At Krakow's University of Agriculture, in Poland, a team of human nutrition specialists are baking bread. They are investigating the relation between the fermentation process of the dough and the glucose levels of those who eat the bread. During the fermentation process simple sugars in the dough are converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide. These sugars are the cause for a high glycaemic-index in the bread. The team wants to prove that a longer fermentation time results in reduced glucose levels in humans, since there is less sugar in the baked bread for the body to absorb. Fifteen volunteers (all students at the University) are given exactly 111 grams bread of a carefully followed recipe. Blood samples are taken four times during the next one and a half hours, to coincide with different stages of digestion. Results leading to a reduced glycaemic index will be of particular interest to those suffering from Type 2 diabetes, as well as those trying to avoid it.
The experiment at Krakow is just one of many elements to the project. A sophisticated scanning laser at the ENITIAA institute in Nantes is used to determine the exact shape of a bread-roll, from which a computer calculates the volume. The volume can reveal a lot about the quality of the bread: how well the bread has risen, how well aerated it is. The scanner is also used to analyse the shape and texture of bread crumbs. The measurement of the number and size of air bubbles in the bread, enabled through the resolution achieved by this scanner, could help avoid problems during baking like the over-contraction of crumbs.
At the research institute CEMAGREF, in Rennes in France, a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectrometer helps experts to see how the expanding gases created during fermentation determine the shape, volume and porosity of the resultant bread. The pictures from beneath the crust have shown researchers how the top, middle and bottom of the bread expand in different ways.
The work of the EU-FRESHBAKE project will also be beneficial to the techniques of traditional bakeries. Despite the obvious differences between traditional and industrial baking processes, the important aspects are the same: the fermentation methods, the recipe and the types of flour used. There is, across the
entire bread baking field, plenty of room for improvement in terms of nutritional quality and low energy demands - improvements in the interest of both consumer and environment.