When developing trans-fat free bakery shortenings, solid content is important to deliver functionality.

As bakery formulators transition into a world without partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), thinking about base oils and their use in making bakery shortenings is changing. Baking & Snack conducts an exclusive Q&A session with Monica Zelaya-Brown, customer innovation manager, AAK USA, Edison, NJ.


Baking & Snack: How much does the choice of base oil(s) drive the functionality of shortenings? How does this differ by end use application?


Monica Zelaya-Brown: The biggest challenge in working with non-partially hydrogenated fats vs. partially hydrogenated fats (PHOs) is that the formulator can sacrifice their range of functionality and process tolerance, that is, if the right replacement fat system is not used.


Bakery shortenings require both solid and liquid fats and the use of different processing techniques such as blending, interesterification and emulsification to achieve the needed functionality in the range of applications encountered. With all this being said, the base oil has the most impact on product performance.


For example, when working with frostings and fillings, shortening systems have to provide enough structure to hold critical volume achieved during aeration. If we look only at solid fractions, we may increase saturated fat levels to an undesired level and may not be able to offer a wide variety of melting ranges. Therefore, we advise blending both solid fractions and soft oils to deliver on structure, as well as to keep the total saturated fats level low.


For applications such as pie crusts that cannot use liquid oils, a firm/solid fat must be used so that there is no creaming during mixing. The fat, which is cut into the flour, coats the flour. As the fat melts, the flour forms flakes or layers, and the spaces left by the melted fat separates these flakes. Liquid oils would interfere with proper mixing and would not allow a flaky crust. But palm oil at 100% is often too firm for pie crust. Often times, a blend of a liquid oil and palm oil will promote optimal mixing, forming and baking.


Why are so many of the “new generation” of bakery shortenings created by blending different base oils? How does this benefit the baker? Or snack food manufacturer?


When developing trans-fat free bakery shortenings, we need to be aware that solid content is important to deliver functionality. In the past, mostly tropical or fully hydrogenated fats were used in the quest to build up solids. Nowadays, many solutions consider combining low-saturate liquid oils with trans-free solid stocks that give the plasticizing properties required.


But the question remains — how to compensate for the solids that trans provided? One solution is to look into fully hydrogenated soybean oil and blend it with soft oils. Another choice is palm oil and its fractions, which can be tailored to meet the melting and functional characteristics for the desired food application.


Soy, canola and sunflower oils favor forming mono- and polyunsaturated moieties that, when combined with solid base stocks, deliver required plasticity for bakery applications. Thus, they compare well with previous hydrogenated shortenings.


While fatty acid composition and content provides a differentiation point, it is the fat’s contribution to solids at lower temperature, oxidative stability and bland flavor which is assessed for performance in the final application.


In summary, when new shortenings are developed, many factors need to be discussed and taken into consideration: formula environment, processing conditions, shelf life requirements, submission to significant heat stress during production, storage or distribution, nutritional profile, GMO status, sustainability requirements, flavor profile and stability, and of course, cost-benefit.


What should customers do right now to replace PHO-based shortenings? How close is your company to “drop in” solutions? What has been the experience of bakers making this change using your fats and oils?


We feel the best and fastest approach is when customers and suppliers work together; we call this “customer co-development.” We have an extensive product portfolio which, in many instances, provides off-the-shelf solutions, and in those instances where more work is needed, we roll up our sleeves and get busy. As developers ourselves, we encourage our clients to look at all the potential solutions.


We offer PHO-free options that include blends of tropical oils, highly functional fractions and domestically sourced oils, as well as, fully hydrogenated solutions.


When a cost-effective solution is found in a short period of time, with minimal processing or formulation changes, our customers come to recognize and appreciate our co-development approach and continue to work with us on future projects.