Repeatedly we hear that dough conditioners are "magical". "My loaves are so much bigger and lighter now." "My dough is so much easier to work with." Can dough conditioners really be that good?
Dough conditioners can make quite a difference, even making a good bread great. But dough conditioners are proprietary—each producer has its own formula and those formulas are usually closely guarded and of course, some work much better than others. You’ll have to experiment to find which works best for you—but it’s worth the effort. Dough conditioner is indispensable to the baking of great breads.
Look for a good, commercial grade conditioner that you can use for both pastries and breads. Commercial grade conditioners tend to be powerful and take as little as 1/2 teaspoon per loaf while many of the conditioners that we see in the grocery stores require much more than that. Considering what a dough conditioner can do, it may be the best bargain in baking often costing less than ten cents per loaf. And dough conditioners are easy to use: just add the dough conditioners with your flour.
What should a good dough conditioner do?
• A good dough conditioner creates an enhanced environment for the growth of yeast helping to make your breads and pastries more uniform and lighter. Yeast prefers a slightly acidic environment for growth and a good dough conditioner will alter the pH of the dough.
• A good dough conditioner will strengthen the gluten structure in the dough so that it stretches further with more elasticity. The enhanced gluten will allow the bread to rise further for a lighter loaf and make the bread "chewier".
• A good dough conditioner will encourage the development of gluten. Gluten is a combination of two proteins found in wheat flour, gliadin and glutenin. With a good dough conditioner, more of the protein will combine into gluten.
• Some dough conditioners also retard staling and help your bread stay fresher longer.
• Dough conditioners may also provide nutrients to feed the yeast.
Copyright 2007, The Prepared Pantry (http://www.prepraredpantry.com ). Published by permission
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Dennis Weaver is a baker, a recipe designer, and a writer. He has written many baking guides and How to Bake, a comprehensive baking and reference e-book--available free at The Prepared Pantry which sells baking and cooking supplies and has a free online baking library.