Incorporating a variety of fruits in bakery formulas creates more healthful products by adding antioxidants or reducing fat and calories. Longer shelf life also is another benefit.
Fruits are often used to give “zip” to baked products, from cookies to breads. Consumers often don’t think about getting their recommended daily serving of fruit from bakery items, but they can. At the same time, bakers can improve the functionality of their products, add shelf life and even reduce calories by incorporating fruit in their formulations.
Many fruits have antioxidant properties, which don’t dissipate when they are baked. The latest research on blueberry health benefits includes everything from vascular benefits and protection against stroke and macular degeneration to improved motor and cognitive behavior, according to the Marucchi Center at Rutgers University.
“The benefits are due to complex molecules; the proanthocyanidins, the anthocyanins, all these different types of pigments acting together to bring about health benefits,” says Jeannette Ferrary, spokesperson for the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, San Francisco. “In muffins, scones and all baked products, the more blueberries, the better. Thanks to all the good news about antioxidants and health benefits, blueberries have a place at the forefront of the superfruit mystique. Virtually fat-free and low in sodium, carbohydrates and cholesterol, antioxidant-rich blueberries are a delicious source of fiber, minerals, folate and vitamins.”
Cranberries are another fruit with extensive health benefits. A cranberry’s complex mixture of polyphenols, such as quercetin, and unique proanthocyanidins (PACs) suggest that it is capable of delivering a wide range of health benefits and a variety of different functional activities.
“Emerging research suggests the fruit has health potential throughout the body, including cardiovascular, cellular, oral and gastrointestinal health,” says Kristen Borsari, senior global marketing manager, Ocean Spray Ingredient Technology Group, Lakesville-Middleboro, Mass. “The nature of the berry is such that the skin of the cranberry allows it to maintain its original structure, even after processing. Research has shown that the PACs, which are present in the skin, are responsible for the fruit’s unique health benefits and they survive the heat treatment and processing rigors typical of food production.”
Perhaps the most familiar and popular fruit inclusion is the raisin. “Raisins have been used as a value-added ingredient in baking for more than 2,000 years,” says Larry Blagg, senior vice president of marketing for the California Raisin Marketing Board, Fresno, Calif.
Raisins offer one of the highest levels antioxidants in all fruits. According to the latest reports on Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC), a method to measure antioxidants in foods, raisins contain 3,037 ORAC units in a 3.5-oz. serving.
Raisins also provide naturally occurring inulin, a fiber-like carbohydrate that helps keep the colon healthy. Inulin is a prebiotic, hospitable to the growth of beneficial bacteria, such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, found in many yogurts. Prebiotics also slow growth of harmful bacteria.
Not to be left out, dried plums contain a variety of health benefits. Dried plum powder and concentrate are top antioxidants and rated as a low glycemic food. For bakers in the no-sugar-added or diabetic market, these ingredients add no sucrose because what little they have is baked out. With all the other health benefits, they are perfect for diabetic baked products.
“After blueberries, prunes have the highest level of antioxidants of any fruit. Another plus is price. Some of the exotic fruits are very expensive compared to prunes and raisins, which are both still quite reasonably priced,” says Charlie Pfitzer, director of foodservice sales, Sunsweet Growers Inc., Bala Cynwyd, Pa.
Many raisin, dried plum and other fruit combinations can replace fat, sodium and sugar in baked products without sacrificing flavor or texture. Both dry and fresh plums have key components that fit many bakery applications, according to James Degen, marketing consultant, California Dried Plum Board, Sacramento, Calif. One of the key elements is sorbitol, which is a type of sugar-alcohol. Dried plum concentrate contains about 15 percent sorbitol and dried plum powder has up to 26 percent.
Sorbitol is a natural humectant. It adds shelf life and reduces staling by working with the plum’s 7.5 percent naturally occurring high fiber to enhance water retention and natural humectantcy.
Malic acid is another great attribute of dried plum juice/puree. It enhances all the other flavors in a formula. Removing fat reduces flavor contribution to mouthfeel. Malic acid allows bakers to replace a percentage of fat in the product without sacrificing flavor or mouthfeel.
While dried plums cannot be used to replace all of the fat in a product, using them to reduce fat content also helps reduce calories because no more sugar is added to the product. A gram of fat has nine calories. A gram of dried plum has a little more than two.
Cost and availability of fresh, non-dried fruits, such as blueberries, have been issues in the past. However, advancements in freezing of fruit have allowed blueberry stores to be at an all-time high. “Frozen blueberries are storable and offer year-round availability. Graded for size, appearance and fruit identity, frozen blueberries retain their texture, shape and color and are easy and convenient to use. Bakers can stock up while supplies are high, ensuring a ready supply for product development and production,” Ferrary says.
On the dried fruit side, bakers are returning to traditional fruits with no sugar added in processing. “Our ingredients statement says ‘raisins’ only, and as companies are seeking more single ingredient products for value-adding, California raisins more than fit the idea of ‘greening’ product labels. Raisins add fiber, help to extend shelf life naturally and can be used as fat an/or processed sugar replacements in baked goods and snacks,” Blagg says.
Fruit is traditionally thought of as a tasty filling or topping and as an ingredient that adds a bit of extra excitement to many sweet baked products. While certainly still the case, fruit is being looked at for its added health benefits for the consumer and improved functionality for the baker.
For resources on how to incorporate fruit into baked products for health and functionality, turn to…
www.blueberry.org. –The U. S. Highbush Blueberry Council provides a current list of scientific research studies on the health benefits of blueberries.
www.californiadriedplums.org/Industrial–The California Dried Plum Board works with bakers and foodservice companies to help develop new formulations.
www.calraisins.org/professionals–The California Raisin Marketing Board offers new product developments and new product applications.