Although enzymatic interesterification sounds complicated, it does a very simple thing. It turns liquid oils into functional bakery shortenings but does not form trans fats like older hydrogenation methods did. In this exclusive Baking & Snack Q&A, ADM’s Michelle Peitz, technical sales representative, and Tom Tiffany, senior technical manager, for ADM, Decatur, IL, describe why this process yields benefits for bakery users of shortenings.

Baking & Snack: What’s new among the fats and oils that ADM supplies for bakery use?

Michelle Peitz: ADM Oils has developed new enzymatically interesterified products utilizing mid-oleic sunflower oil, high-oleic canola oil and high-oleic soybean oil as the liquid oil source. These oils can be blended with fully hydrogenated soybean oil and then enzymatically interesterified to produce functional and oxidatively stable “0 grams trans per serving” shortenings. Fully hydrogenated soybean oil has been the common hard stock used for interesterification; however, palm oil fractions can be used as an alternative to provide shortenings with similar functionality and stability.

What benefits do these provide in bakery applications? How do they compare in performance to the partially hydrogenated fats that were previously the staple of the baking industry?

Tom Tiffany: Enzymatically interesterified shortenings meet FDA labeling requirements for “0 grams trans fat per serving” along with meeting demands for North American-sourced ingredients. By varying the level of fully hydrogenated vegetable oil or palm fractions (hard stock) in the blend, ADM Oils can tailor the melting and functional characteristics of the blend for the desired food application. These shortenings can be used in products ranging from margarine and spreads to baked goods and processed cheese.

Enzymatically interesterified soybean oil is used in many applications where partially hydrogenated vegetable oils have traditionally been used. Typically, the same usage level is applied, and in some cases, the enzymatically interesterified soybean oil can be used as a drop-in replacement. In some instances, low-trans options do not exhibit the same functionality as the higher-trans partially hydrogenated vegetable-oil shortening. Some storage, handling and process change need to be modified to compensate for this functional difference — although it really depends on the application. In flour tortillas and some cookie applications, the enzymatically interesterified shortenings work as drop-in replacements.

What criteria, besides cost, do your bakery customers most value about these new fats, oils and shortenings? Why?

Ms. Peitz: ADM Oils actively listens to the needs of bakers and snack producers to better understand their desires as we develop new products. We most often hear that we should take into consideration price, functionality, saturate content, nutritional improvements and availability.

Two highly-valued criteria we address with enzymatically interesterified shortenings is meeting FDA labeling requirements for “0 grams trans fat per serving” along with meeting demands for North American-sourced ingredients. The enzymatically interesterified shortenings also tend to contain a lower overall total saturate content to that of the whole palm-based products.

How important is the base fat (canola, corn, cottonseed, soy, sunflower, palm, peanut, etc.) in the formulator’s decision about which to use in a baked food or snack?

Ms. Peitz: It really depends on the price, shelf life expectations and sensory attributes of the baked food or snack that is being formulated. Snack foods that are fried need to be fried in oils that are stable and provide desirable sensory attributes. Corn oil, cottonseed oil and mid-oleic sunflower oil work very well for fried snack foods. In traditional muffins or breads, soybean oil appears to be the oil of choice.

Looking ahead five years, what performance characteristics will be most important to bakers? Why?

Bakers will be looking for similar characteristics as today. Perhaps an important factor will be the drive to lower saturates and use healthier ingredients.