Emulsifiers bring stability in transition from phos

by Charlotte Atchley
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In cake batter systems, gum acacia helps in aeration and moisture retention, which results in good moisture and longer shelf life. 

Emulsifiers may be a micro ingredient, but they have a hand in making commercial bakery production possible. These ingredients act as dough strengtheners and crumb softeners, batter aerators and foam stabilizers. Emulsifiers also improve shelf life with the oxidative stability they bring.

However, they also happen to be a haven where partially hydrogenated oils (phos) tend to lurk in bakery formulations. Just as phos are cost-effective and functional as fats or shortenings, these oils provide functionality and ease-of-use that’s hard to replicate. 

“Removing phos from products can create particular challenges for bakers, including reformulation hurdles, operational disruptions and overall quality control issues throughout a product’s shelf life,” said Jim Robertson, senior product manager, emulsifiers, Corbion. 

However, with the ruling from the Food and Drug Administration revoking phos’ GRAS status, bakers are looking for emulsifiers that don’t rely on them to deliver the same functionality, operational efficiency and product quality. 

Loss of function

Removing phos from emulsifiers directly impacts their ability to do their job in a formulation. This includes oxidative stability, melt point, dispersability and starch complexing — the basics of emulsifying. An emulsifier’s reduced functionality will result in a finished product that doesn’t live up to consumer expectations. 

“Similar to fats and oils, emulsifier products from the same non-pho feedstock can suffer from a reduced oxidative stability and a different texture, which indirectly affects the shelf life, flavor and technical functionality of both the emulsifier and final food product,” said Tim Cottrell, director of business development for emulsifiers and texturants, Kerry Ingredients.

Emulsifiers aid in functionality such as crumb softening as well as improved process tolerance in dough strengthening for commercial bread production. 

Instead of relying on chemical antioxidants to achieve a reasonable shelf life, Kerry engineered oxidative stability into its non-pho emulsifiers.

“The intermediate hardness or plasticity of soft monoglycerides made with non-pho fats do not have the identical Solid Fat Index (SFI) — or melting range — of their pho counterparts,” Mr. Cottrell said. “However, with minor processing changes and controlling processing temperatures, the non-pho products perform wonderfully.” 

Monoglycerides are emulsifiers that previously relied on trans fatty acids, or phos. These ingredients served as crumb softeners in yeast-raised baked foods.

“Monoglycerides made from trans fatty acids have a lower melt point and hydrate faster than monoglycerides made from fully saturated fatty acids,” said Troy Boutte, Ph.D., principal scientist, bakery, DuPont Nutrition & Health. 

Monoglycerides made from saturated fatty acids have a high melt point with poor hydration, which reduces dispersibility and the effectiveness of starch complexing, key aspects of crumb softening. Dr. Boutte suggested blending saturated and unsaturated fatty acids together to approach the functionality of trans-containing monoglycerides. DuPont’s Solec 100 L is composed of a co-processed blend of lecithin and distilled monoglycerides.

“The lecithin helps the monoglyceride hydrate and disperse, resulting in excellent bread softness,” Dr. Boutte said. DuPont’s Panodan 150 blends DATEM and monoglycerides to provide strength and softness. 

While many bakers easily made the transition to trans-free emulsifiers, icings have seen challenges.

“Icings rely more on the emulsifying capacity of monoglycerides and are more technically demanding,” he said.

For applications like cake batter that require aeration, Palsgaard recommended activated emulsifiers, which, unlike emulsifiers carried on shortening, are activated on starch in an extrusion process. These offer fast uptake and incorporation of air in the batter and improve stability. 

Corbion’s Ensemble emulsifiers offer drop-in functionality to minimize reformulation challenges and operational disruptions, which can also occur when phos are removed from emulsifiers. 

Gums also can provide a clean label alternative for emulsifying in several applications. Gum Arabic can act as a dough conditioner, stabilizing the dough system and reducing the rate of staling. TIC Gums offers a Pre-Hydrated Gum Arabic line that allows for easy incorporation into bakery systems. 

In cake products, which require an oil-in-water emulsion, gum acacia provides miscibility to these typically immiscible phases, said Derek Holthaus, scientist with TIC Gums. Gum acacia helps trap gas bubbles in batter systems, creating an aerated texture and assisting with water retention for longer shelf life. 

“The main functionality of gum acacia is emulsification, therefore, it can be used to help replace some of the emulsifying functionality that is lost when replacing pho-containing emulsifiers,” Mr. Holthaus said.

However, gum acacia can’t fully provide other functionalities lost when replacing pho-containing emulsifiers, such as mouthfeel and extending shelf life. In those cases, Mr. Holthaus suggested working with TIC Gums’ Gum Gurus to develop a custom blend of hydrocolloids to replace other functionalities that may be lost in the replacement process. 

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