Understanding Flour Treatments

Tim Huff

By: Tim Huff

Bleaching: makes the flour whiter

The term “bleaching” is a traditional baking industry term that describes the process of whitening. Technically speaking, the carotenoid (yellow) pigments in the flour are oxidized to produce whiter flour. Oxidization will occur naturally, over time, with the exposure of flour to air. Historically, millers would age flour for several weeks to achieve white flour. This natural oxidation, however, was an irregular process requiring considerable time and space. Today, the bleaching process is accomplished using chemical bleaching agents. Flours treated with these bleaching agents must be labeled as bleached flour.

Maturing: strengthening of the flour

For pizza flour, the term maturing implies the strengthening of dough forming properties, thus improving gas retention of the gluten. Common maturing agents include potassium bromate (used mainly in the mid-west and the east) and ascorbic acid (used mainly in the west). While the effects on pizza doughs are minimal compared to bread and bagels, matured flour will generally exhibit increased crust height, finer grain and stronger chew.

Malting: addition of malted barley flour

Malted barley flour is added to hard wheat flours to assist yeast fermentation. During the dough forming stage, malted barley flour provides specific enzyme activity that converts the starches in the wheat flour into simple sugars. These sugars are very important as they provide a food source for the yeast to maintain proper fermentation activity and aids in proper crust browning.

Enrichment: addition of nutrients to the flour

Enriching replaces the vitamins and minerals loss during the milling process. The standard flour enrichment includes iron and the B vitamins, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid. The enrichment of flour has no effect on the baking performance or caloric value of flour.

Should I use “treated” or “untreated” flour?

For most pizza operators, “untreated” means unbleached and unbromated flour. Using this definition, let’s talk about the effect on your dough:

  • Unbleached: An unbleached flour will have no different functional effect on your dough or crust for handling, taste or texture—it is purely an aesthetic difference. Unbleached flour will cause your dough to be a little less “white”. Both your dough and crust will have a slightly creamier color.
  • Unbromated: An unbromated flour will function a little differently in the dough forming stage and will produce a little “weaker” dough. While the difference is minimal for a pizza dough it is still a difference. Some operators will increase mix time 1 to 2 minutes and reduce water 1 – 2% to achieve the same dough strength.

Why would I consider an “untreated” flour?

In a time of food “simplification”, many pizza patrons are looking for “cleaner” labels from their favorite pizzerias. Moving to an unbleached and unbromated flour is a relatively easy move to meet this expressed need—the effects on your dough and crust are minimal compared to potential value for your patrons. General Mills offers untreated versions of our most popular flour used in the pizza industry.

Download our Untreated Flour Portfolio or call your distributors today to see if these products are available for you to try.