Cigi Delves into Arabic Breads with Ontario Wheat

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In 2008 Cigi added Ontario wheat to its ongoing work with Western Canadian wheat varieties when technologist Michael Reimer was hired to concentrate research activity on its quality and functionality. Since then an annual Ontario Wheat Quality Survey was launched which provides the most current information on the crop quality for marketers, and Cigi took on a two-year Ontario Wheat Arabic Bread project.

“I met with millers and bakers in the Middle East as part of work with the Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO) which has pursued a relationship on behalf of local wheat exporters,” Michael says. “The project resulted where Cigi is has been focusing research on the use of Canada Eastern Soft Red Winter wheat in traditional Arabic flatbreads, most commonly recognized as pita bread in North America, in addition to other Middle Eastern breads.”

Tony Tweed, Head of Cigi Baking Technology, says that regional differences in flatbread products are countless, with no one common flour used, so that Cigi narrowed its research focus to work with more common high-quality pita breads. “Generally the flour they use contains lower protein than what is used to make higher volume pan breads in Western countries,” he says. “Middle East millers will often blend flour from Canadian wheat with flours from other countries to create new flours with the quality characteristics required by their customers. However, the millers do not usually use eastern Canadian wheat. We are hoping that our results will provide technical information that will encourage them to consider eastern Canadian wheat as a feasible option for their blends.”

He says little research has been published on flour quality for these types of flatbreads and likely none on the use of flour from Canadian wheat. Based on existing information, Canada Eastern Soft Red Winter wheat (CESRW) seemed to be the best choice for the project.

Tony and other Cigi staff have been working on the early stages of testing, developing small-scale laboratory test methods and will eventually move on to commercial-scale evaluations. Tests are being conducted with a base flour representing flour used in the target market (Hard Red Winter wheat) and the effects of replacing levels of it with straight-grade CESRW flour. Maximum levels will be determined that result in a product that appeals to customers and has acceptable processing qualities for bakeries. The data that is generated through lab-scale and pilot-scale baking trails will be compiled into a full report.

For more information: ttweed@cigi.ca

Article originally printed in cigi.ca e-publication, Summer 2010.