Bakery applications like bread and rolls don’t rely too heavily on fat, but other applications need sugar and fat for their structure and taste. Cookies, donuts, cakes, icing and even tortillas all depend on fat but in different ways, which is where tailored shortenings come into play. 

“In cookies, fat systems provide tenderness, lubrication, aeration and more, whereas in an icing, creamy taste, spreadability, aeration and pleasant taste are more important,” said Chandra Ankolekar, PhD, technical manager, bakery, dressings and oils, Kemin Food Technologies. “These properties are directly influenced by the solid fat index and crystal structure of the fat. The spectrum of specialization also might vary depending on the type of product under consideration.”

While a fat is solid and an oil is liquid at room temperature, a shortening or margarine blends fats and oils and crystallizes to achieve specific functionality. At its heart, shortening or margarine tenderizes the dough.

“The fat and oil components interact with the flour and egg proteins to control strong protein-to-protein bonding and yield a finished product with the desired eating properties,” said Roger Daniels, vice president, research, development, innovation and quality for Stratas Foods LLC.

In a cookie, the fat system not only delivers the tenderness and bite expected of a cookie but also influences the spread, height and texture, whether the baker is aiming for soft and chewy or crispy.

Bunge Loders Croklaan developed its Vream Elite line of shortenings to target application-specific challenges while also delivering premium finished products. For cookies, bakers can use this line to cream ingredients for smooth consistency and achieve their preferred texture.

“Vream Elite is made by using enzymes to blend high-stability soybean oil and soy hard fat,” said Mark Stavro, senior director of marketing, Bunge Loders Croklaan. “It enables bakers to create bright white icings, high-volume cakes, flaky pie crusts, velvety donuts, soft and chewy or crispy cookies, and tortillas with excellent rollability. Vream Elite is also very easy to use, as it has great workability across a wide range of temperatures, shows exceptional creaming with all types of ingredients and avoids post-hardening.”

Cakes and icings come with their own sets of challenges. Both depend on aeration for their structure, strength and mouthfeel. With their light and airy texture, cakes require something more from their fat systems.

“As you increase the complexity of the baked product, the shortening also becomes more complex and may include the use of emulsifiers,” Mr. Daniels said. “An emulsifier is composed of fat-loving and water-loving entities, which in turn function to bridge the cake foam or icing ingredients to achieve a uniform mix of both fat- and water-based ingredients.”  

Because they contain large amounts of liquid, sugar and air, these applications can greatly benefit from the use of emulsified shortenings.

“Emulsified shortenings help to efficiently incorporate and stabilize fine air bubbles during the creaming stage, thereby improving aeration during processing and yielding cakes and icings with greater volumes,”

Ms. Weis said. “The emulsified shortening system helps to evenly disperse the fat and air throughout a high-ratio cake batter matrix, yielding a cake with a fine and uniform crumb structure and superior tenderness.”

Bunge Loders Croklaan’s Vream line offers shortenings for cakes and icings. For cakes, Vream Elite produces excellent volume and aeration, and for icings, the shortening addresses light texture and a bright white appearance. It also eliminates post-hardening, which leads to longer shelf life and desirable mouthfeel.

While they both need aeration, icings need to be easy to spread, have a good color and freeze/thaw stability. These characteristics ensure icings are easy to decorate with, look attractive and taste good. A wide working temperature range maintains those characteristics. Frank Flider, oils consultant, United Soybean Board, recommended high-oleic soybean shortening to create icings that are smooth, light and easy to use.

To assist bakers looking to make icings that withstand temperature swings without losing textural integrity or plasticity, Cargill designed its PalmAgility shortening line to reduce brittleness across a wide range of temperatures.

“This feature helps customers manage a variable that can, at times, be outside their control,” said John Satumba, PhD, R&D director, edible oils, North America, Cargill.

Cargill also offers other application-specific shortenings under its PalmAgility line. Donut fry shortenings reduce oil weeping compared with standard palm-based donut fry shortenings. The company offers two icing shortenings depending on if a baker is looking for a softer or firmer icing. PalmAgility 210 Danish Shortening creates a pliable dough that reduces breakage during sheeting.

It’s not just cakes, icings and cookies that place specific demands on fat systems. Donuts, which are fried rather than baked, require oils that are stable with high melt points. This minimizes oiling out and increases glaze adherence. Pie crusts need tenderness and a short bite that creates flakiness. Tortillas need shortening for easy rollability. These application-specific needs are what guided Bunge Loders Croklaan as it developed its Vream Elite shortenings for each of these. Vream Elite for Pies maintains the dough’s texture through the freeze-thaw cycle. Vream Elite for Donuts minimizes oil wicking, and Vream Classic for Tortillas improves machineability.

In the move away from PHOs, fats, oils and shortenings have come a long way in terms of functionality. Formulators can now dial in to target bakers’ specific needs.

“The beauty of fats and oils is they exhibit different physical and chemical properties, and we do take advantage of those properties to dial into the needs of the different applications,” Dr. Satumba said. “Every application has a different set of needs when it comes to the role the fats and oils are playing.”

With that ability to dial into optimization, bakers can be assured they are getting the highest quality cookie, cake, icing, Danish, donut, or tortilla possible.

This article is an excerpt from the September 2020 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on fats and oils, click here.