As a result of interest in releasing a new subclass of soft wheats with enhanced dough mixing strength for crackers, the US Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientistsare now using a new industry test to screen for "soft but strong" wheat varieties, the ARS reports this week.
Many cracker-makers have to add hard wheat flour to their soft wheat flour to raise the dough mixing strength that gives crackers their structure. According to an ARS statement the industry would prefer to use 100 per cent soft wheat flour, partly to save costs. But soft wheat cannot be counted on for mixing strength, a quality believed to be only in hard wheat.
In the 1940s, Karl F. Finney, a chemist at the ARS Soft Wheat QualityResearch Unit in Ohio, developed a quick "lactic acid test" to screen breeders' samples for mixing strength. It centrifuged flour in a5-percent lactic acid/water solution. The strongest flours weigh the mostbecause they absorb the most acid/water solution.
Recently, Louise Slade and Harry Levine, both food polymer scientists at US cracker giant Nabisco, created a new test based on Finney's and used it to find asoft but strong winter wheat variety. They use the test to search for more varieties and - together with companion tests - to systematically evaluatepotential baking quality. Each year, the Wooster researchers receive about 6,000 samples of new soft wheat lines that are in early stages ofdevelopment.
The US bread industry currently uses hard wheat but if the new soft wheat subclasscomes into being, it could change that by competing for some of the breadmarket, particularly for the flat-bread market, including tortillas andpocket breads, the ARS reports.
More information can be found in the March 2002 issue of Agricultural Research magazine