Finax explores sustainable bread baking methods with synchrotron X-rays

Close up image of freshly baked sourdough bread loaf on black and white background

The oven is the largest energy consumer in industrial bakeries. To find more sustainable ways of baking, the bread industry is assessing new methods. Market-leading company Finax used time-resolved synchrotron X-ray microtomography to explore the energy-efficient method of microwave-convective baking.

Increasing energy efficiency during bread baking can lower greenhouse gas emissions and save time, energy, and money. Microwave-convective baking is one way to bake bread in a shorter processing time and maintain the desired bread volume and quality.

Exploring this method, Finax wanted to study whether air bubbles in bread still had time to form in the dough and if the short processing time would affect the water distribution between starch granules and gluten. This influences bread elasticity and bubble formation – how the bread feels in the mouth.

Finax and researchers from RISE, the Faculty of Engineering at Lund University, and MAX IV mounted a tailor-made microwave-convective oven at the TOMCAT beamline at the Swiss Light Source at PSI in Switzerland to study this in-situ.

During a three-day experiment, the team used synchrotron X-ray microtomography to study the baking of bread loaves from different flour types with varying protein content.

They used microwave, microwave-convective, and convective heating.

Mounting of the oven at the beamline. Credit: Emanuel Larsson, The Faculty of Engineering at Lund University.

High-resolution 3D images of the bread structure

The experiment provided the scientists with valuable 3D structure images of the porosity and shape of the bread as well as how the bubbles in the bread formed and their size.

It also revealed that the baking method and flour type significantly influenced the bubble growth kinetics and the final bread structure. 

Reconstructed dough slices before baking (left) and the resulting convectively baked bread (right). Credit: Finax/TOMCAT, SLS, PSI.

The results from this experiment show that bread could be baked with more sustainable microwave-convective technologies and that specific methods and types of flour are more suited to these shorter baking processes.

The new insights into water transportation in bread will also be crucial for Finax in developing fresher bread with an extended shelf life. 

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