Bakers search for more healthful
sources of fats.
Many bakers are actively seeking replacements for current sources of oils and shortenings because of widespread media coverage about health-related issues attributed to certain fats and mandatory legislation stipulating a ban on trans fat. But, switching from one fat type to another isn't necessarily as simple as making a one-for-one replacement and should be considered on a product-by-product basis.
“Bakers are aware of the need for next generation oils; however, they are challenged in how to incorporate these new formulations without altering the quality or taste of their product,” says Ryan Overton, market research and sales analysis associate, Asoyia Inc., Iowa City.
The research and testing required in selecting a new oil or shortening is costly and time consuming, particularly for smaller bakers who lack the necessary funds to compete with larger operations. This provides an opportunity for oil suppliers to open a dialog with bakers and serve as technical advisors, Overton adds. In doing so, these new generation products can be incorporated into existing product lines without adversely affecting product quality.
Factors driving change
An increase in awareness of the heart disease-related risks associated with trans fat led to large-scale product development efforts of alternative oils. Trans fat, although naturally occurring in butter and other animal-based fats, is created when fat is hydrogenated, which increases its melting point and improves its stability and shelf life.
In 2006, the FDA mandated the labeling of trans fat, stipulating that any product with a serving size containing 0.5 g or more of trans fat must list the amount under saturated fats on its nutritional facts panel. Trans fat amounts of less than 0.5 g can be labeled as 0 g trans fatty acids in the nutrition facts panel, but the trans fat-containing ingredient, such as shortening or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, must be listed in the ingredient statement.
Since the FDA's ruling, cities and now states, such as California, have banned the use of trans fat. And, the American Medical Association has suggested a nationwide ban of trans fat might be appropriate, notes Gerald McNeill, Ph.D., director of research and development, Loders Croklaan North America, Channahon, Ill.
Labeling laws and mandates have, in many cases, forced bakers to search for oil alternatives. But, in some circumstances, bakers are motivated by consumer demand for more healthful options.
New fat innovations
“For the baking industry, because they need more solids in their fat systems, most who have made the change from partially hydrogenated have switched to palm or palm blends. Now you see, as a phase two, people trying to move away from all the saturated fat that is in palm. You also are seeing some people changing back to butter-type products,” says Beth Fulmer-Boyer, vice president of sales, Asoyia.
Still, some bakers who have not directly addressed the trans fat issue may just be looking at the first round of lowering trans fat in their formulations, notes Lynne Morehart, technical services manager, Cargill Oils, Minneapolis.
One replacement solution for trans fat shortenings is a reduced-fat, all-purpose bakery shortening made from a blend of palm oil and canola oil. “It contains about 30 percent less saturated fat than typical zero-trans shortenings, but retains 100 percent functionality,” McNeill says. “It is designed to be a drop-in solution for saturated fat reduction in any application requiring an all-purpose shortening, such as cookies and cakes. It has a lighter texture than regular all-purpose palm oil shortening. Therefore, creaming time is shorter, and up to 15 percent less fat can be used without altering finished product texture. This has the benefit of further reducing the saturated fat content and may provide a cost savings.”
Palm oil also is a versatile alternative to partially hydrogenated oils, and may be a drop-in solution, even in difficult applications, such as laminated doughs, McNeill adds. Because palm oil contains no linolenic oil and a low level of unsaturated fatty acids, its stability is comparable with that of partially hydrogenated oils. Still, if saturated fats are a concern, blends of palm oil fractions and canola oil are available, as previously mentioned.
The introduction of next generation oils also includes low linolenic soy, ultra low linolenic soy and high oleic canola-omega-9 oils, Overton notes. Introduction of new processing enhancements without partial hydrogenation has opened the door for zero-trans shortenings for the baking industry, he adds.
The future of fats and oils
Ever evolving science on fat consumption and human disease risk factors will continue to influence new product development. Additional studies are likely to influence future generations of oil, just as research has increased development work of oils rich in omega-3s.
“Recent nutrition research on saturated fat suggests it is not as bad as we once thought,” McNeill says. “Saturated fat raises HDL cholesterol more than anything else in the diet. This partially counteracts the negative effect of LDL cholesterol. Many researchers believe saturates have little or no effect on the risk of heart disease.”
Research also has been conducted on soybeans with high-stearic fatty acid content. Studies have shown stearic acid may be cholesterol neutral compared to other saturated fatty acids.
Whether or not science ultimately vindicates saturated fats' minimal role as a risk factor of heart disease remains to be seen. Unfortunately, bakers must react to media-savvy consumers, who often receive mixed and confusing messages about food ingredients, such as fats.
In the meantime, oil suppliers have a variety of new generation oils to meet bakers' need for product quality and process stability.
Making a coating
To make a coating, the raw materials are first weighed into the mixer. Then the mixture goes through a pre-grinding process, which reduces the large sugar particles by rolling them between two cylinders. The next step is the refining process where the cocoa solids and sugar crystals are refined further between 20 microns to 30 microns. If the coating is refined too much below 15 microns, it can become gummy.
During the refining process, color and flavor are modified and moisture decreases, says Laurent Besin, technical services and applications manager North America, Barry Callebaut USA LLC, Chicago. After refining comes the conching process, which brings out the flavor, aroma and texture of the chocolate. This happens in two stages. First, dry conching (before cocoa butter or lecithin is added) develops flavor and coats the solid particles with fat. Next, liquid conching (after the cocoa butter or emulsifier is added) achieves the desired rheology, the temperature rises, the flavor develops and the humidity decreases. If a baker requested a liquid delivery, after the second conching stage, the chocolate is pumped into a tanker to be delivered. If a bakery requests solid chocolate, the supplier pumps the chocolate to its moulding facility. Chocolate then needs to be tempered to achieve the correct crystal form in the cocoa butter and to give the mixture its shiny appearance; compound coatings can skip this step because the fat systems do not require tempering. Finally, the chocolate is cooled and packaged. When the shipment arrives at the bakery, the baker must melt the chocolate and temper again.