Because consumers now ask for simpler ingredient lists and some regulators push away from SALP, bakers need to look at alternatives to sodium-bearing leavening ingredients. In this exclusive Baking & Snack Q&A, Kristine V. Lukasik, PhD, director, applications, scientific and regulatory affairs, Food & Nutritional Ingredients, Balchem Corp., New Hampton, NY, examines options.

In March 2014, Balchem acquired Sensory Effects, St. Louis. With that change and the reorganization of activities late in the year, Dr. Lukasik now supports the company’s human nutrition and pharma segments.

Baking & Snack: How have the chemical leavening agents you supply for bakery use changed during the past few years?

Kristine V. Lukasik: Our product offerings have responded to customer needs. There has been a mass exodus from systems that include sodium aluminum phosphate (SALP), particularly in Europe, where recent regulations forced the matter. There has been a push for simpler ingredient declarations, including “free from” claims.

When do low-sodium approaches make sense, and when is it better to opt for the tried-and-true conventional products?

It’s well worth looking at the formula critically before any changes are hastily made.

Where does most of the sodium originate, from salt or from leavening? When most of the sodium comes from sodium chloride, that’s the obvious first target. Salt flavor modifiers, such as C-Salt, a Balchem product, can be used to improve sensory impact of remaining NaCl.

When most of the sodium comes from leavening, identify the main contributor. Typically, this will be sodium bicarbonate and/or sodium acid pyrophosphate.

Is the leavening system balanced? Is it used at an appropriate level, or is it over-leavened? Both of these scenarios can contribute to unnecessary sodium.

How do your leavening ingredients add to potassium content, a “nutrient of interest” under new government guidelines?

Our BakeShure Complete product contributes calcium.

However, our complementary product for salt flavor modification, C-Salt, contributes the nutrient choline, which is another current nutrient of interest. Per the recent US Food and Drug Administration’s proposed rule on nutrition labeling, voluntary declaration of choline will be permissible in Nutrition Facts panels on foods, listed next to potassium with its new daily value.

What do bakery formulators need to know about putting these ingredients to work today?

Leavening is perhaps as much of an art as it is a science! Leavening agents are easily exchangeable “on paper” but less so “in practice.” One-for-one substitutions are sometimes not straightforward, but a knowledgeable supplier should be able to assist with pointed recommendations on ingredient usage.

Two factors that we’ve found to be significant in designing lower-sodium leavening systems are 1) the absolute solubility of phosphates in doughs and batters must be recognized in formulation, and 2) physical parameters of the application that affect the “leavening window,” i.e., the period of time in which CO2 generation occurs, relative to other events in the dough matrix. These include product shape and size (which affect heat transfer), length of bake time, strength of the gluten matrix, etc.

I would also welcome a discussion of how encapsulated leavening materials add value to baked foods, including refrigerated biscuits and bakery mixes.

Typically, encapsulation has been thought of as a solution to extend the shelf life of “to-be-baked items” (mixes, raw refrigerated and frozen items), simply by controlling the reactivity of the carbon dioxide source.

The technology provides additional levels of sophistication, however, giving acidulants the right solubility characteristics to be effective targeted leavening agents.