Exploring gums and hydrocolloids, part 1

by Laurie Gorton, Baking & Snack
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In this exclusive Baking & Snack Q&A, Ana Maria Garavito Rojas, food scientist, Gum Technology, a business unit of Penford Food Ingredients, Tucson, AZ, describes many gums according to their unique properties and use in trendy products. Joshua Brooks, the company’s vice-president, details conditions in the guar market. Earlier this year, Gum Technology was acquired by Penford Food Ingredients, Centennial, CO.

Baking & Snack: With all the market attention to gluten-free baked goods, how can bakers use your gums to improve such products? What do they need to know about formulating gluten-free items with gums? What are the chief concerns and how are they addressed? What gum-based ingredient systems do you offer for this category?

Ana Maria Garavito Rojas: When formulating gluten-free baked goods with gums, it is important to identify what role gluten plays in that particular baked good in which it will be replaced.

Gluten bonds form and develop when wheat proteins are combined with water and mixed. Developed gluten gives the dough and baked good elasticity, resilience and strength. It also builds up cell structure, aids with binding and helps retaining moisture.

These characteristics are not indispensable in all baked goods. A cookie, for instance, can benefit from the binding properties from gluten; however, strength and elasticity are not characteristics desired in cakes or pastries. Bread and pizza crust benefits from the strong and elastic gluten network that supports their mass and that expands, contracts and sets firm as the leavening and baking processes occur.

Different baked goods require different degrees of gluten development. That degree is controlled by the amount of protein present in the wheat flour and the degree of mixing.

The lack of gluten is crucial and challenging, mainly with reference to structure. Opposite to gluten, there is not a unique hydrocolloid that when hydrated and mixed will perform all the functions that gluten does. Different hydrocolloids or their blends are useful in restoring individual functionalities of gluten at the different stages (mixing, handling, leavening and baking).

Konjac gum, for instance, is widely used in reinforcing structure and imparting pliability to baked goods and dough, both in regular and gluten-free styles. Konjac is highly synergistic with other hydrocolloids, and when combined with xanthan gum, it produces a strong and notably elastic network that gels once it is heated and cooled. This characteristic makes it an excellent gluten replacement in bread. Coyote Brand Stabilizer KX-BS is the specific blend of konjac and xanthan gum that is often used.

Another synergistic combination, Coyote Brand Stabilizer ST-101 (a blend of xanthan gum and guar gum) adds viscosity and provides the structure that gluten-free breads and cakes often lack. This stabilizer has excellent water-binding capabilities that are important when considering shelf-life.

Hydro-Fi XCT-0123 (a blend of xanthan gum, citrus fiber and tara gum) is also an outstanding structure builder. It improves and refines the crumb, adds texture and retains moisture in gluten-free muffins and brownies. This blend also synergistically combines with functional flours to mimic attributes such as chewiness and bite that typically gluten proteins impart to brownies.

There are many other hydrocolloids that can prove useful in these applications. Sodium carboxymethyl cellullose (CMC) aids with crumb refining. Psyllium husk mimics the viscoelastic properties that gluten imparts to yeasted dough, facilitating dough handling and enabling proper leavening. The thermal gelation behavior of hydroxypropyl ,ethylcellulose (HPMC) in gluten-free bread is advantageous since the ability to gel upon heating mirrors the gluten behavior during baking: It sets firm, therefore holding the baked mass and preventing it from collapsing.

Looking beyond gluten-free, what is the biggest change in use of gums by bakers during the past few years?

Ms. Garavito Rojas: During the past few years, bakers have often focused on trying to remove fat, dairy and eggs from baked goods. This focus has been driven mainly by healthier eating concerns, allergy concerns, ingredient pricing or the increasing growth in vegan or strict vegetarian lifestyles.

Recently, soaring prices of eggs, for instance, are the main motivation to use gums to replace eggs. Hydrocolloid blends have shown the potential not only to replace eggs in baked goods but also to improve their texture. Hydro-Fi CXA-0823 (a blend of citrus fiber, xanthan gum and gum arabic) was developed to replace eggs (up to 50%) improving moisture retention, cell structure and mouthfeel. It is an effective egg replacement system for cakes, muffins, brownies and cookies, without the need for additional emulsifiers.

Egg whites are widely used for bakers in baked goods that require aeration or that require structure. GumPlete SHX-DM-271 (blend of food starch-modified, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose and xanthan gum) and GumPlete SHX-ER-276 (blend of food starch-modified and hydroxypropyl methylcellulose) combine a highly synergistic blend of gums and starch to replace egg whites. These blends promote aeration, improve consistency and set, provide emulsification and effectively replace egg whites in applications like bread rolls, waffles and cupcakes.

Guar prices seem to be returning to earth. Do you see anything like this happening with other gums and hydrocolloids? Why?

Joshua Brooks: Guar pricing has in fact stabilized in general. However, there is some speculation that crops may not be as abundant as originally expected. Therefore, most recently, there has been some movement to the higher side. Locust bean gum, a hydrocolloid in the same galactomannan family as guar, is a bit more stable after having increased dramatically over the past few months. It has been reported that kibblers (those that separate the seeds from the carob pods) have been carrying heavier inventories of the locust bean gum seeds and have halted the price increases for now.

Where are your gum and hydrocolloid ingredients sourced? What is your company doing to assure supply? Are there any sustainability issues or benefits with current gums and hydrocolloids that bakery users should know about?

Mr. Brooks: It is known that hydrocolloids are derived from sustainable sources — from seeds, seaweed, tree exudates, fermentation and plants. Occasionally, there are fluctuations in pricing due to the laws of supply and demand. Pricing is determined by yields, speculation, weather and occasional geopolitical issues. Developing long-term relationships with sources is key to ensuring supply. We are not traders who jump from one source to another. We have multiple raw material suppliers to ensure supply; however, each supplier has been vetted over the course of years — with some relationships lasting for over 30 years.

In addition, by creating synergistic blends of gums or gums and starches, we can often offset any supply or pricing issues that crop up.
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