Bubble structures in bread dough imaged using synchrotron

April 18th, 2013 · No Comments · Agriculture, Biology, Chemistry, News Release, Research, Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceutica, physics

Baking the perfect loaf of bread is both a science and an art, so researchers are using Canada’s only synchrotron to look at the way bubbles form in bread dough to understand what makes the perfect loaf and how gluten-free products might better resemble traditional bread. 

Researchers from the University of Manitoba alongside scientists at the Canadian Light Source (CLS) synchrotron in Saskatchewan used powerful X-rays to look carefully at the fine details of dough. This is the first time that scientists have been able to see the very small bubbles that form within bread dough during the mixing process.

Filiz Koksel, a doctoral student at the U of M, says that studying the makeup of the bubbles will help bakers create more consistent loaves of bread.

“During the mixing process, bits of the dough flop over and trap air in the dough,” explains Koksel. “The air bubbles get smaller and smaller during mixing and they make up around ten per cent of the volume of the dough-it’s a significant ingredient.”

The amount and the size of the bubbles in the dough changes based on the ingredients and the amount of mixing that takes place. Changes to either the mixing process or the ingredients can have drastic effects on the outcome of the dough.

“For example, using less salt often results in more air that can ruin your dough, giving you bread with big keyholes,” Koksel adds.

Visualizing the structure of the dough is something CLS scientist George Belev said was a unique experiment for him.

“The 3D visualization of the bubbles in the dough requires a very fast, high-resolution computed tomography (CT) experiment which is only possible with high-intensity synchrotron X-ray sources like the ones available on the Biomedical imaging and Therapy beamline at the CLS,” says Belev. “We take 600 images in less than a minute as the sample rotates over 180 degrees to obtain a 3D image of the bubbles in the dough sample.”

After processing the data, Belev says that one small sample of dough (about 83 mm3) contained over 24,000 tiny bubbles.

“The data clearly proves the air bubble population in the dough sample is very complex.”

There are health benefits to the research as well that could allow bakers to cut back on the amount of salt (sodium) in the dough and still allow for a good crumb structure.

Koksel also hopes the results will translate into better crumb textures for gluten-free products.

“Gluten is great at holding onto gas. When you remove the gluten, there is difficulty with the gas holding properties of the dough, so our research will help us understand how to make better gluten-free products.”

About the CLS:

The Canadian Light Source is Canada’s national centre for synchrotron research and a global centre of excellence in synchrotron science and its applications. Located on the University of Saskatchewan campus in Saskatoon, the CLS has hosted 2,600 researchers from academic institutions, government, and industry from across Canada and 20 countries on over 5,600 user visits, delivering over 20,000 experimental shifts to users since 2005. CLS operations are funded by Western Economic Diversification Canada, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, National Research Council of Canada, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Government of Saskatchewan and the University of Saskatchewan.

Synchrotrons work by accelerating electrons in a tube at nearly the speed of light using powerful magnets and radio frequency waves. By manipulating the electrons, scientists can select different forms of very bright light using a spectrum of X-ray, infrared, and ultraviolet light to conduct experiments.

Synchrotrons are used to probe the structure of matter and analyze a host of physical, chemical, geological and biological processes. Information obtained by scientists can be used to help design new drugs, examine the structure of surfaces in order to develop more effective motor oils, build more powerful computer chips, develop new materials for safer medical implants, and help clean-up mining wastes, to name a few applications.

For more information visit: http://www.lightsource.ca

For photos to accompany this story and more images from the CLS visit our Flickr gallery: http://www.flickr.com/photos/clsresoff/

For more information, please contact Mark Ferguson, communications coordinator, Canadian Light Source, at: 1-306-657-3739 or email: mark.ferguson@lightsource.ca

Filiz Koksel can be reached for comment at: 204-960-6205

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