Wikipedia defines a dough conditioner as “any ingredient or chemical added to bread dough to strengthen its texture or otherwise improve it in some way. Examples of dough conditioners include ascorbic acid, monoglycerides and diglycerides, ammonium chloride, enzymes, DATEM, and calcium salts such as calcium iodate.”
This is a pretty accurate express definition in our opinion and we were pleasantly surprised when Wikipedia continues on and says the following:
“Less processed dough conditioners [can] include sprouted- or malted-grain flours, soy, milk, wheat germ, potatoes, gluten, yeast….”
In the industrial baking industry many ingredients (chemically synthesized and of natural origin) are lumped into the term dough conditioner without distinctly separating and classifying each. There is (or was) no negative association when developing a dough conditioner. Maybe we have been too familiar with the all encompassing term, its usage and the all inclusive (chemical or natural) definition that we missed the climate change when the public perception or consumer’s understandings interpreted that a dough conditioner was considered a negative thing. And, that any usage of something called a dough conditioner deemed that the product being baked could not be good, healthy or natural and most certainly must be of below par baking standard. But as Wikipedia also correctly pointed out, a dough conditioner can include familiar looking ingredients performing conditioning qualities to the dough.
Judging from what is read in current media, the current perception of the words dough conditioner seems to be negative. It shouldn’t be. Originally a dough conditioner was an added ingredient (s) added to flour, yeast, water and salt to treat the dough to give it the strength needed to manufacture a final baked product on a large scale. Sure it consisted of chemically synthesized ingredients but it also consisted of those natural origin (more familiar looking) ingredients as well. Regardless of the source, they were (are) added to condition the dough and provide more strength.
We at Equichem develop and manufacture dough conditioners as part of our bakery product line. We are developing ingredients and blends that will strengthen the dough allowing it to be mixed, kneaded, handled and properly baked according to final product goals. Our dough conditioner definition is the all encompassing traditional definition. We will use natural origin (more familiar looking ingredients) and chemically synthesized ingredients to get your product produced with the final baking characteristics that was envisioned.
How do we internally deal with the perceived negativity associated with the term dough conditioner? Well, we’d like everyone to think of something that is more familiar to consumers: hair conditioner! Should a negative association apply to a product called hair conditioner? A blend of ingredients that millions of consumers willingly put on their own hair every day? Should negativity apply to those companies developing hair conditioners? A hair conditioner is defined by Wikipedia as “a hair care product that changes the texture and appearance of hair.” Is anyone’s hair thought of as being sub par if hair conditioner ingredients (chemically synthesized or of natural origin) are used on their head? No. People brag about what conditioner they use! Their hair conditioner was a life changer! Their hair has never been better since using this or that conditioner! They blog about it, hash tag it and share references.
Why the difference? Maybe because consumers identify with the end result of perceived beauty as being good and without negativity attached to it. Let’s try it out and see if perceptions are swayed to the positive when thinking about the baking industry and the use of dough conditioners. Beauty in the baking industry is below. Are dough conditioners sometimes used to help these products be who they are and who they are supposed to be? Yes.
Choose your ingredients properly. Bake Well.
– Love, Equichem