Fruits: Add Fruit, Add Value

by Donna Berry
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Autumn conjures memories of family apple orchard outings followed by weeks of creative ways to enjoy the bushel of freshly picked Granny Smiths, McIntosh and Red Delicious in crumbles, muffins, pies and other baked foods.

Commercial bakeries seldom use fresh fruit in their recipes because fresh fruit ingredients present challenges with consistency and spoilage, among other defects. Fortunately, there are an array of options to add fruit to formulas, and for many bakers, dried fruit ingredients prove to be the most functional and economical source.

“Fruit is natural, wholesome and nutritious, but in order to sell, it must also perform to consumer demands,” said Jeannie Curry-Swedberg, director of business development, Tree Top, Inc., Selah, WA. “Dried fruit ingredients not only provide consistency, they are very economical, because one is not paying to ship water. Plus, dried fruit ingredients are shelf-stable, so they do not require reduced-temperature distribution or storage.

“Compared with many individually quick-frozen fruit ingredients, dried fruits maintain texture integrity during the vigorous mixing and shear encountered in baking operations,” Ms. Curry-Swedberg continued. “Dried fruit ingredients also won’t bleed into the batter.” REDUCING MOISTURE. There are three general dried ingredient categories: evaporated (also sometimes called dehydrated), infused and powdered. In all forms, low moisture content or low water activity provide microbial stability, which extends the shelf life of the ingredient in storage and in a given application. Water activity provides an indication of the relative quantity of moisture free to migrate from the fruit pieces into the surrounding matrix.

Powdered fruit ingredients have the lowest moisture content of all — usually less than 5%. “Fruit fillings used in toaster pastries and bars often contain lowmoisture fruit powders, which help control the water activity in shelf-stable products,” said Doug Webster, manager of research and development at Tree Top. “Traditionally, starches and gums have been used to bind water and thicken fillings; fruit powders serve the same function with the labeling advantages associated with real fruit.”

Evaporated fruits range from 5 to 25% moisture, depending on the fruit and form (for example, diced, sliced, whole, etc.). “With today’s rising fuel costs, using evaporated fruit is a way to save transportation costs while maintaining the quality of the finished product,” Ms. Curry-Swedberg said. “Depending on the fruit, the variety and its maturity, the rehydration ratio is between 3-and 4-to-1, which means shipping is about 25% of the volume of fresh or frozen fruit.”

Infused fruits contain solutions of flavor, color and sweetener. Some infused fruits can be as low as 60% solids; however, the moisture is bound, thus it has a low water activity.

“Infusion involves a more gentle process of moisture removal during dehydration than occurs during conventional dehydration. This minimizes damage to the fruit’s texture and does not lead to the typical hardness found in most low-moisture fruits,” Mr. Webster explained. “By infusing fruit pieces with various humectants such as juice solids or sugar, along with colors and flavors, it is possible to customize shelf-stable, dehydrated fruit ingredients that retain their soft texture under dry-packaged, intermediate moisture and/or freezer conditions.

“Infused fruit pieces can be tailored for intermediate-moisture products used in the baked foods industry such as frostings, fillings and refrigerated cookie dough,” Mr. Webster added. “The trick is to match the water activity of the infused ingredient as closely to the water activity of the food matrix in order to minimize moisture migration.”

APPLE OPPORTUNITY.

Apples are an economical fruit and possess a neutral flavor profile and texture, which makes them ideal for infusing with colors and flavors.

“We start with dried Pacific Northwest apples and super-infuse them with sweetener, color and flavor. This process allows us to create all-natural, apple-based fruit ingredients that mimic expensive fruits,” Mr. Webster said. “Flavoring systems sometimes include juice concentrate of the characterizing fruit. We can customize flavor profiles and create infused apple pieces that taste and look like berries, cherries, grapes and tropical fruits.”

Infused apple, as well as pear, pieces can be used as extenders with other more costly fruits in filling applications. The neutral characteristics of apple and pear allow them to absorb the flavors of the more pronounced characterizing fruits in the blended ingredient.

“The blend can be tailored to fit budget restraints,” Ms. Curry-Swedberg said. “For example, a blend of 75% blueberries, the more expensive fruit, with 25% of infused apples can provide significant cost savings. And the product can still claim to be made with real blueberries.

“Before infused apple pieces, bakers relied on conventionally dried and low-moisture fruit pieces, both of which have an undesirable hard texture, as well as freezedried fruits, which may be too expensive for most applications,” she explained. “Frozen and fresh fruit pieces really are not an option for many rigorous baking applications such as bagels and scones because these processes negatively impact fruit piece identity.”

Mr. Webster added, “The textural integrity of infused apples is enhanced during processing and maintains size and shape in finished baked foods.”

Sometimes infused fruits need to be partially rehydrated prior to use, a process referred to as conditioning. Depending on the application, recipe moisture contents may need to be adjusted to allow partial rehydration of the fruit after it is baked into the product. Infused fruits have a soft, chewy texture and function in a similar manner to raisins.

THE ORIGINAL DRIED FRUIT.

“Raisins are a traditional ingredient in baked foods. They add both functionality and great taste to all types of baked products,” said Larry Blagg, senior vice-president, California Raisin Marketing Board, Fresno, CA. “Raisins can be used right out of the case, but experienced bakers commonly condition raisins in advance. This involves rehydrating raisins to about 28% moisture. Some suppliers sell preconditioned raisins.

“Conditioning is an important step in the production of raisin breads. If raisins are not conditioned but added directly to the dough, they will draw moisture from the bread during fermentation and baking. This also causes the bread to stale during shipping and distribution, which reduces the shelf life,” Mr. Blagg explained. “Further, juicy, moist conditioned raisins keep small baked foods such as cupcakes and bagels from drying out.” It is important to not overcondition raisins because this releases too many solids, and the raisins readily break or get mashed during the mixing process. Raisins should also not be conditioned in excessively hot water. For best results, raisins should be about 75°F at the end of the process.

The American Society of Baking, Petaluma, CA, recommends that quantities of not more than 30 lb be conditioned by adding 12 to 15% of warm water by weight to the raisins right in the poly-lined case in which they are shipped. Temperature of the water should not exceed 75 to 80°F added at the rate of 3.6 to 4.5 lb of water to 30 lb of raisins. Reclose the poly liner, cover the container and turn it a number of times to distribute the water uniformly. Turn again after about two hours, and allow to stand for an additional two hours for a total conditioning time of at least four hours or overnight.

For larger quantities, AIB International, Manhattan, KS, recommends that raisins be placed in a trough or tank with a screened bottom opening for draining the water. Completely cover the raisins with water at 75 to 80°F and then drain. Close the drain to retain leached solids. Cover the trough or tank, and allow the raisins to absorb the surface water for at least four hours or overnight. Mr. Blagg suggested that any remaining liquid after conditioning be added to the dough as part of the liquid component in the formula.

Conditioned fruits should be added to batter or dough at the very last step, during the last minute or two of a mixing process to ensure that the fruit remains intact. “Excess free sugar and acid in yeast-leavened dough can occur from crushed fruit or broken skins during mixing. This has a negative impact on fermentation,” Mr. Blagg said. “It is important to mix the fruit in gently to maintain integrity and wholeness.”

Jeff Zeak, pilot plant manager at AIB, provided this tip: “With raisin bread, in order to prevent charring of the raisins on the outside of the bread crust and the crust from overbrowning caused by the typically higher sugar level contained in a raisin bread dough formula, reduce the baking temperature by 25 to 30°F or more than what you would typically bake a conventional loaf of white bread. Additionally, close the exhaust damper of the oven. In some cases, add a small amount of steam into the baking chamber to keep the baking environment moist.”

VARIED BERRIES.

All types of dried berries are making their way into baked foods.

Fresh or frozen blueberries are dehydrated by a number of methods to produce a dried fruit for application as an inclusion in baked foods such as bagels, scones and snack bars.

“Blueberries for baked foods can be dehydrated with hot air to reduce the moisture level to around 18%. They are usually first infused with a sugar solution to give them more weight and pliability,” said Thomas Payne, spokesperson for the US Highbush Blueberry Council, Fresno, CA. “Blueberries can also be infused with syrup to push out moisture in what is called an osmotic dehydration process. Both forms are shelf stable so bakers can keep them readily available.

“The secret to beautiful-colored blueberries in baked foods is proper pH,” Mr. Payne added. “Blueberries turn reddish when exposed to acids such as lemon juice and vinegar. They can turn greenish-blue in a batter that has too much baking soda, which creates an alkaline environment.”

Graceland Fruit, Inc., Frankfort, MI, as well as Ocean Spray ITG, Lakeville-Middleboro, MA, has developed a line of infused dried cranberry ingredients that feature the look and taste of traditional infused dried cranberries yet can be offered at more attractive price points.

“This ingredient was developed in response to consumer demand for a nutritious cranberry product that is value priced,” said Brent Bradley, vice-president of sales and marketing. “This product delivers that lower-cost solution while maintaining the superior quality, health benefits and taste that our customers expect.

“We start with quality, graded cranberries infused with natural ingredients and dried to a specified moisture range. Several piece sizes including a standard sweetened dried cranberry size, whole berry and julienne sliced cut are available,” Mr. Bradley explained. “They can be used directly in industrial baking applications. No conditioning is required, but some manufacturers may choose to partially rehydrate the cranberry inclusion before adding them to their applications.”

Usage level depends on the end product and how much piece identity is desired. “In most cases, the cranberry ingredient is added toward the end of the mixing step, but the exact methodology depends on the specific product application,” Mr. Bradley said.

An emerging berry in the US baking industry is the black currant, which comes from the plant Ribes nigrum L. that thrives in New Zealand. Black currants are gaining notoriety among health-conscious consumers because they are one of the highest concentrated sources of potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium, trace minerals, organic acids and vitamins A, B and C, according to Just the Berries PD Corp., Los Angeles, CA. Both infused dried black currants and black currant powders have application in baked foods.

The versatility and flexibility of dried fruits in their numerous forms make them a choice ingredient for bakers who want to liven up their baked foods.

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