To put it in a nutshell: Enzymes are proteins that occur naturally in EVERY living being. Without them, life on Earth would not be possible! So it is in the human body, where enzymes are present in large quantities. This is how our entire metabolism functions, in particular digestion. Enzymes have been used for thousands of years in the production of food. When producing bread, wine, cheese or fruit juice, the same enzymes that can be found in the human body are used.
Where do enzymes come from?
Some enzymes commonly used in the production of baked goods occur naturally in raw plant materials e.g. amylases (form when grains germinate -> malt) or lipases in soybeans and soy flour. Many enzymes are the “tools” of microorganisms, which use them to make food available. Thus, microorganisms (bacteria, yeast, fungi) are specifically used to produce enzymes by means of fermentation. The enzymes produced in this way are standardised with regard to their activity. This allows them to be used to guarantee consistent quality and consistent conditions for the production of dough. The naturally occurring enzymes in flour are normally not stable enough. Their activity can vary from time to time.
What do enzymes do?
They very efficiently and specifically effect all required metabolic processes. Enzymes are much like a biocatalyst - they ensure that everything goes faster, especially under difficult conditions. They act as little scissors, which can “snip apart” the larger molecules (they perform a type of digestion).
It has long been known that enzymes affect the baking capability of flour, be it the enzymes already contained in the flour or those added, such as in the form of malt flour. What is important here is the proper dosage, as enzymes are already effective in minuscule quantities.
During the heating process itself, they are deactivated (denatured), thus having no effect whatsoever in the finished product and are ultimately present only as very minor quantities of protein.
The following enzymes are used in the production of baked goods:
Amylases There are different types of amylases, but they all have one thing in common: they break starch molecules into smaller pieces. This releases glucose, malt sugar and dextrins, which serve as nourishment for baker’s yeast and promote the browning of the crust. By changing the starch structure in the dough, amylases can also be used to improve fresh-keeping by slowing down the aging process i.e. the retrogradation of the starch.
Hemicellulases (pentosanases/xylanases) and cellulases break down the dietary fibre present in the dough (plant fibres such as cellulose and hemicellulose fibres) into smaller pieces. This results in a higher water absorption of these substances. Dough becomes drier and less sticky and the volume of the baked goods increases.
Oxidases and proteinases influence the protein structure in the dough. This changes the dough properties: the dough becomes more elastic or firmer. This in turn affects the processing properties of the dough and ultimately the appearance of the baked goods (e.g. volume, shape, evenness).
Lipases influence lipids (fats) or fat-like substances. This results in cleavage products with emulsifying i.e. cohesive properties. This helps to reduce or replace emulsifiers, which are added, for example, to improve fresh-keeping or gas retention for increased volume.
Effects that can be achieved with enzymes in the production of baked goods:
Longer shelf-life, resulting in less bread waste (throwing away)
Browning of the crust
More delicate crispness
Increasing the water binding capacity – resulting in a drier, less sticky dough
Increasing the fermentation tolerance (by boosting glutens and reducing the stickiness)
Reducing the contraction of the dough
Partial or complete refraining from the use of emulsifiers by using enzymes
Reducing the formation of acrylamide during baking
BOTTOM LINE: Enzymes deserve consumers’ trust - their poor reputation is mainly a result of incorrect information and a lack of knowledge.
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