Growing awareness of syndrome X, the medical precursor to type II diabetes affecting one in five people, has consumers becoming more cognizant of glycemic index. The glycemic index ranks carbohydrates based on their effect on blood glucose levels. Low glycemic foods, those scoring 55 or lower on the index, marginally raise blood glucose levels and do so slowly. High glycemic foods, such as sugar, high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners common in baking, score 70 or more and can increase blood glucose levels very quickly. Prolonged exposure to these foods can be dangerous for people susceptible to syndrome X or diabetes. Bakeries can cater to those looking to reduce their intake of high glycemic foods by incorporating sugar-free and sugar-reduced ingredients in their baked products.
One way to reduce sugar is through the use of the agave plant. Agave nectar is approximately 25 percent sweeter than sugar, and many chefs prefer to use 75 percent as much of the product as sugar. However, says Natalie Byrd, of Wholesome Sweeteners, Sugarland, Texas, start with substituting on a 1:1 ratio. Because the nectar is in a liquid form, added liquid in formulas may be reduced by up to 30 percent. In addition, because of increased carmelization of the blue agave nectar compared to that of sugar, oven temperatures should be reduced by 15 to 20°F, and the bake time should be increased. The ingredient is labeled as blue agave nectar.
Stevia is another option for the baker who is looking to reduce the sugar content in bakery products. Sidd Purkayastha, PureCircle USA, Oak Brook, Ill., says “because of wide thermal and pH stability of Reb A (Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni, commonly known as stevia), it can be used in a number of bakery applications. Reb A can be used to reduce calories in a wide variety of baked products, such as cakes, bread, pastries, muffins, cookies, and crackers.” Reb A should be used in combination with bulk sugar replacers, which are dictated by the physical, thermal, and textural characteristics of the baked products. Bulking agents can range from polydextrose, fibers such as inulin, isomalto oligosaccharides, resistant maltodextrin and polyols. The ingredient is stable during different baking and storage conditions. Various food and beverage manufacturers list Reb A differently, some use brand names like Truvia® or Purevia®, others use stevia extract, stevia leaf extract or just plain stevia. Some even use rebiana. PureCircle has a Web site purecircletechnical.com that might be helpful for manufacturers interested in the ingredient.
Another ingredient that is commanding new interest is maple syrup. The sweet syrup has a distinctive flavor, but it is complementary to other common bakery ingredients such as butter, brown sugar, oats and whole grains, fruits and nuts. Vermont Maple Syrup Marketing Director, Catherine Stevens recommends using either dark amber or Grade B syrup in baked products because their stronger flavors will stand up against baking ingredients. In baking, use as a 1:1 replacement for sugar, or reduce the quantity of maple syrup by up to 25 percent based on the sugar in the formula. Again, as in the use of Blue Agave syrup, a reduction of the liquid in the formula may be required up to 30 percent. Baking soda, in the amount of half to one teaspoon per pound of flour may be necessary to deliver the desired result in a baked product. Also, a reduction of oven temperature by 25 °F. is recommended. Open containers of maple syrup should be kept in cold storage. To maintain the flavor of maple syrup over the long term, freezer storage is recommended.
Rice syrup can also be used to sweeten baked products. With much the same processing parameters as other sweet syrups, rice syrup is a good choice for bakers looking to appeal to the low glycemic market as well as the gluten free market.
Products from Danisco can provide the baking manufacturer with a variety of ingredients for use in bakery products. Litesse® is sugar free polydextrose with a low glycemic load, suitable for products aimed at diabetics. It is a non-sweet, non-crystalline free flowing powder that, while being a humectant, also acts as a crisping agent, making it ideal for cookies and crackers. Litesses’ hygroscopic quality necessitates it being stored in a cool dry place to prevent clumping.
Lactitol is a crystalline structure that acts as sugar but is only 40 percent as sweet as sugar. Depending on formulation, this may be used with a high intensity sweetener. Xylitol is 1:1 as sweet as sugar, and the ingredient has a cooling effect in the mouth. Use Xylitol to complement to sweet products made with mint. The cooling effect also has an affinity for citrus flavors. Polyols are great as a balance for high intensity sweeteners.
“Litesse® polydextrose acts as bulking agent in formulas, and helps to maintain shelf life,” says Susan V. Kay, Sr. Application Technologist, Bakery for Danisco USA. “Litesse® polydextrose can be used with savory ingredients as well as sweet products. It is high in fiber, retards crystallization, and adds a smooth and creamy texture, much like sugar.” Litesse® polydextrose has baking characteristics similar to sugar, undergoes the Maillard reaction, and retains general processing parameters of sugar-added formulas, making it easy to work with.
The lower glycemic index of Litesse® polydextrose and polyols is a plus when targeting the diabetic market as a whole, she continues, but the ongoing trend for consumers is the ongoing surge towards “health and wellness,” not merely net carbs or carbohydrate free foods. “These ingredients are tried and true in the baking industry,” Kay advises, providing manufacturers with the tools they need to give consumers, diabetic or not, the foods they want to eat.
In the arena of reduced-sugar foods, they are many choices the baker must make. The industrial pantry is full of options, from the simplest to the technologically advanced. Whatever options are explored, there will be an eager and grateful audience.