Leavening systems provide multiple functions

by Laurie Gorton
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When revamping a bakery formula to present a cleaner label, don’t toss out the multi-dimensional ones. Chemical leavening systems, for example, contribute benefits beyond their ability to aerate and raise cakes, muffins, pancakes and a host of other baked foods. They can play important roles in color, taste, appearance and shelf life.

Of course, the primary job of leavening systems is to leaven. They qualify as direct food additives with that specific function. The additional influences they have on in-process and finished baked foods are best described as benefits, not functions, noted Sharon Book, PhD, bakery technologist, ICL Food Specialties, St. Louis.

“The function of baking powders and their components is to provide gas to aerate baked products,” Dr. Book said. “This will improve sensory characteristics such as visual appeal, mouthfeel, bite and so forth. Leavening, like all ingredients, will have an impact on appearance, color, texture, cell structure and volume, as well as the critical attribute of flavor.”

Chemical leavening is an acid-base reaction in which an organic acid reacts with a bicarbonate, releasing carbon dioxide gas into a dough or batter. During baking, these gases expand to aerate the finished product.

“The choice of acid and bicarbonate can also add to various other properties such as color, flavor, texture, mouthfeel, appearance and nutritional profile of the final product,” said Kim Powell, commercial development specialist, bakery, Innophos, Inc., Cranbury, NJ. “In terms of manufacturing, these ingredients can also contribute to shelf life of dry mixes, process tolerance and overall bake performance.”

Don’t discount these other facets of leavening, noted Nita Livvix, R&D director, Clabber Girl Corp., Terre Haute, IN. “These activities can be very important because they can affect the appearance, shelf life and flavor of the finished products,” she said.

Robert Mason, senior scientist, applications lab, encapsulates and inclusions, SensoryEffects Ingredient Solutions, a division of Balchem, Bridgeton, MO, grouped these benefits into four aspects: controlling dough and batter viscosity, regulating pH, altering crumb structure and determining shelf life. “It’s nice to have these additional activities, but leavening choice always comes back to gassing power,” he said.

Clean it up

Poll after poll confirms consumers’ interest in “less is more” when it comes to the ingredients listed on packages of processed foods. This trend is interpreted by food manufacturers as “clean label,” and increasingly, their formulators and product developers seek ingredients with multi-dimensional uses that allow elimination of compounds some consumers consider problematic.

Among these are the mold inhibitors calcium and sodium propionate. “We’ve done some research with leavening acids — glucono-delta-lactone (GLD), particularly — used in amounts in excess of neutralization requirements and found them to be very effective preservatives,” Ms. Livvix said. “Because these acids are non-synthetic, they have appeal to bakers wanting to eliminate some of the preservatives used in the past and, thus, achieve clean label.

“We have also done research that shows the reduction of pH with leavening acids can also lower the amount of preservatives,” she added.

Chemical leavening’s additional benefits are appealing. “Clean label taps the other aspects of leavening,” said Robert LaFleur, R&D project manager, Corbion Caravan, Lenexa, KS. “And we see a lot of customers who want to get away from aluminum-bearing leavening agents.”

And then there’s sodium. It’s not so much a clean-label issue as a nutritional matter. Although sodium reduction today lacks the buzz of a few years ago, Mr. Mason speculated that it could change should regulatory agencies and dietary guidelines advance firm directives.

Sodium substitution has a silver lining. “Sodium bicarbonate and acid pyrophosphate (SAPP) are significant contributors of sodium in baked goods, but potassium bicarbonate or calcium-based leaving acids such as calcium pyrophosphate (CAPP), monocalcium phosphate monohydrate (MCP) or dicalcium phosphate dehydrate (DCPD) can be substituted to fortify [baked goods] with calcium and/or potassium while at the same time reducing sodium,” Ms. Powell explained.

Many bakery formulations contain salt for both flavor and functional reasons. Thus, sodium bicarbonate, a.k.a. baking soda, is often a target for these cuts. Calcium bicarbonate provides an alternative to sodium bicarbonate, as does ammonium bicarbonate, although the latter’s bakery uses are fairly limited. Likewise, leavening acids commonly contain sodium, but calcium-bearing compounds are now available.

“You should consider the impact of other sodium-bearing ingredients, including leavenings,” Mr. LaFleur said. “You have to weigh the benefits of its texturizing properties against the added sodium. You will need to ‘back into’ the formula with other leavening acids. By this, I mean taking into account the nutritional profile required of the product. You’ll need to look at all possible non-sodium-containing choices, including the leavening.”

Vital in all such changes is the need to match consumer expectations. “When the primary source of leavening is a sodium aluminum phosphate (SALP)-based baking powder, you want to make sure to match SALP’s performance with a calcium-based product like CAPP or an encapsulated product such as SAPP,” Mr. LaFleur said. “Because the neutralizing value of SAPP is less than SALP, the sodium content will go up.”

Making the choice

Color, flavor and shelf life benefits aside, chemical leavening must do one basic task: leaven the product. “In all cases, the goal is to keep the product as close to the control as possible when it comes to changing leaving acids,” Mr. Mason said. “And the primary function is aeration.”

Evaluation of various options can help formulators save cost as well as time when reformulating a product.

“By having a clear understanding of the extra roles baking powder can play from the beginning, the right baking powder can be chosen to satisfy all the requirements of volume, preservative function, crumb color and even taste,” advised Siobhan Foley, technical sales manager, North America, Kudos Blends Ltd., Cleobury Mortimer, UK.

It’s a matter of quality, according to Paul Bright, innovation manager, AB Mauri North America, Chesterfield, MO. “Choosing the right leavening system for your product is essential to enhancing overall product quality desired by customers,” he said. “Whether those product quality parameters are related to flavor, color, shape, shelf life or overall eating quality, the appropriate leavening system choice is a crucial one.”
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