Here’s the problem: The fatty acids that pose the most health concerns are the same ones responsible for giving shortening its structure and baked foods their desirable soft crumb texture.

Liquid oils require hard fats to work as bakery shortenings. Palm can do the job and carries no harmful trans fats. Some formulators, however, need a non-palm alternative. That’s when emulsifier technology provides an answer.

Exploring this situation, Caravan Ingredients, Lenexa, KS, took a different look at emulsifiers. “Traditionally, emulsifiers have been used to increase volume, prolong softness and impart a finer, more consistent crumb in baked foods,” said Steven Baker, a scientist at Caravan’s Innovation Center. “By adjusting the ratio of mono-, di- and triglycerides in a given emulsifier, we are able to create an oil structuring agent.”

That’s how the company developed Trancendim, which acts more like a hard fat than an emulsifier. In shortenings and margarines, it replaces the solids formerly derived from hydrogenated oils or, more recently, tropical oils, explained James N. Anderson, sales manager for Caravan Trancendim Solutions. It also allows use of domestic soy and canola oils and supports a clean ingredient declaration. Caravan Ingredients can refer bakers to oil processors using Trancendim to make healthy-profile shortenings.

The Grindsted Crystallizer line of specialty emulsifiers from DuPont Nutrition and Health, New Century, KS, answers quality problems that can affect preparation of trans-free shortenings. “Trans-free oils may have a slower rate of crystallization than conventional blends,” said John Neddersen, the company’s senior application scientist, fats and oils, emulsifiers. Throughput slows, adding to manufacturing costs. Shortenings may become prone to post crystallization, leading to excessive hardening and potential quality problems that affect bakery product quality.

Shortenings made with a Crystallizer emulsifier improve the crumb stability and appearance of cakes. In laminated products, they can increase plasticity of pastry margarines and facilitate dough lamination. Trans-fat-free cookie fillings are another application.

Shortening supplier Ventura Foods, Brea, CA, turned to selected emulsifiers as the foundation for its Ntrans low-saturate, all-purpose shortening. “Historically, emulsifiers have complemented the functional application of fats and oils,” explained David Hughes, senior project manager, technical services, Ventura Foods. Patented blending and crystallization techniques produce the company’s new shortening, eliminating the need for tropical oils and resulting in a relatively lower saturate content.

“The difference between Ntrans and a typical palm oil shortening is a saturate level of 27% vs. 50%, respectively,” Mr. Hughes said. “This reduction level shows up on even the smallest of food product serving sizes.”