Is 2011 going to be the year of radical activism? It is when it comes to bread. Students of industrial loaf-making might not torch their bread plants this year, but the arrival of the first major breakthrough in dough processing for many years will at least cause people to sit up and take notice.
It’s called the Radical Bread Process and comes from the same organisation that spawned the Chorleywood Bread Process (CBP) Campden BRI, formerly Campden & Chorleywood Food Research Association. The merits of CBP divide opinion as much as Marmite. But what nobody disputes is that it revolutionised breadmaking when it emerged in 1961, to eventually become the dominant method of breadmaking in the UK.
In essence, CBP is a no-time dough process that is controlled by the energy input to the dough. The process employs mechanical dough development, which uses high-shear mixing to achieve physical changes in the dough that are traditionally brought about over extended time periods by fermentation. It uses a small amount of added fat and an oxidising agent, usually ascorbic acid.
Following mixing, the dough is relaxed and the sheeted and rolled dough is then cut into four pieces, which are turned through 90 degrees when placed in the pan. The result is a fine structure, familiar to anyone who has bought a loaf of wrapped bread.
Following demand in the industry for a new process that uses less energy-demanding mixing, more tolerance to raw materials’ variability and reduced product quality variation, the Radical Bread Process was developed and patents have been filed. The major change is the use of lamination currently largely used in pastry-making. This creates layers of dough. The other change is cutting, so the layers align in one direction. The bread loaf obtained by baking this dough exhibits a unique cellular structure.
Most gas cells in the developed dough are disk-shaped (oblate) ellipsoids. Dough pieces are placed together in a pan, each piece being oriented in such a way that the polar axis of the ellipsoid gas cells coincides with the length dimension of the pan. During the subsequent leavening, the gas cells become elongated in a vertical direction.
In simpler terms, this structure was found to increase the bread crumb’s resistance against tear during spreading. Slices of the loaves are also said to have a very bright appearance, ideal for white bread. What’s more, these loaves have a very regular shape, which should instantly appeal to those industrial producers of sandwich bread.
The system is not yet on the market and is awaiting a major machinery supplier to run with it. With CBP so well established and the high cost and risks involved in adopting a commercially untried system, at a time when input costs in the industry are especially high, its success will rest on its reception within the industry.
Q&A with Gary Tucker, head of baking and cereal processing at Campden BRI
Given that this would involve a big investment in machinery for a plant bakery, what would you say is the overriding benefit?
"The big benefit is bread quality. This is mostly an improved crumb structure because of around 10% more cells, aligned more in one direction than the swirls of a CBP loaf and, hence, a whiter appearance. Also, the crust sides are straighter because of the cell directional effect, which makes this ideal for sandwiches. Whether this is enough of a draw for bakers to invest is difficult to determine. Money is tight in the food industry, so this would need one of the equipment companies to take the lead, but with the collaboration of some bakers. It may be that Campden BRI can encourage this to happen through funding schemes such as the Technology Strategy Board.
How does the mixing stage work?
"The ingredients are first hydrated in a standard mixer, which could be Tweedy, spiral or bar mixer. This is just enough to form a dough that can be moved onto the lamination surface. The dough will be under-developed."
How long does each step in the process take?
"First mix is about 30 seconds to one minute. Laminations can take 5-10 minutes, depending on how many laminations are required to develop the dough to its optimum condition. A very short relaxation or first proof stage is needed, but this can only be two to three minutes instead of the five to seven minutes usually needed with the CBP. The remaining stages of moulding, final proof and baking are the same as with other bread processes."
Is the total process quicker or slower than CBP?
"It takes about the same time, although I suspect that, when scaled up, it will be a bit longer than CBP."
Will this new process change the way people use processing aids such as ascorbic acid or enzymes?
"One of the benefits of developing dough with lamination is that the use of minor ingredients will be different. We have not done much work on this area, but we expect the Radical Bread Process to require a different set of improvers, and possibly fewer of them. For example, ascorbic acid will be less important because the dough does not need to be oxidised so quickly as with the CBP."
Would this process require any changes in ingredients or recipe formulation?
"Yes, there is much scope for ingredient and process optimisation. There may even be the potential for lower-quality flours to be used for breadmaking, but this still needs to be determined."
When you say potential for lower quality flours, are you talking about protein levels?
"Yes, and more specifically the proteins that form gluten when hydrated."
Are there any potential energy reductions?
"The mixing stage of CBP is energy intensive, and a lower energy first mix, followed by more gentle lamination, will result in less energy being used. We cannot quantify this on a like-for-like basis, because we have not done the work. However, initial energy monitoring suggests the Radical process will use less than with CBP. I should point out that baking and cooling both consume more energy than mixing, but any savings must be worthwhile."
Do you believe this will ultimately replace CBP?
"It’s unlikely to replace CBP, because of the success CBP has achieved. However, for the high-quality bread market there could be a place for this."
The Radical Bread Process in a nutshell
l Ingredients are combined into an underdeveloped dough
l Dough is subjected to deformation shear by using lamination
l The developed dough is cut into pieces
l Dough pieces are positioned in a pan so the laminations lie in one direction
l Proving, baking and cooling is the same as for pan bread.