How to detour around sodium in leavening systems

by Donna Berry
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Replacing sodium-containing leaveners in baked foods is becoming an important part of a baker’s total sodium-reduction strategy. But without these performance ingredients, there is no product. The replacement must perform as well or even better than the traditional leavening agent.  

“There are three ingredients that contribute sodium in chemically leavened baked foods: salt, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and leavening acids,” said John Brodie, senior technical service representative, baking, Innophos, Cranbury, NJ. Although the latter two do not contribute as much sodium as salt, there still is an opportunity to reduce total sodium levels through careful ingredient selection. 

Sodium bicarbonate contains 27.4% sodium. “If used at 1% in a ­formulation, it can account for 2,740 ppm sodium,” explained Rob Berube, manager, technical service, Church & Dwight Co., Inc., Specialty Products Division, Performance Products Group, Princeton, NJ. Potassium and ammonium bicarbonate contain no ­sodium and thus reduce or eliminate it from ­chemical leavening systems.

Potassium bicarbonate comes closest to the sodium form, but it carries a premium price. Flavor is among those prices. “As a result of differences in flavor characteristics, performance and product cost, our customers have been less likely to target sodium bicarbonate for replacement with sodium-free chemical leavening alternatives,” said David G. Calvo, business manager, BICAR Sodium Bicarbonate, Solvay Chemicals, Inc., Houston.

Among leavening acids, one of the most common is sodium acid pyrophosphate (SAPP-28), and Innophos now offers a patented calcium-based leavening phosphate that can substitute in most baked products. “This ingredient is a calcium acid pyrophosphate/monocalcium phosphate (CAPP/MCP) co-manufactured leavener that is a 1:1 replacement for SAPP-28,” Mr. Brodie said. “Pure CAPP has a low neutralizing value, but our product has a neutralizing value of 72, the same as SAPP, making it economical to use.”

The company evaluated the new leavenor in flour tortillas, cakes, muffins, pancakes and biscuits, with results equal to SAPP-28. “The advantages of this calcium-based leavening over the sodium-bearing material are added calcium and a significant reduction of sodium with no aftertaste,” he explained. The calcium addition is significant enough that the product may see an increase in calcium of up to 20% of the Daily Value.

MCP and another non-sodium leaving acid, dicalcium phosphate ­dihydrate (DCP-D), have actually been available for many years. But because they act either very quickly or very slowly alone, they do not provide leavening reaction during the prime time for expansion in the oven, according to Barbara Heidolph, principal, applications research and technical support, ICL Food Specialties, St. Louis. The company has developed a family of CAPP-based leavening acid to address sodium-reduction needs. The CAPP products are similar to SAPP with different rates of reaction to meet the formulator’s needs but with zero sodium.

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