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I purchased a bread maker years ago and am happy with the bread I make with it. I was at a cooking supply store and saw Bread Improver for sale in a jar, apparently for bread makers.

What is it? Does anyone else use it, and what does it do?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Bread Improver is a mix of various acids and enzymes that serve to strengthen the gluten in the flour and feed the yeast, both of which yield a better loaf. The idea is to give bread a similar texture and taste to sourdough-based loaves, without having to go through the laborious feeding process usually involved with that method.

For more information, look at this Wikipedia article.

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Wow, never heard of it. Do you know if it works? –  Henrik Söderlund Jan 21 '11 at 14:14
    
I've never used it personally, but most commercial bread has been made using it since the 1950s. –  ElendilTheTall Jan 21 '11 at 14:41
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@Henrik- I've used the varieties that contain citric acid and lecithin. It isn't required for good bread but it does cause a modest but noticeable improvement to the bread structure. It is used more often with bread machines as they need all the help they can get. –  Sobachatina Apr 14 '11 at 13:45
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I think the bread improver are not required when we make bread in small quantity and provided we get the same quality of flour every time but when we make bread in large quantity in machines then these bread improver help in achieving consistent quality. it gives the dough the strength to withstand the machine power and reduces the time consumed in production of the bread

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I'm surprised to see these marketed at the home baker ... one of the reasons to be making your own bread is to avoid all the unnecessary junk commercial bread contains! Admittedly, some of them might be relatively natural things, but it's still definitely unnecessary.

There's a good description of improvers in this article on gluten development.

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If you want to learn more about enzymes, Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Bread is a great place to start. In it he indicates that enzyme development is the next big field of research for bakers. –  justkt Jan 26 '11 at 18:47
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Unnecessary doesn't necessarily mean it's bad; I think the main reason food additives aren't more common among home cooks is not because there's anything wrong with using them (although some people certainly do have... aversions), but because there are so many of them and they can be difficult to understand or use correctly. Most home cooks care particularly about convenience since they aren't going to be spending all day cooking, so if you're one of them, it often pays to be open-minded. –  Aaronut Jan 26 '11 at 18:56
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It's easy to try to go "anti-additives", but many additives were created and are used for legitimate purposes. It's overuse of additives that is a problem. Bread improver smoothes the texture of the loaf and makes the yeast reaction more predictable, both of which make it more likely the bread will last more than 24 hours. –  staticsan Jan 30 '11 at 8:10
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