Fruit's Sweet Secrets
Natural sweetness provides another reason to take advantage of the consumer appeal of fruits when formulating baked foods.
BakingBusiness.com, May 2, 2011
by Donna Berry
Want to add color and flavor to formulations? Pick fruits. Bakers have long used fruit ingredients for everything from quick breads to pies. Their brilliant hues bring life to a neutral-colored canvas of grain, while their varied flavors, and even their textures, tantalize consumers’ taste buds. Want to change sweeteners to boost natural appeal? Again, pick fruits.

This isn’t the first time that fruit ingredients have proven their versatility. During the fat-free frenzy of the 1990s, formulators discovered that certain fruit ingredients — in particular, a bland, high-moisture, low-cost ingredient such as applesauce — could assist with lowering the fat content of some baked products. Not only could it replace some of the fat in baked goods, it kept products moist and the crumb tender.

Today, bakers are actively seeking out fruit ingredients for all of these reasons, plus others, including the natural sweetness fruits contribute. Also, fruits foster simple, clean ingredient statements.

THAT LITTLE EXTRA.

“Our consumer research in the US shows that moms and their families want natural, healthy choices for everyday food and beverage items. The same research shows that moms trust fruit for healthy nutrition,” said Chicago, IL-based Paul Paslaski, vice-president of sales and marketing for BioVittoria, a New Zealand supplier of monk fruit concentrate. “Our ingredient delivers a tangible consumer benefit by maintaining the core brand values of natural, great-tasting, healthy sweetness from fruit.”

There are good reasons for bakers to consider an even larger role for the natural sweetness of fruits in replacing part of all of added sugars in baked foods. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage the population to consume more fruits and whole grains and at the same time to eat less added sugars, among other suggestions.

“Consumers today are on the lookout for products that offer a little ‘health’ extra,” said Jeannie Swedberg, director of business development, Tree Top, Inc., Selah, WA. “One way bakers can help make their product stand out on the shelf is by adding real fruit. In most cases, fruit ingredients make good economic sense. They are nutritious and add color, flavor and texture, and they can reduce the amount of added sugars. Through careful selection and formulating, sometimes a ‘no added sugar’ claim can even be made.”

FRUCTOSE POWER.

Fructose, as the name suggests, is the predominant sugar found in fruit. This monosaccharide is a component of sucrose, or table sugar, which is a disaccharide of fructose and glucose. Sucrose has a relative sweetness of 1.0, while fructose rates 1.3 and glucose 0.7. Depending on the fruit ingredients being used and their combination, it is possible to replace all of the added sugar in many baked goods.

“Fructose is approximately 20% sweeter than sucrose,” Ms. Swedberg said. “For example, single-strength apple juice contains approximately 5.9% fructose, 2.7% sucrose and 2.0% other sugars. Many consider fruit juice a natural alternative to processed sugar, and an increasing number of bakers are using juice concentrates as sweeteners to make a claim on the front panel. Depending upon the product, a fruit serving claim might even be possible.”

Many baked goods have the reputation for being high in added sugar. By substituting some or all of the added sugar in a product recipe with fruit ingredients — it might take a few forms and varieties — the product profile improves. For example, by using a combination of pear flake and apple flake powders, apple juice concentrate, apple purée and rehydrated diced apple, it is possible to create a clean-label, low-fat apple muffin with no added sugars. The Nutrition Facts Panel for the 72-g muffin shows zero saturated and trans fat, with a mere 3.5 g fat, 15 g sugar and 160 Cal — the latter is about one-third less than a standard apple muffin.

“And even better, the fruit ingredients, along with the use of some whole-wheat flour, contributes 4 g of fiber per muffin,” Ms. Swedberg said. Fiber is another nutrient named in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for increased consumption.

RAISIN’ PROFILES.

Long popular in baked foods, raisins offer a sweet side, too, according to Klaus Tenbergen, culinology program director and assistant professor with the department of food science and nutrition at California State University, Fresno, CA. “Their natural sweetness allows the reduction of added sugar in formulations, and their high water-binding capacity helps retain moisture in bakery products,” he said.

Raisins bring other advantages. “California raisins have also been shown to extend the shelf life of bread products because raisins are a natural preservative,” Mr. Tenbergen said. They can also control breakage in crisp cookies and crackers. Raisins maintain moisture in chewy cakes and soft cookies and are a natural-binding agent in cereal bars, all in addition to providing sweetness.

“In baked products, raisin purée can be used to create a bulkier texture, increase product shelf life, provide natural sweetness and inhibit mold growth,” he noted. “Whole raisins have application in all types of baked goods, and for mini-sized products, currants are an appropriate option. Raisin juice concentrate can add natural sweetness and color and can be used as a substitute for preservatives.”

SWEET RATINGS.

Liquid fruit ingredients are standardized to degrees Brix. “This value, defined by the sucrose concentration in the product, is a measureable guide for sugar replacement in most baked goods formulas,” said Dawn Merrill, product development manager, Kerr Concentrates, Inc., Salem, OR. Degrees Brix, or °Bx, is a unit representative of the sugar content of a liquid solution, and 1°Bx corresponds to 1 g of sucrose in 100 g of solution.

“Many fruit ingredients not only provide a natural sweetness in the form of fructose and other natural sugars, but they provide the proper texture and mouthfeel generally associated with added sugar in baked goods,” Ms. Merrill said.

A fruit having high Brix can reduce some or all of the sugar in a baked goods application, noted Kasi Sundaresan, manager, research, development and quality, iTi Tropicals, Inc., Lawrenceville, NJ. For example, our banana purée is about 24°Bx, which is on the sweeter side, and it can be used to replace sugar in quick breads and muffins. Our banana purée is available with or without seeds, and even kosher and organic,” she said.

In comparison, the company’s mango purée is 14 to 19°Bx, while its mango concentrate is a minimum of 28°Bx. “Our pineapple juice concentrate is one of the sweeter fruit ingredients at 61° Bx,” Ms. Sundaresan said. iTi Tropicals manufactures premium fruit juice concentrates, seedlessand seeded fruit purées and purée concentrates, as well as essences and distillates suitable for a variety of baked goods applications.

Kerr Concentrates recently added production of whole and sliced strawberries from Oxnard, CA. “Fresh strawberries not only add sweetness, but they provide piece identity and promote fruit integrity in baked products for consumer appeal and acceptance,” Ms. Merrill said. “Customized fruit ingredient blends coupled with value-added products help us meet our customers’ sweetener ingredient challenges.”

FORM AND FORMULATION.

Processors of fruit ingredients can provide a range of all-natural, low-sodium, no-fat fruit inclusions, and some have even more benefits, according to Ms. Swedberg. “If you are looking for a health halo, we have fruit pieces that are superinfused with juice concentrate and, in many cases, contain high anti­oxidant properties.”

The dried infused fruit pieces have a resilient exterior, so they maintain their integrity in stiff dough applications. The bulk density of fruit, once infused with fruit concentrate, suits light batters well. “The fruit density transformation prevents the fruit from floating to the top of lighter batters, which achieves better fruit distribution throughout,” she explained.

Fruit flakes are another increasingly popular fruit ingredient for bakers. Fruit purées go through a drum drying process to evaporate all of the moisture from the product, concentrating the fruit, and the sweetness, to higher levels. The product comes out of the drum dryer in a sheet-like fashion and is then shaken into flakes and packaged.

“Low water activity allows our fruit flakes to be used in a variety of bakery and filling applications where longer shelf life is desired,” Ms. Swedberg said. Fruit flakes are more concentrated than fruit purée concentrates, and blends of flakes allow users to create signature flavors without the need to combine or source different fruits at different times of the year.

“Most fruits are high in soluble and insoluble pectin, which imitates various fats by trapping air and leavening gases during the mixing process,” she added.

Pectin is, of course, a form of dietary fiber, which adds to fruits’ appeal. “The soluble fiber in fruit purées can reduce the need for fat, and purées help tenderize baked goods to a limited extent,” Ms. Sundaresan noted. “Naturally occurring sugars also hold moisture in baked goods and promote browning. Fresh fruit tidbits or individually quick frozen (IQF) fruit pieces such as mango, pineapple, papaya and banana add intense flavor and color appeal.”

COST CONTROL.

In today’s world economy, cost has become a major factor in finished product formulations. As such, some fruits may be too costly for bakers to use for all but luxury goods. But there are options to consider such as flavored dried apples.

Tree Top offers low- and regular-moisture apple pieces transformed with added natural flavors and colors. “For example, if you want to use blackberries but they don’t meet your price parameters, then naturally colored and flavored dried apples may just be the ticket,” Ms. Swedberg explained.

The granule and nugget forms mimic many berry-type fruits. “Another possible economic fruit solution inclusion to consider is IQF apples mixed with more expensive fruits such as blueberries,” she advised. IQF apples are neutral in flavor and will absorb the color and flavor of other fruit.

Depending upon the fruit ingredient or blend used, a fruit serving claim may be possible. For example, about 2 tablespoons of fruit flakes is the equivalent of a serving of fruit. With diced fruits, it varies between one-third and one-half cup. Juice concentrates and purées vary by Brix.

With today’s label-reading consumer more discerning than ever about the ingredients in foods, in particular sweeteners, fruit is a natural choice.

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