Falling Number® in flour milling and baking

A certain amount of alpha-amylase is necessary for proper baking to occur. The alpha-amylase breaks down starches to provide sugars to help fuel the fermentation process. The amount of enzyme present can have a direct bearing upon the quality of bread produced. When the alpha-amylase activity is right, a high volume bread with firm and soft texture is achieved (FN = 250 in picture). If the activity is too high, a sticky bread crumb and low volume may result (FN = 62 in picture). If the activity is too low, a dry bread crumb with diminished volume may result (FN = 400 in picture). The FN value has an inverse relationship with the alpha-amylase activity meaning the higher the alpha-amylase activity the lower the FN value, and vice-versa.

Millers may use the FN value to produce products with desired or specific FN values. They may blend flours of various FN values to produce a product with a specific amylase activity. Malt can be added to adjust the value in a similar manner.

The exact FN number value desired will be dependent on the type of product to be produced. Breads flours will have different FN values than those of cracker flours. Bakers may use the FN to dictate to their suppliers the type of product they require for their specific endproduct. Bakers also have the option of manipulating their flours in the same manner as the miller. But by requiring the miller to supply a specific product, a baker can receive a consistent product and would not have to adjust this particular aspect of the baking process. Quality control personnel can use the FN value as a quality control tool to help assure the consistency of both incoming and outgoing products. It provides another important tool for savings of time and money.