Showing the way of dried plums
by Charlotte Atchley, Baking & Snack
When looking to add nutritional value to baked goods, many bakers turn to ingredients such as raisins or cranberries to boost interest and nutrients for muffins or cookies. One underestimated dried fruit, however, can offer more nutritional punch with little difference in formulation or cost. Sunsweet Growers, Yuba City, CA, has long offered dried plums for consumer purchase in supermarkets, but once it developed a process to easily remove the fruit’s pit, the company has been providing dried plums to bakers as an ingredient, too. The company partnered with Crop Source International, Walnut Creek, CA, to break into commercial baking.
According to Tim Leahy, president of Crop Source International, dried plums contain less sugar and calories plus 40 to 50% more fiber than cranberries or raisins. Despite dried plums’ similar functionality in formulations, Mr. Leahy said the baking industry has been intrigued but hesitant to incorporate them.
There are some formulation differences in using dried plums vs. other dried fruits. While raisins may work well in a soft white bread, the flavor and texture of dried plums tend to do better in heavier grains, according to Mr. Leahy. They also work well in oatmeal cookies, rugula and bran muffins.
To demonstrate dried plums in a bakery formulation, Sunsweet Growers started producing its own breads, rolls, cakes and cookies under the name Sunsweet Bakery. These use dried plums as inclusions or a puree. The products are currently available in some supermarkets and bulk stores in California and Mexico with plans to branch out to Colorado. However, the products exist to inspire the rest of the baking industry to use dried plums. “Our goal is to show the way and stimulate the industry to work with dried plums,” Mr. Leahy said.