Enzyme applications in baking

Publiceret Oktober 2007

For decades, enzymes such as malt and fungal alpha-amylases have been used in bread-making. Rapid advances in biotechnology have made a number of exciting new enzymes available for the baking industry. The importance of enzymes is likely to increase as consumers demand more natural products free of chemical additives. For example, enzymes can be used to replace potassium bromate, a chemical additive that has been banned in a number of countries.

The dough for bread, rolls, buns and similar products consists of flour, water, yeast, salt and possibly other ingredients such as sugar and fat. Flour consists of gluten, starch, non-starch polysaccharides, lipids and trace amounts of minerals. As soon as the dough is made, the yeast starts to work on the fermentable sugars, transforming them into alcohol and carbon dioxide, which makes the dough rise.

The main component of wheat flour is starch. Amylases can degrade starch and produce small dextrins for the yeast to act upon. There is also a special type of amylase that modifies starch during baking to give a significant anti-staling effect

Gluten is a combination of proteins that forms a large network during dough formation. This network holds the gas in during dough proofing and baking. The strength of this gluten network is therefore extremely important for the quality of all bread raised using yeast. Enzymes such as hemicellulases, xylanases, lipases and oxidases can directly or indirectly improve the strength of the gluten network and so improve the quality of the finished bread.

Table 1 lists some of the bread properties that can be improved using industrial enzymes.




Maximises the fermentation process to obtain an even crumb structure and a high loaf volume

Maltogenic alpha-amylases

Improves shelf-life of bread and cakes

Glucose oxidase

Oxidative reaction with gluten to make weak doughs stronger, drier and more elastic


Modifies the natural lipids in flour to strengthen the dough


Bleaching and strengthening dough


Dough conditioning. Easier dough handling and improved crumb structure


Weakens the gluten to give plastic properties required in doughs for biscuits


Reduces the amount of acrylamid formed during baking

Table 1: some of the bread properties that can be improved using industrial enzymes.

Flour supplementation

Malt flour and malt extract can be used as enzyme supplements because malt is rich in alpha-amylases. Commercial malt preparations can differ widely in their enzyme activity, whereas an industrial enzyme is supplied with a standardised activity.

The alpha-amylases degrade the damaged starch in wheat flour into small dextrins, which allows yeast to work continuously during dough fermentation, proofing and the early stage of baking. The result is improved bread volume and crumb texture. In addition, the small oligosaccharides and sugars such as glucose and maltose produced by these enzymes enhance the Maillard reactions responsible for the browning of the crust and the development of an attractive baked flavour.

Bread and cake staling is responsible for significant financial loss for both consumers and producers. For instance, every year in the USA bread worth more than USD 1 billion is discarded. However the main saving on prolonging the shelf life is actually savings in transportation and fuel costs due to a more efficient distribution. Staling is associated with a loss of freshness in terms of increased crumb firmness, decreased crumb elasticity and loss of moistness.

Staling is believed to be due to changes in starch structure during storage. When the starch granules revert from a soluble to an insoluble form, they lose their flexibility; the crumb becomes hard and brittle. For decades, emulsifiers have been used as anti-staling agents. However, they actually have a limited anti-staling effect and are subject to special labelling rules.

By contrast, Novozymes’ bacterial maltogenic alpha-amylases has been found to have a significant anti-staling effect. It modifies the starch during baking at the temperature when most of the starch starts to gelatinise. The resulting modified starch granules remain more flexible during storage. Bread produced with maltogenic alpha-amylase has a far softer and more elastic crumb than bread produced with distilled monoglycerides as emulsifiers.

As the graphs in Figure 1 and 2 shows the addition of maltogenic alpha-amylase at 45 ppm results in a much softer and more elastic crumb than the addition of high-quality distilled monoglycerides (DMG) at 5,000 ppm.

Softness of American (Sponge and Dough) pan bread using maltogenic alpha-amylase compared to distilled monoglyceridesElasticity of American (Sponge and Dough) pan bread using maltogenic alpha-amylase compared to distilled monoglycerides
Figure 1 & 2 Softness and elasticity of American (Sponge and Dough) pan bread using maltogenic alpha-amylase compared to distilled monoglycerides

Dough conditioning

Flour contains 2.5-3.5% non-starch polysaccharides, which are large polymers (mainly pentosans) that play an important role in bread quality due to their water absorption capability and interactions with gluten. Although the true mechanism of hemicellulase, pentosanase or xylanase in bread-making has not been clearly demonstrated, it is well known that the addition of certain types of pentosanases or xylanases at the correct dosage can improve dough machinability yielding a more flexible, easier-to-handle dough. Consequently, the dough is more stable and gives better ovenspring during baking, resulting in a larger volume and improved crumb texture.

Normal wheat flour contains 1-1.5% lipids, both polar and non-polar. Some of these lipids, especially the polar lipids such as phosphorlipids and galactolipids are able to stabilise the air bubbles in the gluten matrix. The addition of functional lipases modifies the natural flour lipids so they become better at stabilizing the dough. This ensures a more stable dough in case of over-fermentation, a larger loaf volume, and significantly improved crumb structure. Because of the more uniform and smaller crumb cells, the crumb texture is silkier and the crumb colour appears to be whiter. It also reduces the need for addition of emulsifiers like DATEM and SSL that otherwise are commonly added to dough in order to stabilise it. This in turn means that emulsifiers can be removed from the label.

Glucose oxidase and fungal amylase (right-hand loaf) were used to replace bromate in Maraquetta (South American bread)
Figure 3 Glucose oxidase and fungal
amylase (right-hand loaf) were used
to replace bromate in Maraquetta
(South American bread).

Chemical oxidants such as bromates, azodicarbonamide and ascorbic acid have been widely used to strengthen the gluten when making bread. As an alternative, oxidases such as glucose oxidase can partially replace the use of these chemical oxidants and achieve better bread quality.

As shown in Figure 3, glucose oxidase and fungal alpha-amylase can be used not only to replace bromate but also to give a greater bread volume.

The synergistic effects of enzymes

Each of the enzymes mentioned above has its own specific substrate in wheat flour dough. For example, lipases work on the lipids, xylanase works on the pentosans, and amylases work on the starch. Because the interaction of these substrates in dough and bread is rather complex, the use of enzyme combinations can have synergistic effects that are not seen if only one enzyme is used, not even at high dosages. Quite often an overdosage of enzymes will have a detrimental effect on either the dough or the bread. For instance, an overdose of fungal alpha-amylase or hemicellulase / xylanase may result in a dough that is too sticky to be handled by the baker or baking equipment. It is therefore beneficial for some types of bread formulation to use a combination of lower dosages of alpha-amylase and xylanase with low dosages of lipase or glucose oxidase to achieve optimum dough consistency stability and bread quality. Another example is to use maltogenic alpha-amylase in combination with fungal alpha-amylases and xylanase or lipase to secure optimum crumb softness as well as optimum bread quality in terms of crumb structure, bread volume, etc.

Reduction of acrylamide content in food products

During recent years it has been shown that the amount of the potentially carcinogenic substance acrylamide is relatively high in a number of cereal and potato based products like biscuits, crackers, crisp bread, French fries and potato crisps. This is a substance that is formed at high temperatures when the amino acid asparagine reacts with a reducing sugar like glucose. To meet this issue the enzyme asparaginase have been developed in order to reduce the formation of acrylamide. Asparaginase converts asparagine to aspartic acid which does not take part in the formation of acrylamide. The use of an asparginase is able to reduce the formation of acrylamide with up to 90%.