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The amylase enzymes present in wheat (alpha- or beta-amylase) are very efficient catalysts: in fact, they can attack the long and complex chains that make up the starch molecules and split them up, converting starch into reducing sugars and maltose (see note on page 33). It is important to underline that the activity of these two enzymes is fairly scarce in regards to whole starches and at normal room temperatures. Things change in regards to damaged starches (this inevitably happens to the grain during grinding ) or at temperatures above normal room temperatures. The alpha-amylase enzyme, for example, between 55 and 80°C easily converts the starch into dextrin, i.e. into mixtures of by-products from the demolition of starch. The amylase enzymes always have a negative effect on the dough made from flour and semolina. We need not reiterate that it is necessary to limit as much as possible the presence of reducing sugars in flour as a consequence of damage to the starches if we do not want the pasta to go from being "colour pasta" to "black and white pasta". We would simply like to point out that the "falling number" is what tells us how things stand from this point of view.
The "falling number" measures the activity of the alpha-amylase. Since this enzyme becomes active at temperatures between 55 and 80°C and effects damaged starches above all, the falling number method uses the gelitinization (cooking) of the starches present in a suspension of water and flour. Once the starches have become gelitinized, they are hydrolyzed by the alpha-amylase, with a consequent liquefaction of the starch-water present in the suspension. The alpha-amylase activity is measured on this liquefaction. The final value oscillates on average between 100-150 and 300 or higher.
In other words:
the "falling number" near, equal to, or greater than 300 indicates a weak or very weak alpha-amylase activity; between 200 and 250 indicates normal activity; between 150 and 200, or less than 150 indicates that the ?-amylase activity is high or very high. If we may give you a piece of advice, stay away from flours with these values, especially in regards to fresh pasta.