Bakers have been particularly affected by the move to eliminate trans fats from products. While a single drop-in replacement can be found, the solution isn’t always that simple.
Isn't trans fat old news? After all, it has been more than two years since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required mandatory labeling of the number of grams of trans fatty acids per serving. Yet, for commercial bakeries, it isn't that easy to change the entire product line and still retain the original flavor, mouthfeel and product performance with existing equipment.
Fortunately, for bakeries still working through their product formulations to achieve a complete changeover, more alternatives to trans fat oils and shortenings are available today than in 2005, prior to the regulation's enforcement. Plus, more incentive exists to changeover because foodservice establishments are following the path forged by packaged and prepared foods companies by eliminating trans fats. Therefore, bakeries supplying product to foodservice operations need to reformulate as well.
Although New York City was the first major metropolitan area to require restaurants and foodservice establishments to phase out trans fats, the movement actually began in Tiburon, Calif. In this West Coast town, the restaurateurs voluntarily switched from trans fats to trans free alternatives.
Before the new regulations went into effect, the FDA estimated that Americans consumed about 5.8 g of trans fatty acids daily, with baked products providing 40 percent of that total. This was no surprise as baked products often rely heavily on the functionality of partially hydrogenated fats for texture and appearance. Pastries and cookies owe their light, crispy and flaky textures to aeration by saturated and trans fats. Cakes, cookies, crackers, pies and bread are the leading source of trans fats consumed by Americans. The importance of the fat component to the structure and flavor of baked products put additional pressure on the baking sector when attempting to lower or eliminate trans fats.
While it remains too early for any follow up studies, the FDA estimated that three years after the January 2006 deadline, trans fat labeling would annually prevent from 600 to 1,200 heart attacks and save 250 to 500 lives. The FDA further states on its Web site that based on this estimate, this rule will realize a cost savings of $900 million to $1.8 billion per year in medical costs, lost productivity, and pain and suffering. What is well known is that even at low levels, trans fat in the diet can be dangerous. The negative effects of trans fat on blood lipids starts as low as 0.5 percent of daily energy intake, with the average intake of trans fat estimated at 2.6 percent of the daily energy intake.
Making the switch
One baking company was working ahead of the curve and switched from trans fat shortening to trans- free in 2004, well before the ruling was enforced and long before New York City enacted its trans fat ban on foodservice establishments.
“To be honest, there was no challenge. When I was young, we didn't use butter because it was so expensive, but used palm oil for baking, which is just a bit softer. Palm oil-based shortening was a drop-in, single ingredient substitution,” says Chef Michael Radeczki, founder, Michael's Bakery Products LLC, San Diego. “Everyone in the company was worried about switching; our clients were worried. One large hotel chain wasn't fully convinced until they tasted product samples and couldn't detect any difference. I believe the mouthfeel with the palm oil shortening actually improved the texture and crumb structure.”
When New York City enacted its trans fat ban, all the bakeries scrambled to comply with the new regulation. “Our hotel customer thanked us for already having done it,” Radeczki adds.
Mainstays, such as chocolate chip, oatmeal and peanut cookies, comprise 80 percent of the company's business. However, Michael's Bakery also offers unique flavors and recently introduced an all-natural, 100 percent whole grain pomegranate cookie with dark chocolate chips. “But what makes us truly successful is staying one step ahead of the trends,” Radeczki says. “When nobody was talking yet about trans fat, we had already changed.”
The single substitution Michael's Bakery achieved is a rare, but coveted product reformulation. Often, however, the process is more complicated. The baking industry, more than any other, relies heavily on fats' functionality to maintain proper dough rheology.
Rheology in rheal life
For those manufacturers looking for an alternative to standard shortening, a new trans-free pumpable shortening from Brea, Calif.-based Ventura Foods functions as a solid shortening in baking systems, which helps control spread during baking. Cookie manufacturers tend to shy away from liquid or semi-solid shortenings because of its negative affect on dough rheology, particularly in a rotary-moulded cookie where controlling spread is crucial for preserving the moulded imprint.
Bakers must be aware of solids content when searching for a shortening replacement. The reference chart (p. 26) compares typical solid fat content for different types of shortening at different temperatures. Ventura's pumpable shortening has 23 percent solids, comparing favorably to a standard all-purpose shortening with 25 percent to 28 percent solids.
A typical liquid shortening has very low solids content. In a baked product, the texture and volume depend on the fat solids to incorporate air into the mix, whereas a liquid shortening won't contain enough solids content to trap the air. Cakes will not rise and cookies will spread too far and compromise product integrity.
Bakers also need to be aware of the entire ingredient label of trans fat substitutions to keep a label short. Ventura's shortening, for example, contains little to no emulsifiers. The product is stable both during storage and high temperature processing.
Cargill, Wayzata, Minn., introduced a line of trans-free alternatives specifically for baking, with a high oleic canola oil suitable for high heat applications and an all-purpose shortening recommended for pastries, biscuits, crackers, pie crusts and dry mixes. Donut and icing shortenings are specifically suited for donut production. These products, derived from canola, help reduce saturated fats and typically have a low flavor threshold.
Are saturates all the same?
It is difficult to find a one-for-one replacement for trans fat. Some solutions increase the saturated fats, while decreasing or eliminating the trans fatty acids. But not all saturated fatty acids are created equal. Certain studies suggest stearic acid, a saturated fatty acid, has no effect on or might even lower total blood cholesterol.
ADM, Decatur, Ill., takes domestic liquid oils, such as soybean oil, and blends them with fully hydrogenated soybean or cottonseed oils. Then, it interesterifies them to produce a solid fat content with functional melting properties, such as an all-purpose shortening or a baker's margarine. The interesterification process creates randomization of the fatty acids to give this degree of functionality. As these products are replaced for trans or partially hydrogenated products, the overall saturate content increases compared to the traditional partially hydrogenated soybean oil, but 60 percent to 70 percent of those saturates are stearic-acid based.
AarhusKarlshamn USA Inc., Newark, N.J., offers a complete line of no-trans, non-hydrogenated shortenings and margarines for the baking industry. These non-hydrogenated trans-free fats are unique in that they are relatively low in saturated fat as well, notes Jeff Fine, director of product development and new technology. The company also offers a more traditional line of palm-based shortenings for all-purpose baking use, and for filling fats and frying fats for donuts.
Laminated dough is tricky enough without trying to go trans-free. Fat dispersion is vitally important to maintain even layering in the final product. This layering is crucial for volume and flakiness. AarhusKarlshamn offers no trans fats for laminated dough system applications. Another is a no-trans, low-saturated frying fat for the donut industry. “It isn't easy to do low saturates with the stability needed for a demanding application like donut frying,” Fine says. “The high temperature, the debris that accumulates in the oil, all pose challenges.”
In broad terms, the news about soy shortening and oil replacements in commercial baking is very positive. In a new study conducted at Iowa State University, Ames, researchers tested the quality attributes of commercial bakery products with a single substitution of five different soy-based trans fat-free fats or oils for hydrogenated vegetable shortening. Using both instrumental and sensory testing methods, the researchers determined that various interesterified shortenings have a wide application in commercial baked products for the replacement of traditional shortenings. The ingredient produced gold standard baked products with high marks for flavor, texture and product appearance.
For example, Bunge cake and icing shortening relies on soy oil for its base to create a trans-free alternative for baking products. This is a reduced trans vegetable shortening for cakes and icings that has a wide plastic range for controlled creaming, plus emulsifiers for light, stable icings and moist cakes. As a shortening product, it is available in 50-lb. cubes. In neat form, the trans fats are reduced by more than 80 percent and trans plus saturates are reduced by more than 33 percent as compared to similar, conventional products.
According to the company, this enables a drop-in ingredient substitution in many formulations, producing high volume, tender cakes with good shelf life and exceptional moisture retention. It creates icings with better structure that are light and smooth, with a plasticity that remains highly workable over a wide temperature range.
So while trans free might not be ‘new’ news, the refreshing lineup of trans-free oils and shortenings available in today's baking market is good news. With so many choices, a determined commercial baker is bound to find the right choice for any trans-free application.