Many different forms of nuts may be included in baked goods, including diced, slivered and sliced. There are several factors to consider when selecting the form to use, including visual appeal, desired texture and expected product performance.
“Diced and slivered almonds, for example, are often incorporated as an inclusion to deliver satisfying crunch and texture,” said Kurt Waananen, research and development director, Blue Diamond Growers. “When using almonds as an inclusion, formulators should consider smaller diced sizes to avoid jeopardizing the integrity of the piece during processing. Sliced almonds are more delicate and therefore are more often used topically on baked goods. Natural, unroasted almonds are recommended for baked goods, as the lower heat processing provides longer shelf life in the finished product.”
Oxidation is also an issue with nuts. Walnuts’ fat content, including healthy omega-3 acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids, make them attractive to consumers, but susceptible to shelf life issues.
“Bakers can easily prevent oxidation by using opaque packaging or coating the nut before inclusion or just making sure the inclusion is within the product and not on the outside,” Ms. Williams said. “As the only nut that is an excellent source of plant-based omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid, walnuts are the perfect ingredient to help bakers attain functional nutrition while contributing positive flavor and texture attributes.”
Other processes can also assist in protecting nutmeats from the impact of oxidation and moisture.
“There can be a very big benefit in using praline nutmeats rather than raw or roasted nutmeats,” said Paula Simons, research and development manager at Pecan Deluxe. “The praline process adds extra shell protection and texture to the nutmeats in bakery batters and through the baking process. Also, with praline you can add different flavor glazes to enhance the overall experience of the nutmeat in various applications.”
Real fruit ingredients come in many formats, which is why it is important to decide up front the purpose for addition. If visual cues matter, then a baker will want identifiable pieces. If it’s a fruit content claim, powders and purees might be a better option. In many commercial settings, dried formats are the preferred choice.
“Dried apples, for example, can provide functional and technical benefits to the formulation,” said Natali Alfaro, food technologist at Tree Top. “This includes control of water activity, shelf stability, water binding and aiding with humectancy. Dried fruit can rehydrate in the presence of moisture so choosing the appropriate ingredient is a critical part of the formulation. Evaporated apples, at 15% to 18% moisture, provide firm texture and fruit identity in finished goods.”
For application into the “no bake” space, such as in pressed bars and bites, intermediate-moisture apples are a great option, she said. They provide a chewy texture that helps hold the product together and offers enhanced shelf stability.
“When it comes to working with dried fruit ingredients, bakers typically choose fragments that are 1 to 6.5 mm in size with good flowability,” Ms. Farkas said.
A benefit to using fruit inclusions is that they are easily identified by consumers who are looking for them.
“Whether it’s diced or sliced, the piece identity offered by freeze-dried fruit ingredients allows consumers to see the fruit they are eating,” said Gary Augustine, vice president of marketing, Van Drunen Farms.
If the objective is to create a homogenous mixture, freeze-dried and drum-dried fruit powders may be the best choice. These ingredients vary in performance.
“The solubility and dispersibility of dried fruit ingredients is highly dependent on the application, type of carrier and the method of rehydration,” Mr. Augustine said.
Ms. Alfaro noted that fruit can oxidize during processing.
“But we have developed practices to mitigate this during processing and provide natural-looking fruit ingredients,” she said. “If the labeling allows more flexibility, we offer fruit ingredients with additives and treatments to help maintain bright color.”
This article is an excerpt from the April 2021 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on fruits and nuts, click here.