Advantages and disadvantages of the use of bread wheat to make pasta

28 January 20224 min reading

Durum wheat is the ideal raw material for pasta, but bread flours from soft wheat are finding more and more use as alternatives. Despite their disadvantages for making pasta, their lower prices and higher availability are compelling arguments. Their deficits can be overcome with the right treatment.

Jana Russnak
Head of Pasta Applications

Durum wheat (Triticum durum) is the preferred grain for pasta. Making pasta of high quality in terms of texture, colour, flavour and appearance requires the right manufacturing processes, and especially the right choice of raw materials. Durum wheat differs from normal soft or common wheat (Triticum aestivum) by virtue of its glassy, very hard consistency. It is normally milled into semolina, preventing major damage to the starch. This semolina is also called durum semolina, and has a somewhat coarse particle size, which makes it ideal for the manufacture of pasta and couscous.

Durum wheat is the first choice for pasta

Another property of durum wheat is its comparatively low starch content, combined with a high content of gluten proteins that have a particularly firm structure. This is due to the special structure of the gluten proteins and the ratio of the glutenin and gliadin protein fractions, which have a major influence on the final product. They give the pasta its slow but sustained water absorption, and thereby its firm bite. Furthermore, the starch grains are not washed out as easily during cooking, so the pasta retains its shape and doesn’t get sticky. In addition, durum wheat has a high carotinoid content, which gives the pasta made from it a golden yellow colour.

Bread flour is a low-cost alternative – but one with disadvantages Although durum wheat’s balanced ratio of protein to starch and its special gluten characteristics make it the ideal choice for pasta, more and more pasta factories are turning to regular bread flour from soft wheat. Bread flour is a low-cost alternative, and is also more widely available on the wheat market. However, the use of these flours, whose protein content is often only 10-11 percent, can negatively affect product quality as well as machine workability. Due to the lower protein and higher starch content of the flour, the dough has lower water absorption capacity and tends to clump during processing. The use of soft wheat for pasta also frequently results in problems during drying, and makes it hard for manufacturers to set the ideal drying parameters. Furthermore, the cooked pasta is stickier than durum pasta, has a pale-greyish appearance, a softer bite and a more uneven surface structure.

Pastazym boosts pasta quality

Mills and pasta makers who don’t want to accept compromises of this nature find that the enzymatic flour treatments from the Pastazym range present an effective solution for improving process and product quality. Even very small amounts of these tailored enzymes and additives can compensate for deficits in raw materials, resulting in pasta flours with high performance. The focus is on the quality parameters of bite, stickiness, stability, cooking loss and colour intensity.

Enzymes with different specific effects are used in precise combinations with emulsifiers, vital gluten, natural colours, ascorbic acid and other additives, to greatly strengthen the dough matrix and give it an intense yellow colour. To obtain the best possible results when upgrading pasta flour, the individual ingredients need to be precisely adapted to the characteristics of the starting flour and the processing machinery that will be used in making the pasta.

With its Pastazyme product range, Mühlenchemie has been instrumental in bringing flour upgrading to the pasta industry. The company’s innovative compounds and enzyme systems are developed in the Pasta Lab at the Stern-Technology Center in Ahrensburg near Hamburg, Germany. Here, applications technologists can replicate the complex interplay of processing technology, recipe and flour treatment under near-industrial conditions. At its heart is a production and drying system by Italian manufacturer Pavan, which permits the simulation of industrial processes at laboratory scale. Thanks to this combination of raw materials knowledge and processing expertise, Mühlenchemie is uniquely positioned to develop the ideal system solution for every customer’s flour and every requirement.

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