I've been experimenting lately with making bread. Specifically with making whole wheat bread. It is something that I have done most of my life, but lately I have tried to be somewhat scientific about it all. When I first began to make bread, it was atrocious. That was 40 years ago. I didn't use enough liquid and put in too much flour. And tried to knead it by hand. It was a disaster. After a few lessons, I got better. For quite a few years I made tolerable bread, heavier than store bought, but edible.
A few months ago I found out about soaking the wheat grains, and even wheat flour itself, before grinding to breakdown the phytic acid. This allows for more nutrients to be released and for a more nutritious end product. And, it makes for a softer texture and fluffier product as well. All of this is done by commercial bakers by the use of dough enhancers. Potassium bromate and/or Azodiacarbomide do the exact same thing, in less time, and at a very tiny cost per loaf. Of course the problem is that both of these chemicals are class 2 carcinogens and are outlawed for use in just about every other country in the world. Just not here. Makes you wonder about how the regulators of our food supply think doesn't it? Anyway, I have read that adding some other things to the bread dough can do virtually the same thing and not endanger your livelihood. So I thought that I would try them out.
There is a very complex balance between gluten in bread, and the medium in which it is given to work with, meaning the actual dough itself. One of the strange anomolies about bread is that although the action of the yeast is what makes the bread rise, the very act of living itself the yeast give off acidic byproducts of which gluten is broken down by. That's is why real sourdough breads are heavier than other breads. The acids that everyone loves the taste of, are contrary to the actual development of the bread itself. So, when attempting to add dough enhancers that are not toxic, it is a very touchy situation. The things that are normally used to enhance the texture of the bread by destroying the phytic acid, are in themselves, acidic. The most common things used are vinegar, Vitamin C, and yogurt or other milk products. All work, but the vinegar is very tricky, a half teaspoon too much and you have flat bread, not sandwich loaf. The others, Vitamin C and yogurt, work exceptionally well. They make the dough softer, lighter, and if everything that I have read is true, allow the bread to stay fresher longer.
I think that this is a good example for the baking industry in America. Bread can be made without toxic chemicals, they just have to take a stand and do something for consumers benefit, instead of for profit.