In the last several years, Atkins supporters have racked foods rich in carbohydrates over the coals, and bread has felt this burn. Although sweet bread, which is typically high in carbohydrates because of its sugar content, is part of the bread category, consumers continue to purchase this tasty bread. In spite of the Atkins attacks on carbohydrates, companies such as King's Hawaiian Bakery West Inc. and Alpha Baking Co., Chicago, continue to profit from sweet bread. This bakery food requires some ingredient and production fine-tuning because of the increased sugar amounts.
This fine-tuning begins with selecting flours for the intended mouth-feel of the bread. High-protein flour creates chewy sweet bread, and low-protein flour creates flaky, soft sweet bread, one baking industry source says.
"I think sweet bread is a very comfortable product." Shelby Weeda, King's Hawaiian Bakery West Inc.'s president, says. "It has a nice mild flavor, and it's not overpowering, and it almost melts in your mouth. People use sweet bread for holiday dips, French toast, bread pudding and it is a nice Christmas and Thanksgiving treat."
King's Hawaiian is located in Torrance, Calif., and has produced sweet bread since 1958. The company received the 2004 Best Taste Award from The American Culinary Institute in the Hawaiian sweet bread category. The company's sweet bread uses creamy butter, special French yeasts, eggs and a unique blend of flavors, according to its website. Careful formulation balances between ingredients such as sugar, yeast and honey affect taste and sweet bread's appeal.
Sweet breads get their flavor from sugar and honey. These ingredients give sweet bread its rich taste, and sugar also increases shelf life, according to Weeda. However, these ingredients need to be added at precise levels or excessive crust browning occurs. Honey and sugar need to be balanced to give bread an attractive eye appeal, according to Weeda. The sigar also increases shelf life, according to Weeda. However, these ingedients need to be added at precise levels or excessive crust browning occurs. Honey and sugar need to be balanced to give bread an attractive eye appeal, according to Weeda. The sweet bread's color characteristics change depending on how much honey is put in the formulation and what type of honey is used.
Buckwheat honey is very dark and will change how sweet bread looks. Clover honey, which is the most abundant, will not change the color. When formulating sweet bread, 4% to 5% of the total formulation should be honey, according to several ingredient suppliers. Generally, honey is 1.5 times sweeter on a dry weight basis than sugar.
In sweet bread formulations, sugar affects the taste, yeast performance and machineability of a product. Because sweet bread dough has increased sugar amounts, the dough tends to be stickier than other pan breads. To control this, bakers should maintain a cool dough temperature and use dusting flour to keep production lines running smoothly.
Besides stickiness, sugar also affects yeast's ability to make sweet dough rise. If imbalances occur between sugar and honey, yeast can be negatively impacted. However, certain forms of yeast, such as osmotolerant yeasts, accommodate increased sugar amounts. When increased sugar amounts are used in dough, yeast dehydrates, which is called osmotic pressure. Typically, to get the best rise, sugar represents 5% of the total formulation for panbreads. When formulating sweet bread, sugar represents three to four times the amount used in other panbreads, according to one baking industry source. As stated on King's Hawaiian's website, the company's original sweet bread uses French Yeast. This gives King's Hawaiian sweet bread its desired flavor profile, according to Weeda.
Ovens affect browning
Ovens play an important role in developing how sweet breads look after the final bake. Because sweet bread uses increased sugar amounts, baking time and temperature should be precise or bakers could find their holiday treat blackened like Christmas coal. According to one baking industry source, when baking sweet bread, oven temperatures should be lowered and baking times should be extended.
Sweet breads brown quicker in the oven because two chemical reactions occur: carmelization and the Mallard Browning reaction. Sugars react with the protein inside the dough when in the presence of heat. This is where most of the browning comes from. Sweet breads do not need as much convection as other bakery foods, according to one baking industry source.
Bakers need to be aware that sweet bread is very finicky, Larry Marcucci, Alpha Baking Co.'s president, says. Alpha Baking produces sweet breads and rolls under the S.Rosen brand name. "You want the oven heat in the right spot so you are not browning the top of the loaf too much," Marcucci says. "We use more bottom heat, generally, and try to keep the top heat off and we bake the bread a little slower."
If bakers are trying to add a little sweetness to their bread brands with sweet breads, they should keep in mind how sugar and honey affect sweet bread formulations and if their ovens are suited for sweet bread production.