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Dough Quality

Dough is formed when flour is mixed with water. Physical characteristics of bread dough can be evaluated using either dynamic tests, meaning the dough is measured while flour and water are being mixed together, or by static tests that measure dough at rest.

Dynamic tests

As mixing occurs, the farinograph and mixograph trace out curves revealing important information for bakers. The farinograph measures the flour's water absorption before the dough reaches a definite consistency. Hard red spring wheat flour can absorb more water than lower protein flours. This means bakers can make more loaves of bread from a given quantity of flour. Higher water absorption also improves moistness and softness, and increases the shelf-life of the final product.

A farinograph also measures the length of time required to mix dough to a definite consistency and the dough's tolerance to overmixing. Both mixing time, also referred to as peak time, and mixing tolerance generally increase with a rise in the protein content of flour. Ideally, bakers desire a relatively short mixing time and high mixing tolerance. More and more bakeries are automated. If mixing time is too short, the dough may break down. However, if mixing takes too long, production is delayed, more energy is required, and costs increase. Mechanical kneading and handling give dough quite a workout, but the strong gluten in hard red spring wheat enables dough to withstand such stress.

Farinograms and mixograms are rated on a scale of 1 to 8, with the higher values indicating strong mixing characteristics.

Static tests

Both an extensograph and alveograph measure dough elasticity, as well as its strength and resistance to extension. Weak dough tends to spread rapidly under the influence of gravity. It does not rise well and may even allow the carbon dioxide gas to escape. Dough that is too strong may prevent the gas from expanding during rising. The extensograph stretches dough on a hook to measure, while the alveograph uses air pressure to blow a small piece of dough into a bubble.