What Makes a Good Flour?

In the baking process, precision is essential. A product’s texture, flavor, density, appearance, and other qualities that consumers notice can be affected by many quantifiable factors, including managing the quality of the ingredients used in a recipe and regulating the baking temperature, time, and other stages in the baking process.

What Makes a Good Flour?

Image Credit: KPM Analytics

It should come as no surprise that the baking process depends heavily on the quality of the flour since all baked goods are the result of flour being converted into a product of some sort. Some people might be surprised to learn how much certain flour quality characteristics can vary from batch to batch.

How to Determine if a Flour is Good or Bad?

It is better to consider whether a particular batch of flour will “fit” the process or “adapt” to create the desired product rather than categorizing the flour as “good” or “bad.” Visually comparing the quality of flour from one batch to the next could be next to impossible unless there are obvious flaws in the flour.

Due to this, the only effective way to determine whether a batch of flour will be a good “fit” for the product is to subject it to the same limitations that dough would encounter during the course of production.

What Makes a Good Flour?

Image Credit: KPM Analytics

Additionally, a single batch of flour might include particular quality standards to produce a product that is superior to another. For instance, one batch of flour might have the properties that are ideal for producing pan bread, but it could be a less-than-ideal flour for developing noodles, pizza dough, cookies, and other items, assuming that all other stages of the baking process are under control.

This means that the user should aim for a particular flour “profile” that is suitable for the desired final product based on the baking process and the product they are creating.

What Parameters Determine Flour Quality?

Protein content, amylase activity, dough rheology (which includes water absorption and dough behavior), and other factors have historically been used to evaluate the quality of the flour. However, it is crucial to remember that flour specifications are not constant and that many of the techniques we have previously employed to assess flour quality are not very accurate.

For instance, if the baked good calls for flour with a protein content between 12% and 13%, there may not be an obvious difference in the final product if a flour with 11.9% or 13.1% protein is used. However, some bakers might reject flour that does not meet the specified spec, which over time, can be wasteful and expensive.

Another factor to take into account when assessing flour quality is consumer taste and/or expectations. Since some areas might not have access to the same kind of flour as others, the end result might be different.

For instance, a baguette from France may differ significantly from a baguette from South America in terms of crumb structure, texture, and overall appearance. However, the baker is doing their job if these goods satisfy the consumer’s taste for that area.

Therefore, the expectations for the product the baker is producing must be taken into consideration when choosing the best metrics to assess flour quality.

Methods to Streamline and Simplify Dough Analysis

Due to advancements in technology, bakers can now test their incoming flour and simulate how a batch will behave during baking without wasting a lot of time and money on experimental production runs.

The Mixolab 2 is a cutting-edge device that enables bakers (or millers) to examine the quality and regularity of flours, evaluate the impact of enzymes, create new formulations (such as high-fiber or gluten-free), and streamline the production of finished goods.

What Makes a Good Flour?

Image Credit: KPM Analytics

The Mixolab 2 is a “dough translator” that breaks down complex technical and scientific knowledge into the six easily understood quality indices that make up the widely used CHOPIN+ protocol. They are as follows:

  1. Water absorption: This is the amount of water that is required for the dough to ensure that it has the maximum torque.
  2. Mixing: The first eight minutes of the test are represented by the mixing index, which is a summary of how the dough behaved at a constant temperature of 30 °C. This measures dough resistance to mixing stress, which will help determine optimal mixing times, stabilities, and consistency (like a Farinograph test).
  3. Protein weakening (Gluten+): The dough is subjected to continued mixing stress (mechanical stress) as well as thermal stress (an increase in temperature from 30 to 60 °C) during this stage. The user is given information about gluten strength that goes beyond basic mixing properties as a result of the weakening of gluten proteins caused by this heating
  4. Viscosity: The mixing continues during this stage, which sees an increase in temperature from 60 to 80 °C. As this happens, starch starts to gelatinize, signaling a change in the dough’s structural support from gluten to starch
  5. Amylase: The dough is heated to a constant 90 °C during this stage. Since the starch granules have already gelatinized and been attacked by amylases, gluten is not currently playing a significant rheological role. The machine is still mixing the dough, which is currently the only mechanical stress on the dough, giving the starch gel some stability
  6. Retrogradation: An increase in dough consistency can be seen as the dough is cooled to a temperature of about 60 °C. Additionally, the early stage of amylose retrogradation can be seen, which is a reliable predictor of total starch recrystallization, a process that has a direct impact on product shelf life

A sample of flour is subjected to each of these assessments over a 45-minute period, and the Mixolab 2 software converts these measurements into an assessment curve. To ensure that their flour will produce the desired results for their products, the user can then test a batch of flour for these specific parameters.

Determining the Right Flour “Profile” Made Simple

As was previously mentioned, it is best to consider whether the flour will “adapt” to the product rather than thinking of flour as good or bad for the baked good.

That is exactly what the six indices the Mixolab 2 analyzer gathers: Users can put together a profile to help them compare future batches of flour once they have a record of the “ideal” flour for the product (typically achieved after 20 samples).

If the company has multiple production facilities, this not only aids the bakery in ensuring flour quality from batch to batch but also from location to location.

For recipes that use white flour, the Mixolab Profiler is an intuitive application that helps to maintain quality control when evaluating batches of white flour in a visual, simple-to-understand presentation.

  • Each of the six phases from the Mixolab 2 is evaluated on a 0-to-9 number scale
  • As users analyze a batch of dough, the Mixolab 2 will assign a number at each of the six phases
  • After the test is complete, the software outputs the information into a profile that can be used to balance against the profile of an ideal sample of flour

What Makes a Good Flour?

Image Credit: KPM Analytics

The User Can Determine a Good Flour

The user is the best person to understand the product. To control flour quality, incorporating a fast, insightful, and easy-to-use tool is the best option in order to determine an ideal flour profile that can be used to benchmark every flour delivery.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by KPM Analytics.

For more information on this source, please visit KPM Analytics.


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