, was the only possibility that existed for some long time.

But the mid 1960 s saw the start of a new development. The useful properties of certain mono-diglycerides, and especially lecithin, as an aid to baking had been discovered, and it was now possible to use compounds for virtually all the stages of the improvement process. At the same time an extremely practical new theory had become known. Flour improvement is not a question of achieving particularly "good" rheological or analytical values. The secret is to adjust certain empirical data precisely. The rheology must "be just right". And of course the results of baking must correspond to the parameters set: it is this that determines the specific nature and intensity of flour treatment.

Ultimately it does not matter what technical means are used to "train" a commercial flour for the tasks it is to perform; but there can be no doubt that in practice the specific use of certain additives and ingredients plays the leading role throughout the world. However, the demands made have changed in a characteristic manner in recent years. Ten years ago it was an attractive objective to construct an "all-round" flour from which biscuits and also bread rolls and toast slices could be made in excellent quality. These days – especially in the food industry – priority tends to be given to top qualities for limited, special purposes. There has always been, and there remains, a great need for research.


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