Bakers have been turning to enzymatic solutions for the last quarter century to manage a variety of issues with bread and all manner of baked goods. Every year, new alternatives are developed and new applications for those enzymes are discovered.

“The enzyme types and specificity are constantly improving with continuous evolving science and modern technology,” said Luc Casavant, director, baking applications, Lallemand Baking. “Not only the types but also the quality of enzymes is improving, allowing for new and innovative enzymatic solutions for the baking industry in line with the clean label trend.”

As consumers seek out clean labels, bakers are following suit, replacing long-standing ingredients with their natural counterparts. This surge in enzyme interest has resulted in increased usage in recent years.

“Since enzymes provide such a wide range of solutions for a variety of baked goods, use and dependency has become increasingly popular,” said Jerry Savino, technical services manager, bakery, Kemin Food Technologies. “A single enzyme, or a synergistic blend, can provide bakers with the ability to enhance the texture of doughs for breads, pastries, biscuits, cakes and other sweet goods. Enzymes have also gained popularity as a clean label replacement for other synthetic ingredients not as desirable to consumers. This has been a hot area of innovation in recent years, further fueling enzyme use. 

Enzymes provide clean label options for breads and other baked foods in a variety of ways, such as dough rheology and strengthening as well as shelf life extension.

“The most common uses for enzymes in baked goods are for crumb softening and dough strengthening,” said Troy Boutte, vice president, innovation, AB Mauri North America. “Both categories encompass several areas. Crumb softening is a general term that includes anti-staling and texture modifications like increased moistness and crumb resilience. Dough strengthening is also a general term that includes conditioning. This includes improving the handling properties of dough, baked volume, crumb grain structure and the cohesiveness or strength of the crumb.”

He added that he is starting to see a greater appreciation for the use of enzymes in sweet baked goods to assist with shelf life and texture.

“They work very well to improve eating quality in cakes, donuts, muffins and especially products that are not frozen,” Mr. Boutte added. “In sweet goods, where it is mostly about indulgence, achieving great texture throughout shelf life is critical.”

In fact, enzyme usage is expanding into a variety of items made in bakeries.

“Softening enzymes are available in applications as varied as breads to cakes to tortillas,” said Ben Ruesser, innovation center manager for Cain Food Industries Inc. “There have been advancements in certain enzymes to improve their effectiveness in rich and buttery products while minimizing rancidity that was caused by previous generations of that enzyme.” 

In recent years, bakers have turned to enzymes to help them when other ingredients are in short supply or to manage rising costs.

“The recent shortages of vital wheat gluten and certain emulsifiers have opened a huge opportunity for enzymes manufacturers and formulators to re-think how they can achieve superior performance in a different way,” said Mark Zielonka, BreadPartners’ national R&D product specialist. “At certain levels, replacement of vital wheat gluten with enzymes provides excellent results, often better than vital wheat gluten alone at a better price and with no problems with sourcing.”

Enzymes can act as oxidizing and stabilizing agents when blended in the right amounts, Mr. Ruesser said.

“These blends provide structure, oven spring, dough machinability and tolerance to rough processing conditions that the baker can rely less on gluten and emulsifiers in products like breads,” he said. “Emulsifiers do still reign supreme in areas like cakes.”  

Enzyme dependence has increased in the past few years for several reasons, including the pandemic, consumer desire for clean label and the fact they are viable, consistent products, said EB Russell, business development manager, Lesaffre.

“Enzyme applications have started to expand into so many different product options,” she said. “As more diverse enzymes enter the market, applications for use have expanded. Bakers can now utilize enzyme blends to help improve the gluten network, reduce floor time, help relax the dough and make it easier to machine. They can look at enzymes to help produce clean label products, replace fat systems, replace DATEM, help provide strength and lessen the use of vital wheat gluten.”

Mr. Savino emphasized the improvements enzymes have made in manufacturing capabilities, especially in quality and waste management.

“One important area of enzyme application use over the past couple of years has been around shelf life extension,” he said. “As local and global supply chains are disrupted, increased product shelf life eases manufacturers’ supply chain worries.

This article is an excerpt from the March 2023 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Enzymes, click here.