Jim Gluhosky has had his hands on every part of the process when it comes to yeast-raised baked goods.

“All in all, anything that deals with yeast-raised products, I’ve had experience in it,” Mr. Gluhosky said, “from operations (large and small), to formulations, plant management, efficiencies and quality improvements.” He’s put that experience to good use, having been with Lesaffre Corp. for 23 years. Mr. Gluhosky is currently the company’s senior technical services manager, responsible for breadmaking in the US and Canada.

Mr. Gluhosky first discovered his passion for baking when he started out as a porter in a small retail bakery, washing, cleaning and filling flour bins. He continued to learn hands-on skills such as mixing, shaping, proofing, baking, filling/topping and packaging.

“From the onset, the experience has been very rewarding to me, as each day there are different challenges and discoveries that prove that baking is both an art and a science,” he said.

Mr. Gluhosky graduated from Kansas State University in 1984 with a degree in Bakery Science and Management. Upon graduation, he decided to work on the operations side of wholesale baking. He then spent many years in management, including plant management, at various wholesale bread and bun plants.

His early years at Lesaffre were mostly spent providing demonstrations and service for yeast and fermentation, as well as developing yeast foods specific to the conditions of flour and water quality at each plant. Now, he and his team spend their time on the ingredient side, introducing new ingredients for yeast-raised products that are organic and provide a clean label, longer shelf life, strength, symmetry and flavor. Mr. Gluhosky said they also use dataloggers, risographs and other measuring and quality standard tools to assist with their demonstrations and service calls.

How can plant conditions or water quality impact a finished yeast-raised product?

When plants become warmer and more humid, the rate of fermentation in yeast-raised products increases. That could cause doughs that gas up and proof more rapidly. Conversely, when plants become colder and less humid, the fermentation rate decreases. That causes a slowing down of gassing and proofing.

Adjusting the yeast levels or dough temperatures up or down will help offset these changes.

Additionally, major ingredients such as flour and water can have an impact on yeast-raised products.

Yeast consumes and ferments some of the carbohydrates from the damaged starches of flour due to milling, and the amount of damage as well as enzymes (alpha amylases) present will have a bearing on the amount of carbohydrates that the yeast is able to ferment. The age of the flour and some of its components, such as protein content and quality, can also fluctuate from shipment to shipment, causing many variables impacting gas retention and dough processing. It’s important to ask for a Certificate of Analysis from your flour mill so you can predict what changes need to be made for each shipment that you receive.

For water, the mineral content and alkalinity can affect both fermentation rates and dough processing. Soft water will tend to yield sticky doughs, whereas hard water will slow the fermentation rate. In most cases, your flour will act as a buffer to these effects, but there are times where ingredients could be added to neutralize the water impurities.

What are some ways a formula can be tweaked to address those impacts? How can a bakery keep its yeast-raised products consistent year-round, through humid, hot summers and cold, dry winters?

When your plant experiences a temperature variation, the best way to overcome the effects is to adjust your yeast levels or dough temperatures. Warmer and more humid conditions usually require a reduction in yeast or targeting lower dough temperatures, whereas colder and less humid conditions will require an addition of yeast to your formulas or higher targeted dough temperatures. In warmer months, an increase in the level of mold inhibitors is sometimes warranted.

If your plant is making a sponge or flour brew, the length of fermentation time can be adjusted in cases where sponge storage conditions can’t be controlled.

If your plant has hard (>150ppm) and high alkaline (>100ppm) water, the addition of an acid such as monocalcium phosphate or citric acid could help neutralize the hardness. For soft (<60ppm) water, the addition of calcium sulfate or enzymes that cause a drying effect to the dough will help. It’s recommended that these ingredients should only be considered when producing solid or liquid sponges.

Beyond leavening, how is yeast now used to improve the baking process and enhance product quality?

Beyond leavening, yeast is used for dough processing, nutrition and flavor enhancement. Inactive yeast contains glutathione that acts as a natural reducing agent. Therefore, traditional non-clean label ingredients such as L-cysteine, sodium metabisulfite (BETA) and potassium sorbate can be eliminated from your formula and replaced with inactive yeast. An advantage of using inactive yeast is that it requires mechanical action to cause the reducing affect, so unlike some of the traditional reducing agents, the doughs will not break down and weaken if your production process is halted. Many bakeries are changing their process from sponge/dough to straight doughs, and with this change, it will require additional mixing time that could cause schedule delays and very warm doughs. In order to keep up with processing flow and to obtain your target temperatures out of the mixers, inactive yeast is used to overcome this change.

Yeast is also high in protein and B vitamins, so it can be used to enhance these nutritional aspects.

Yeast extracts are also used in bakery products to enhance the flavor of certain products. Extracts can mimic the umami sense, making for a more intense and savory taste. Recent developments in extracts are also known to mask bitter flavors or enhance buttery or sugar sensations. There are also extracts that have a cheese flavor and aroma.