Proteases are enzymes that play a critical role in baking, especially when it comes to manipulating the structure of gluten in doughs. These enzymes break down gluten proteins, modifying their properties and influencing the final consistency of the bread.

Functions of Proteases:

  1. Gluten Modification :

    • Proteases degrade gluten proteins, reducing their ability to form an elastic network. This can be useful for softening dough that would otherwise be too elastic and difficult to work with. In particular, in products such as focaccia or other soft breads, moderate protease activity can help achieve the desired texture.
  2. Improved Manipulability :

    • By reducing the strength of gluten, proteases make the dough less tough and easier to roll out or shape. This is particularly advantageous in the production of certain types of flat bread or in applications where greater extensibility is required.
  3. Influence on the Quality of the Final Product :

    • Protease activity must be carefully monitored; excessive degradation of gluten can lead to products that do not maintain their volume and have an excessively dense or compact structure. On the contrary, a properly balanced activity can improve the softness and volume of bread.
  4. Effects on Storage Time :

    • Changes to gluten structure can affect the perceived freshness of bread, reducing the rate at which the product goes stale.

Origins of Proteases:

Proteases can come from the flour itself or can be added as baking improvers. Furthermore, some microorganisms used in natural fermentation (as in some types of yeasts or sourdoughs) can produce proteases during their growth and metabolic activity.

The use of proteases requires careful consideration and dosage in the baking process to ensure that the effects on the final product are as desired. In-depth knowledge of these enzymes allows bakers to exploit their benefits while minimizing unwanted effects.

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