When native starch is heated and dissolves in water, the crystalline structure of amylose and amylopectin molecules is lost and they hydrate to form a viscous solution. If the viscous solution is cooled or left at lower temperature for long enough period, the linear molecules, amylose, and linear parts of amylopectin molecules retrograde and rearrange themselves again to a more crystalline structure. The linear chains place themselves parallel and form hydrogen bridges. In viscous solutions the viscosity increases to form a gel. At temperatures between –8 and +8 °C the aging process is enhanced drastically.
Retrogradation can expel water from the polymer network. This is a process known as syneresis. A small amount of water can be seen on top of the gel. Retrogradation is directly related to the staling or aging of bread.
Retrograded starch is less digestible (see resistant starch).
Chemical modification of starches can reduce or enhance the retrogradation. Waxy, high amylopectin, starches have also much lesser tendency to retrogradate. Additives such as fat, glucose, sodium nitrate and emulsifier can reduce retrogradation of starch.
- Wang, Shujun; Li, Caili; Copeland, Les; Niu, Qing; Wang, Shuo (2015-09-01). "Starch Retrogradation: A Comprehensive Review". Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety 14 (5): 568–585. doi:10.1111/1541-4337.12143. ISSN 1541-4337.
- Cereals in breadmaking: a molecular colloidal approach, Ann-Charlotte Eliasson, Kåre Larsson, CRC Press, 1993, pages: 126-129, ISBN 0-8247-8816-8, ISBN 978-0-8247-8816-2
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