Today we’ll take a look at the other ingredients in bread. To do this, we analyzed the ingredient lists of over 2,000 breads. The average list had 20-25 ingredients! That’s 5 times more ingredients than you need for a basic bread (flour, water, yeast, salt). It’s important to note, some ingredients, such as dough conditioners used in tiny amounts are not required to be labeled!
Here then, is a list of the most common bread ingredients, with brief explanations where required.
1. Flour - Less than half of the breads included whole wheat flour, the rest were refined or enriched flours.
2. Salt – required for flavor and to balance the fermentation by the yeast. See #4.
3. Water – try baking bread without it
4. Yeast- yeast is a living organism. It ferments the carbs in dough and converts them to carbon dioxide, which makes the dough rise.
5. Vitamins & minerals – this is what’s added to refined flour – Vitmin B1 (thiamin), Vitamin B2 (riboflavin), Vitamin B3 (niacin), folic acid, and iron. Whole grain flours do not need the addition because they contain these nutrient and more in the bran and germ. In fact, enrichment means returning that which hath been stripped away through the refinement of the wheat…
6. Soybean oil – oil or fats used in bread make the crumb (texture) more tender and rich in flavor (and calories!) They also extend shelf life to some extent, preventing the bread from going stale. Soybean is the cheapest possible oil, and thus is used most. If you prepare your own loaf – try olive oil.
7. Wheat gluten - Gluten increases the dough’s ability to rise. It also increases the bread’s structural stability and chewiness. Although gluten is naturally present in flour, it requires substantial kneading to be released. Adding wheat gluten is a shortcut.
8. Calcium sulfate – better known as plaster of Paris – is a clear white rock found in nature. Used here as a dough conditioner. Commercial bakeries employ various dough conditioners for several reasons: (1) to shorten dough rising times (2) to increase shelf life and (3) make the dough easier for their machinery to process.
9. Mono and di-glycerides, ethoxylated mono and di-glycerides – derived from animal or plant sources, these additives have multiple roles – they are dough conditioners (improve texture, increase volume), emulsifiers, and release agents (make it easier to get the bread out of the baking pan). A dough conditioner
10. High-fructose corn syrup – many breads employ a sweetener to improve taste as well as help the dough rise. (Yeast love sugar – they ferment it to create carbon dioxide which is what makes the bread rise. HFCS is the cheapest sugar, and that is why manufacturers use it.
11. Calcium propionate – a preservative that inhibits mold and bacterial growth. Considered safe, but in the early 1990′s it was linked to attention deficit disorder in children.
12. Soy lecithin – a very popular additive that helps bind the various ingredients in the bread, improves shelf life and also helps. Read more on soy lecithin.
13. Sodium stearoyl lactylate – used as an emulsifier used as a dough conditioner. It maintains texture, increase the volume of the loaf, keeps fats mixed well with the dough, and serves as a humectant, to absorb more water per loaf (cheapest ingredient is water!). It is also slightly sweet.
14. Monocalcium phosphate – a leavening agent and preservative.
15. Enzymes – decrease the time it takes dough to rise. The two most popular enzymes used are Amylase and Protease.
16. Ammonium sulfate - food for yeast. Helps the dough rise faster.
17. Ascorbic acid – this is vitmin C. It’s not added for your health, but rather to create a slightly acidic environment for the yeast to ferment more effectively, thus decreasing the time it takes the dough to rise (sound familiar?)
19. Azodicarbonamide – another dough conditioner. It also bleaches the flour (makes it whiter). It’s considered safe in the US at up to 45 parts per million, but is banned from use in Europe because studies showed it could cause asthma or allergic reactions.
20. DATEM – an acronym for Diacetyl Tartaric Acid Esters of Monoglycerides. Another dough conditioner used to improve volume and uniformity. It is considered safe by the FDA, but a study in 2002, on rats, showed “heart muscle fibrosis and adrenal overgrowth”.
- Fooducate’s database product analysis
- A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives