Mühlenchemie develops compounds to improve damaged wheat

by World Grain Staff
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AHRENSBURG, GERMANY — Mühlenchemie announced recently that in response to the growth in extreme climatic conditions around the globe it has developed special compounds to produce bakeable flours even from substandard lots of wheat.

Mühlenchemie noted that one direct consequence of climate change is an increase in bug damage to grain. During unusually long periods of dry weather — as in Russia last summer — the insects attack unripe, green wheat grains and exude an enzyme that breaks down protein and thus damage the gluten. From the nutritional point of view the consumption of products baked from bug-damaged flour involves no danger whatever, but such flour is often difficult to process. Depending on the extent of the damage, the dough can lack elasticity and can become soft and malleable.

Mühlenchemie said that the latest results of research and baking trials show how these problems with the raw material can be overcome. “With the aid of special compounds of active ingredients you have to strengthen the gluten, reduce the activity of the protein-degrading enzymes as far as possible and improve the baking properties of the dough in general,” said Lutz Popper, head of Research and Development at Mühlenchemie.

In a series of tests with bug-damaged Romanian and Bulgarian flour from the last two harvests, Mühlenchemie said its additives Alphamalt BE 19124 and Alphamalt WT 1, in particular, produced excellent results in respect of dough properties, increased volume yield and the quality of the crumb. The balanced combination of enzymes, ascorbic acid and acidity regulators made it possible to use a large percentage of bug-damaged flour together with flour from sound grain to make marketable bakery products, Popper explained.

Besides drought, rain at the wrong time can severely impair the quality of the grain. Heavy rainfall shortly before harvesting causes the kernels to germinate on the stalk, producing large amounts of starch-degrading enzymes. Mühlenchemie noted that these enzymes reduce the water-absorption capacity of the flour; the doughs become soft and sticky. The shape and volume of the loaves suffer from the poor stability of the dough. Late frosts at night have similar effects. They disrupt the maturing process of the ears, with the result that enzymes which are only needed for breaking down the kernels do not form back before the wheat is ripe. Both of these previously unusual phenomena were observed during the last Australian wheat harvest.

Flour improvers are able to compensate for such harvest damage, too, but their use demands skill and sensitivity, as Popper emphasized. Whereas it would be no problem to add twice or even four times the usual amount of flour maturing and oxidizing agents such as ascorbic acid to sprout-damaged flour, care has to be taken when dosing xylanase. Emulsifiers such as DATEM, lecithin or mono- and diglycerides are helpful, as is the addition of vital wheat gluten. And acidity regulators have an extremely positive effect on dough stability.

“In our baking trials, the addition of as little as 0.1% Rowelit – an acid and mineral complex with a buffer effect — had a highly favorable influence on the water absorption and stability of sprout-damaged flours. This product is quite certainly an effective means of compensating for the effects of rain-damaged wheat and rye harvests,” Popper said.