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What is Bread Improver

Updated on December 16, 2012

What Is Bread Improver?

Broadly speaking anything you add to a bread recipe that improves the bread could be called a "bread improver". The term is most commonly used to describe a range of natural or chemical additives that speed up the process of dough development.

Bread improver is especially important in large scale bread production but is also often found in bread machine pre-mixes and other recipes baked in the home kitchen. Bread improver may also be known by other names such as yeast improver, yeast food, dough enhancer, dough conditioner or bread enhancer.

For the home baker looking for a way to make even better bread at home there are plenty of choices. You can even find improvers made from entirely natural ingredients that are good for you as well as your bread.

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Why Use Bread Improver?

The traditional methods of bread production generally involve the use of "sponge and dough" methods whereby part of the dough (the "sponge", or "biga" )is made earlier and allowed to ferment over a period of time. The time required depends on the type of bread being made and may vary from several hours to a full day or even longer.

With the advent of large commercial bakeries producing square condensed loaves a faster method of bread production was required. By eliminating the sponge stage of production the problems of storing large amounts of dough is also removed. Doughs using bread improver without an initial fermentation stage of production are often referred to as "no-time" or "instant" doughs, although a proving stage is still required to allow the bread to rise before baking.

Home bread machines are designed to use a similar process as the large scale bakeries, with the main ingredients all added together and no initial "sponge" stage is required. Most off the shelf bread pre-mixes made for bread machines already contain bread improver. It's even possible for the home bread maker to purchase bread improver pre-packaged off the shelf for use in their own recipes.

Need Some Bread Recipe Ideas?

So What Does Bread Improver Actually Do?

There are 2 main functions performed by most types of bread improver. One is to assist in the gas production (carbon dioxide) during the fermentation process. The other is to help retain the gas by aiding the development and strengthening the gluten which forms the cell structure of the bread. The gluten is essentially made up of proteins, the main 3 being glutenin, gliadin and globulin.

Fermentation is assisted by making more food available to yeast. Yeast is a living organism that consumes simple sugars and produces carbon dioxide and alcohol as waste products. In bread production it's the carbon dioxide that gives volume to the bread. The alcohol evaporates during the baking process and is not present in the finished loaf of bread.

Bread improver's contain amylase enzymes that help to break starch down into simple sugars. The yeast itself also produces amylase enzymes as part of it's natural digestive system but it is a slow process. The addition of enzymes make more food (sugar) available to the yeast in a shorter period of time. Other ingredients such as phosphates and ammonium chloride may also be added as nutrients for the yeast.

Other enzymes (protease) and chemicals in the bread improver assist in the development and softening of gluten. They both strengthen the gluten and make it more malleable so that the cells formed within the bread can stretch easily without tearing. This results in better gas retention and increased bread volume. Again the yeast itself produces protease, but by adding more the process is made to go much faster.

More Things You Can Do With Your Bread Machine

The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook: A Master Baker's 300 Favorite Recipes for Perfect-Every-Time Bread-From Every Kind of Machine
The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook: A Master Baker's 300 Favorite Recipes for Perfect-Every-Time Bread-From Every Kind of Machine

The newer generation of bread machines turn out excellent bread, and after being bombarded with know-how by this award-winning writer, even the most reluctant will be inspired to give it a go. The book opens with an excellent orientation to both the machine and the basics of bread making. Step-by-step instructions are given for a few basic loaves. The 300-plus recipes are so far-ranging it's hard to believe a bread exists that isn't included here.


What is in Bread Improver?

The actual ingredients used in bread improver can vary but the following are some typical examples. Some other chemicals that were commonly used until the 1990s are also mentioned. The ingredients are usually mixed into a soy flour filler as only small quantiites are required. The soy flour used is usually enzyme active (contains helpful enzymes) and adds additional protein to the mix.

Amylase enzymes - assist to break starch down into simple sugars

Protease enzymes - strengthens gluten

Ascorbic Acid - strengthens gluten

Sodium Metabisulfate - gluten softening

L-cysteine - gluten softening

Hydrochloride - gluten softening

Ammonium Chloride - food for yeast

Phosphates - food for yeast

Until the 1990's potassium bromate (often simply called "bromate") was also commonly used to strengthen gluten and calcium propianate was used as a preservative. Since then bromate has been identified as being a possible carcinogen and calcium propionate has been linked to Attention Deficit Disorder. Bromate can still be found in some bread improvers used in the USA.

Yummy Yummy Yummy!

Yummy Yummy Yummy!
Yummy Yummy Yummy!

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    • PatriciaJoy profile image

      PatriciaJoy 5 years ago from Michigan

      Angel blessings. I've been experimenting with bread baking and this is great info. Thank you.

    • profile image

      moonlitta 5 years ago

      Bread is always on our table, probably with the improver it will be even better!

    • sunny saib profile image

      sunny saib 5 years ago

      Great job with the bread lenses. Keep writing.. :)

    • profile image

      Rossicon 5 years ago

      Got myself and my wife a bread making machine and I was extremely curious about this Bread Improver. I wanted to know just what it was because I couldn't find it in the supermarket, however, I think I have a better idea of its function and ingredients now. Thanks..!!

    • bilafond lm profile image

      bilafond lm 5 years ago

      Thank you for a very good lens

    • profile image

      MattS71 5 years ago

      I have been making bread with a bread machine for about six months. The bread comes out fine but now I'm curious about bread improver. Thanks for posting.

    • microfarmproject profile image

      microfarmproject 5 years ago

      Interesting. Thanks!

    • microfarmproject profile image

      microfarmproject 5 years ago

      Interesting. Thanks!

    • profile image

      MyChristmasGifts 5 years ago

      I have always wondered about bread improver so I found this lens very interesting. Thank you for the info to help all of us bake better bread.

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 6 years ago

      Nice lens

    • RuthCoffee profile image

      RuthCoffee 6 years ago

      Interesting. I love homemade bread and since getting my bread machine a few years ago, we have it frequently.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I have never heard of bread improvement, but love this idea; I am sure the bread must become heavenly after using this tip.

    • grandma deal profile image

      grandma deal 6 years ago

      I have to admit, I've never heard of "bread improver" until reading this lens. I've made lots of great bread without it. But now I want some. I'll be trying it out. Also, have lensrolled this to my bread recipe lenses. Thanks for sharing.

    • StevenCousley profile image

      Steven Cousley 7 years ago from Young, NSW, Australia

      @ebzy007: I would not recommend trying to make your own bread improver. Find a good commercial supplier of ingredients and tell them your requirements. They have spent years developing bread improvers and other ingredients. They have already done the work for you.

    • profile image

      ebzy007 7 years ago

      i would like to know what quantity is required on the chemicals of the above do you need when making bread improver as you have indicated that i could make bread improver by using Amylase enzymes,Protease enzymes, Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Metabisulfate, Hydrochloride, Ammonium Chloride and Phosphates.

      Please advise me on how to make bread improver for a production in a bakery

    • StevenCousley profile image

      Steven Cousley 8 years ago from Young, NSW, Australia

      @imodxlstep: I'd like to sell you one. :)

    • profile image

      imodxlstep 8 years ago

      I want to buy cook book.

    • junecampbell profile image

      June Campbell 8 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada

      This is an excellent lens with very clear information, Thank you

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 9 years ago

      I really enjoy your food lenses! Welcome to Culinary Favorites From A to Z.

    • profile image

      KathleenH 9 years ago

      Thanks for all the info on bread improver... I'm thinkin' I might just keep avoiding additives with so many syllables that I can't pronounce them properly, and stick with the usual suspects (like sugar/honey, milk, egg...). Thanks for doing all this research and sharing it with us!