Enzyme Amylase: The Sugar Factory Workers
The vast majority of enzymes are simple proteins. In bread making, we are mostly concerned with the enzyme amylase. The main function of amylase in wheat flour is to break down complex starches into simple sugars. The simple diagram above shows a maltose molecule being separated into two glucose molecules. Without this important process occurring in the dough, fermentation would not occur as yeast requires simple sugars in order to produce carbon dioxide. A proper balance of naturally occurring amylase in wheat flour is desirable in order to produce bread that is properly fermented with richly colored crust and well developed flavor. Most flours used for bread have a deficiency of amylase.
In sprouted wheat, there is naturally occurring amylase. However, sprouted grain has very short shelf life, so grains are usually harvested and dried long before the sprouting stage. Amylase in the form of malted barley can be added to flour in small quantities to achieve a proper enzymatic balance.
Professor Raymond Calvel states in the Taste of Bread, "fungal amylase, when added to the dough, plays a positive role in the development of the taste of bread. Amylase permits the proper rising of the dough throughout fermentation and allows normal increase in the volume of the loaves (oven spring) during baking. Furthermore, amylase aids in the development of optimal crust color, which is an important contributor to taste, and they also improve the shelf life of bread."(17)