If bakers could capitalize on a multifunctional ingredient, emulsifiers would be at the top of the list. The market is in a growth mode, according to data from Frost & Sullivan, a business research and consulting firm, San Antonio. Separate reports on both the European Union and U.S. expectations for growth in sales of emulsifiers predict sales to post a compound annual growth rate of 6.8 percent.
One factor contributing to this growth is the trend towards reducing the fat content in food products to appeal to more health-conscious consumers. However, as with salt and sugar reduction, this poses a problem for formulators because reduced fat can alter a product's flavor, and no matter how health conscious the consumer, flavor still ranks highest on the list of desirable product attributes.
Concentrated development efforts within the emulsifier category have expanded the application base of emulsifiers, according to a recent report from Frost & Sullivan. Whereas emulsifiers' original role was for emulsion stablilization, now they can be used to improve sensory characteristics, particularly those related to texture, and extend shelf life.
At a basic level, emulsifiers are made up of hydrophilic (water loving) and hydrophobic (oil loving) elements that form a stable emulsion through the dispersion of oil droplets in water. When trying to mix two immiscible liquids, the substance that keeps the liquids apart, yet in a stable suspension, is an emulsifying agent. Emulsifiers also can interact with other ingredients, thereby developing functional properties, such as aeration, or inhibiting crystallization. This enables emulsifiers to provide benefits far beyond a simple functional property. For example, bread made without an emulsifier often is dry, low in volume and stales faster than bread made with an emulsifier. So in this instance, the emulsifier positively impacts shelf life, mouthfeel, product quality and appearance.
Synthetic emulsifiers make up 75 percent of the total volume sold, says Frost & Sullivan. Lecithin, the main natural emulsifier used since the 1920s, has become more popular in recent years because of growing interest in natural ingredients.
Lecithin is a natural component of egg yolk, reducing moisture loss to help ensure a soft, tender crumb texture in baked products. Lecithin also is extracted from soy plants, and in its liquid form contains oil and free fatty acids that, in the past, contributed to a beany flavor. However, in the 1990s, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Decatur, Ill., developed a process to extract the natural phospholipids content without acetone. The result was called deoiled lecithin, a much cleaner (less beany) tasting product with higher natural lutein content. This product is available in powdered and granular forms and is commonly used in bakery mixes and snack bars.
Another natural option
Egg products' emulsification properties are well documented. Different egg products aid bakers with various processing and storage needs. Eggs emulsify fats and liquids, with egg yolk in particular acting as an emulsifier, allowing fat ingredients to stay dispersed in water and water to stay dispersed in fat. This promotes product stability and improves texture, crumb structure and mouthfeel.
In addition, eggs as a natural product help bakers present a clean label to consumers increasingly interested in and educated about ingredients and label claims. Egg yolks, while aiding in emulsification, also supply an excellent source of protein. Less well known is the fact that eggs are an excellent source of choline, determined to be an essential nutrient. One large egg yolk supplies 180 mg of choline, at least 33 percent of the daily requirement.
White layer cakes typically use egg whites for their foaming ability; however, yellow layer cakes may combine egg whites and yolks. Egg yolks play an emulsifying role in layer cakes and are essential for dispersing the shortening and contribute to the overall tenderness of the finished product. They naturally aerate, increase volume and contribute to cellular structure development.
Egg yolks contain three surfactants — lecithin, cephalin and lipoproteins-that emulsify bread dough and contribute to longer shelf life. Dried whole eggs help emulsify and strengthen sweet dough properties. As far as bakery fillings, egg yolks' emulsification properties help create that rich, smooth and creamy texture of gourmet cheesecake. Proper heat dispersion is a must when baking cheesecake because the protein bonds need to form between the eggs and the cheese. When properly heated, the smooth top commonly associated with a “quality cheesecake” forms.
Cognis North America, Cincinnati, offers innovative high performance emulsifiers for the baking industry. These emulsifiers deliver a desirable appearance, flavor, high volume and good crumb structure. DATEMs (di-acetyl tartaric acid ester of monoglycerides) strengthen dough by developing a stronger gluten network. They make dough easier to handle and improve volume and crumb structure in yeast-raised baked products, including bread, rolls and croissants. They help strengthen the gluten, improve mixing and fermentation tolerance and increase the volume of the final product.
The Danish firm Palsgaard Inc., Newark, N.J., developed a line of emulsifiers for aerated cakes. During baking, the efficiency of emulsifiers can be impaired by temperature. A very low temperature results in hard and inflexible batter that makes it difficult for the emulsifier to disperse through the mixture.
Palsgaard's new emulsifier reportedly ensures cake quality, irrespective of variations in temperature, and can stabilize the product during processing by keeping air tightly bound within the batter.
In addition, the emulsifier delivers a high level of convenience for manufacturers. In its powdered form, it can be accurately measured and dosed, which cuts down waste and the potential for human error on an automatic production line. Usage amounts for the powdered emulsifier are lower than for a gel as the emulsifier content is significantly higher and the water content is reduced.
This line of emulsifiers has a specific emphasis on sponge cakes, Swiss rolls, and pound and snack cakes. Another advantage to the powdered form is its shelf life, which, depending on the product, can stretch up to 24 months, compared to an average shelf life for a gel-style emulsifier of about six months. According to Rosie Regalado, general manager, Palsgaard, “Many people regard emulsifiers as almost a commodity item, so we introduce innovative, novel ingredients to stay one step ahead of the market.”
The baker who selects the right emulsifier also can stay one step ahead of the market, providing a pleasing end product with the best quality, crumb structure, mouthfeel and shelf life for the best return on investment.