Four roles fats play in baked foods

by Charlotte Atchley
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Cupcake
Something as simple as room temperature can impact fat’s functionality.

They’re the jack-of-all-trades ingredients; they can play several different functions in a bakery formulation.

“Fats influence the structure, processing and sensory profile of baked goods,” said Chandra Ankolekar, Ph.D., technical service manager, Kemin Food Technologies.

Fat particles coat flour to shorten gluten strands and create a flaky texture. Fats contribute richness and flavor. They tenderize; they aerate. Their resume is long.

“Bakers need to consider what type of quality they are expecting from the fat system, and when we talk about quality, we talk about taste and consumption temperature, mouthfeel, texture and performance,” said Christina Eagan, applications and technical services lead, Bunge Loders Croklaan.
 

Fat’s role in a formulation — and its storage and handling needs — can help determine which system a baker should choose.

Solid fat content (SFC), melting curves and points, and crystalline structure are major parameters of any fat or oil that will affect functionalities such as mouthfeel and taste, leavening through lamination, and aeration and creaming. Understanding how fat works in a formulation will help bakers understand their products’ needs.

biscuit
Flaked shortenings not only deliver a laminated effect, but can also be a carrier for flavors such as cinnamon or butter.

“Choosing the right kind of fat system is the biggest item for consideration,” said Roger Daniels, vice-president, research development & innovation, Stratas Foods L.L.C. “There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ for fats and oils. Knowing the roles you need the ingredients to fill is important.”

Mouthfeel and flavor
Fat goes a long way in creating the taste and mouthfeel consumers expect from fat-based products such as pastries, donuts, cakes and icings.

“Fat is a great flavor carrier,” said Tim Sieloff, director of research, development and application, Corbion. “In most low-fat products, the challenge is to create the same flavor profile as a full-fat product. That’s what’s missing — the flavor — when you make a reduced-fat product.”
 

Fat’s property as a great contributor to flavor properties comes as no surprise, considering butter and lard are known for making products such as croissants and Danish taste so good. However, some plant-based fats and oils can’t be detected by the human palate, making them the perfect carriers for other flavors. With its flaked shortenings, AAK can add color, flavors and spices to deliver different sensory characteristics to the final product … even the taste of butter for bakers who want to use a plant-based shortening but still feature that signature taste consumers expect.

Taste is more than just good flavor, though. Mouthfeel and texture also contribute, and in fat-based bakery products, SFC and melting curves have an impact.

“The melting and crystallization profile will determine the eating experience,” said Chris Bohm, customer innovation manager, AAK. “Whether a finished baked good leaves a clean or waxy mouthfeel when consumed is directly related to the melting and crystallization profile of the fat.”

The melting curve refers to the line that can be drawn between the temperature and the SFC of the fat. This has a direct impact on how it holds up in thermal processing and as the finished product is consumed. It’s the difference between “melt in your mouth” and an undesirable waxy mouthfeel.

“Because of the high melt point of palm products, some people will have the sensation of a coating in their mouth,” Mr. Sieloff said. “With hydrogenated fats, we can control that factor, but what we do with the palm oils is blend them with other oils to balance out the sharpness of the high melting point to give a more desirable mouthfeel.”

This is something to look for in donut frying oils. Ms. Eagan explained that typically donut frying oils are solid at room temperature, having a higher SFC. This prevents flat icings from melting off the donut or oil spots from appearing in the powdered sugar coating. But beware: If an SFC is too high, donut producers must contend with the waxy mouthfeel.

It’s a balance between level of fat and type of fat.

“In a layer cake, a shortening-based product, you could make it with all oil or a high melt point shortening,” Mr. Sieloff said. “You will see slight differences in the eating quality based on the fat used because of the melt point aspects.”

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