The Science of Baking Bread: Food Processing Research Aims to Create the Perfect Loaf
In the past few months, I’ve adopted a new hobby of baking bread. I’ll offer one disclaimer for anyone who wants to skip on the beach in a bathing suit: don’t pick up a bread-baking hobby. You probably shouldn’t take up any food-related hobby, for that matter. But it’s cold where I live, and hot, fresh bread just hits the spot. In the past, I’d pay $3 to $4 for a loaf of French bread for a special occasion. The majority of my bread purchases, however, were for the plain old white variety. I know, “the whiter the bread, the quicker you’re dead.” But I wasn’t really a bread connoisseur. Truthfully, I just need something to slather butter on.
Thus, I’ve delved into the world of yeast, water and flour in an effort to save some money and make some good bread. Throughout my practice, I have come to realize that it’s really hard to consistently bake a perfect loaf. Baking bread isn’t a process that’s frequently practiced in our society anymore. It’s time-consuming and can be difficult to master. Most people prefer to outsource that process to people who are experts in bread making. And even for the experts, it’s not always easy to create loaves of bread that everyone will love. Food and beverage research firms not only have to create the perfect formulation, but also need to scale up their dough to make thousands of loaves that can be shipped all over the country. No doubt, food processing research labs have to consider taste, texture and shelf-life when trying to create the perfect loaf.
So what goes on in a food processing research lab trying to bake the perfect loaf of bread? It’s much the same as what I do in my kitchen: a lot of trial and error (except they probably don’t eat the bread that they consider a flop). And as I optimize my recipes by adding more yeast, cutting the salt and increasing rise time, I wish I kept better records of what works and what does not. I always think I’ll remember what I’ve changed from one attempt to the next, but things inevitably get busy and I just revert to the original recipe. Large food processing labs don’t have that luxury. They need to completely document their experiments to avoid repeating unnecessary work. An electronic laboratory notebook (ELN) can significantly help food scientists keep track of formulation work. While an ELN is probably not the right solution for my needs, it is certainly a tool that large manufacturers and labs should consider. Let’s review some of the ELN benefits these labs may experience as they aim to bake the perfect loaf of bread:
From water volumes to flour types, baking temperatures to preservative selection, food processing labs have a lot of variables to keep straight when developing bread formulations. An ELN keeps a permanent digital record of every experiment performed with the ability to quickly search for entries by date, project or keyword.
Though many variables may change from one loaf of bread to the next, there are some things that will remain the same. An ELN offers digital features like entry cloning and access to frequently-used protocols and result data sheets so that users don’t need to record the same steps every time they add an entry.
Too many cooks may spoil the broth, but research is rarely performed in isolation. An ELN provides a digital interface for multiple users to post entries and correspond in real-time. The ELN can be conveniently accessed through a web browser from any location, and security features ensure that only approved users are able to access designated projects.
Large-scale bread bakers invest significant resources in their food processing lab as they develop bread formulations and preparation parameters. An ELN can help them keep their recipes organized and updated, and ensure that they don’t unnecessarily repeat work. Visit our website to learn more about how the BIOVIA Notebook can help your food processing research lab develop effective product formulations.