A variety of label-related factors need to be considered when formulating chemically leavened baked goods to be lower in sodium. In this exclusive Baking & Snack Q&A, Sharon Book, PhD, senior food technologists, bakery, ICL Food Specialties, St. Louis, describes options.

Baking & Snack: Let’s talk about chemical leavening and when low-sodium approaches make sense. What should formulators know about these applications?

Sharon Book: Chemical leavening is an acid base reaction. Multiple factors can be considered when choosing from the number of options for each component; sodium level is just one. Other label-related topics are natural or organic. And of course, there are the characteristics of the baked good — volume, texture, color and flavor, as well as considering the method of preparation from mixing through baking. Finally, one always needs to keep cost in mind. Each leavening acid differs in the optimum amount used with the base, so cost and use level can also be considered into the decision making process.

ICL Food Specialties supplies the bakery industry with a wide variety of leavening acids that differ in their reaction method and the residual salt they leave behind. Depending on the needs of the manufacturing system, there may be options, or you may be limited in the choices available. For example, if a batter requires refrigerated storage, the heat-activated leavening acids contain sodium. However, if the wet and dry ingredients are mixed and baked in a relatively short period of time, there are more choices.

Sodium acid pyrophosphate (SAPP) has been a valuable leavening acid in the baking industry for decades. Understanding the desire by the consumer to reduce sodium propelled ICL to develop another option — calcium acid pyrophosphate (CAPP, trademarked Levona). Just like SAPP, which has different grades with different reaction rates for a variety of applications, Levona also comes in different grades. Sodium and calcium do affect the texture of the cake, muffin, biscuit, etc. differently; it is not a simple replacement of one ingredient for another.

Nucleation of the batter or dough during mixing is a critical step in chemical leavening. Monocalcium phosphate has always been a no-sodium option for this function. Conversely, if a late expansion of the muffin or cake batter during baking is desired, again the only option is a no-sodium dicalcium phosphate dihydrate.

The anion choices are sodium, calcium or aluminum; there are no potassium-based leavening acids.

Working with the leavening acid supplier will allow the formulator to understand the options available. Formulations can then be prepared with the correct amount of ingredients to ensure a proper evaluation. Making and evaluating the desired baked good with a number of different acids, while keeping other ingredients constant, is the only way to determine what will work in each specific application. This will allow one to have the best information to make the choice between what is on the label and what characteristics the product will have.