by Glen Thompson , chief editor
Fruit fillings' roles in bakery applications range from healthful to heavenly, and frequently they manage to pack in both attributes at once. The fruit-filled food bar that fuels a daily workout may be as equally satisfying as a shimmering glazed fruit tart that tops off a gourmet dinner. It is all a matter of taste.
Fruit-fillings largely have kept pace with consumers' increasingly sophisticated palates, but economic considerations often require commercial bakers to forego newly formulated premium fillings.
One manufacturer of fruit fillings says consumers' expectations of fruit fillings have risen dramatically, and starchy, highly sweetened and chemical-laden products are no longer universally accepted.
"We feel there is a need for fillings that have better flavor, more vibrant colors and higher fruit content," he says. "People want cleaner products to get away from highly stabilized, pasty fillings."
The manufacturer's company has developed a line of high-end fillings, which satisfies all those demands, he says. However, the products carry a higher price tag than many fillings, making them a tough sell for many bakers. "This is definitely a niche market," the manufacturer says says. "Price is a huge issue for a lot of bakeries." The manufacturer's signature fruit is the marionberry, a locally grown blackberry that is the basis for the company's newest filling. Soon to be released, the filling is a combination of marionberries, blueberries and red raspberries. This line of fillings includes raspberry, lemon, strawberry and wild blueberry, in addition to marionberry and the new fruit filling.
The marionberry is a cross between two blackberry varieties, the olallieberry and the Chehalem blackberry and is known for its intense blackberry flavor, aromatic bouquet and dark mahogany hue.
Grown in Oregon's Marion County, marionberries have fewer and smaller seeds than most blackberries. In addition, marionberries, like most berries, are extremely high in antioxidants and vitamin C.
The manufacturer says that while apple continues to reign as the most popular filling, other in-demand filling flavors include strawberry, raspberry and lemon. Tropical fillings, however, are quickly gaining ground. Examples of tropical fruits used in fillings are banana, kiwi, coconut and pineapple.
Despite growing consumer concern regarding highly stabilized products, stabilization is a challenge that must be addressed by bakers when formulating fruit fillings. The ability of fillings to remain stable through the baking and freezing processes is paramount. Keeping the fillings from expanding out of the crust is another issue, as is steam pressure, which causes cracking.
Water is a key ingredient in fillings and must be addressed with a high degree of precision. Excess water causes weeping, known as syneresis, during storage. Sogginess is another consequence of excess water in formulations, particularly in food bars. Incorrect water levels also may result in fillings that are too thick or too thin.
Starches and gums, separately or in combination, are used by bakers to stabilize fruit fillings. Gums used in baking applications include pectin, locust bean gum, gellan, carrageenan, carboxymethylcellulose and xanthan.
Sweeteners are another important ingredient in formulating fruit fillings. Sugar, 42 DE corn syrups and high fructose corn syrups typically make up 40% to 50% of a filling's total weight. Syrups are a less expensive sweetener choice than granulated sugar, dextrose or fructose. Sucrose, which is a reducing sugar, causes filling discoloration during baking. The optimal formulation requires the blending of sugars in the appropriate ratios for maximum functionality and cost effectiveness.
Fruit filling facts
¥ The U.S. Department of Agriculture grades fruits using several variables including decay, bird damage and freezer damage.