Mulling flour options

by Jeff Gelski
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Protein and moisture content in the 2011 hard red spring wheat crop may appeal to the nation’s flour suppliers and users, and milling alterations thus may be fewer than in other years. Still, a range of options exist to maximize flour quality based on each year’s wheat crop. The options include sourcing from different growing areas as well as the use of vital wheat gluten, emulsifiers, enzymes and hydrocolloids.

A good protein level this year may mean less of a need to add vital wheat gluten. According to an Oct. 14 harvest report from U.S. Wheat Associates, Arlington, Va., the pro-duction adjusted protein content for the hard red spring wheat crop is 14.8%, which compares with 13.9% last year and a five-year average of 14.8%.

“This year’s crop seems to be at good protein levels, but I’m hearing ash counts have been higher, generally speaking,” added Bill Lindquist, sales representative for Caravan Ingredients, Lenexa, Kas.

To meet protein specification, vital wheat gluten may need to be added to flour, said Cary Efurt, sales manager of the milling group for Caravan Ingredients.

“Protein quality is just as important as protein content,” he said. “The content and quality of the protein is an indicator of potential performance of the dough.”

John Larcombe, regional sales manager, milling ingredients, for Caravan Ingredients, agreed, adding, “The quality of the protein is as important, or possibly more important, than the quantity of protein. A hard red wheat crop could have a low protein, which might lead to some problems in making bread such as a smaller loaf volume.

“Higher protein content in hard red wheat results in greater loaf volume in bread. It is desirable to have a low protein for making cake and pastries. Soft wheat has the lowest protein content and less gluten strength than hard wheat.”

He added, “When the protein is too low in hard red wheat, millers can add wheat gluten to supplement the protein deficiency.”

AB Mauri Fleischmann’s, St. Louis, offers Vital-G wheat gluten, said Bill McKeown, vice-president of technology. Vital-G reduces total wheat gluten use in yeast-raised bread and roll formulas by up to 50%. It is made with a blend of enzyme-enhanced glutens.

“This reduction in gluten can also result in a significant cost savings,” he said. “Additionally, Vital-G ensures consistent delivery of other active ingredients and provides processing tolerance and increased finished volume of bakery products.”

According to the Oct. 14 report from the U.S. Wheat Associates, the average flour wet gluten is 36.7% for the hard red spring wheat crop as compared with 33.8% last year and 35.5% for the five-year average.

Moisture content of wheat may be another area of concern for millers, but perhaps not as much for this year’s hard red spring wheat crop. Moisture percentage was 11.9% as compared with 12.5% last year, according to U.S. Wheat Associates.

However, the soft white wheat crop had moisture content of 9.7%, up from 9.4% last year. Protein content was 9.2%, down from 9.7%. For the durum crop, moisture content in 2011 was 11.7%, down from 11.9% in 2010, and protein content was 13.9%, up from 13.3%.

Other wheat crop factors besides protein and moisture content may affect flour strategies.

“Wheat breeders, farmers, millers and bakers all make efforts to reduce the variability in wheat and flour,” said a group assembled by Danisco USA for this article. “However, in spite of all these efforts, there is still significant variability from crop year to year.”

The group consisted of Helle Tornas, industry manager, Janelle Crawford, manager industry marketing, Mark Hotze, key account manager, and Troy Boutte, bakery/fats and oils.

Danisco offers ingredients such

as emulsifiers, enzymes and hydrocolloids to assist millers dealing with flour quality issues because of a wheat crop.

“Bakers generally include at least one ingredient from each of these classes of ingredients to reduce variability and improve processing and overall quality,” the Danisco group said.

Flour variability may result in baked foods with lower volume, poor mixing tolerance, low water absorption, changes in crumb structure and crust color, according to the Danisco group. Danisco’s PowerBake and SureBake lines and Panodan DATEM are effective at smoothing out variations of this nature, according to the Danisco group.

“However, in some cases even fully conditioned doughs may still experience problems due to flour changes,” the group said. “As an example, flour in eastern Kansas this year is low in absorption even with typical conditioning systems. Oxidizing enzymes such as glucose oxidase and hexose oxidase and functional fiber such as Litesse polydextrose or Grindsted GC BAK 130 will increase water absorption and help to overcome this issue.”

Danisco’s Dimodan distilled monoglycerides will reduce the shelf life variability due to flour changes. Dimodan interacts primarily with amylose and impacts crumb softness during the first several days of shelf life.

ADM Milling also makes adjustments based on each year’s wheat crop.

“Most bakers are not aware of the tremendous resources that ADM Milling devotes to new crop transition,” said Dave Green, director of quality control and laboratory services. “ADM starts by following the wheat crop throughout the growing season looking for any potential problems with the crop. This would include yield ideas that enable us to anticipate protein as well as disease and insect outbreaks that may affect quality.”

During the harvest ADM Milling collects more than 600 freshly combined wheat samples as the harvest moves north, Mr. Green said, and added the samples are milled, analyzed and then baked at a central laboratory in Overland Park, Kas. The data is catalogued and shared with grain buyers.

“Armed with this knowledge we are able to select grain and blend it so as to address any quality shortcomings prior to shipping to our customers,” he said. “We accomplish this by sourcing from particular areas, blending as needed from more widespread areas using both hard, soft, winter and spring grown varieties.

“Make no mistake though; Mother Nature has the ability to overwhelm our programs, and in some years we must deal with particular issues by working directly with our customers. In addition to sharing information about changes that need to be made in baking, we offer technical service personnel who are available to assist customers.”

Winter and spring wheat both may be used interchangeably, to a degree and with adjustments to some baking applications. According to the Oct. 25 issue of Milling & Baking News, substitution of hard winter wheat for spring wheat of equivalent protein remained a significant prop to the hard red winter wheat cash market.

Mr. Efurt said he has heard about less supply in this year’s crop and millers adjusting and reaching out to different areas, including areas where they have never sourced before. This year’s crop seems to be high in ash, high in protein and low in moisture, he said. Wheat high in ash content will result in the need to cut more clear flour to get the ash down to customer specifications, he said.

Mr. Larcombe said if wheat has an excess in cereal amylase activity, it negatively affects the starch in flour, which causes poor baking qualities. Other enzymes may be present in greater quantities than usual such as polyphenols and oxidate.

Mr. Lindquist said this year’s crop does not appear to have much sprout damage and vomitoxin. Blending different proteins and ash wheats will aid the millers during the milling process.

“Sprout damage seems to be a big concern with the new wheat crop every year for millers,” Mr. Lindquist said. “It occurs when mature, un-harvested wheat and wheat that has been threshed is subject to wet conditions in the field. As a result there is germination of the wheat kernel, causing a dramatic increase of the enzyme alpha-amylase. In bread, too much alpha-amylase activity will cause wet stick bread crumb with large voids in the loaf and too little causes dry crumble bread crumb and high loaf density.”

Sprout damage has typically been a greater problem in white wheat than in hard red wheat.

Millers may use maturing agents such as oxidizers, additional A, B, and D vitamins and other minerals.

“Anything to help mature the flour during the milling process will aid in the final results,” Mr. Lindquist said. “Adding low p.p.m. levels of ascorbic acid and bromate also bring the maturation levels of the wheat flour to these desired levels.”

Climate change may have an effect on crop quality and milling strategies, too. Roger N. Beachy, president emeritus of the St. Louis-based Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, mentioned climate change while speaking Oct. 7 at the annual meeting of the North American Millers’ Association in Colorado Springs, Colo. (See related story on Page 14.) He cited a prediction at a Washington conference indicating damage from disease and pests will increase by 25% in the 30 to 40 years ahead because of rising temperatures.

According to a 2010 report from Mühlenchemie, Hamburg, Germany, bug damage to grain may be a consequence of climate change. The report also said floods and drought may impair the quality of the grain through sprouting, shriveling or bug damage.

Compounds of active ingredients may strengthen the gluten, reduce the activity of 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 2010.

Rain may impair quality. Kernels germinate on the stalk and produce large amounts of starch-degrading enzymes. They reduce the water-absorption capacity of the flour and the dough becomes soft and sticky. Emulsifiers such as DATEM, lecithin or mono- and diglycerides are helpful as is the addition of vital wheat gluten.

Wet weather also can be a significant factor in vomitoxin occurrence. In 2010 vomitoxin was a major problem in parts of the soft winter wheat growing region of the Central states and some southeastern areas, while lower incidence was reported in hard red winter and spring wheat growing areas. But in 2011 the tables turned as increased incidence of vomitoxin followed a wet spring and growing season for the hard red spring wheat crop grown in the Upper Midwest, while much lower occurrence was reported in the soft winter wheat states to the east and south, with the exception of Pennsylvania, according to the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative’s fall newsletter (See story on Page 16).

Drought conditions in the southern Plains kept vomitoxin levels nil in the 2011 hard red winter wheat crop, although wetter conditions further north resulted in higher levels of vomitoxin in parts of Nebraska and South Dakota.

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