There are many hydrocolloid and gum ingredients bakers can try in their formulations. Some have one function; others have several. Many of them can work in tandem with each other, providing a complex web of benefits. But choosing the right one can be complicated.

“Every bakery application is unique and presents its own set of challenges,” said Olivia Benton, food technologist, food systems, Ingredion Inc. “For this reason, it is important to choose a gum or gum system that is suitable for your specific application.”

Start with the product and whether it’s a batter or a dough. The type of leavening present — yeast or chemical leavening — is also important. The baker’s goal is also imperative and will focus the search for the right ingredient or ingredient combination.

“Before making a choice, consider what you want the gums to do, and if they will work with your other ingredients and process,” Ms. Benton said.

Whether a baker is aiming for a more stable batter for particle suspension or added strength to accommodate the weight of added fiber will narrow the search. Some bakers might want the added benefit of shelf-life stability, while for others that may be less important. For bakers trying to accomplish much with their hydrocolloid or gum ingredients, they may need more than one, prompting them to turn to a synergistic combination.

“There are many different hydrocolloids available, which vary greatly in properties and functionality,” said Becky Regan, PhD, principal application scientist, sweet goods bakery applications at IFF — Nourish Division. “Some hydrocolloids can be added in combination with other hydrocolloids or with other ingredients to increase their effect or to provide additional functionality that neither hydrocolloid can provide alone.”

It’s important to keep these goals in mind to avoid getting lost in the woods.

Armed with a goal and the product in mind, it’s on to studying the rest of the formula.

[Related reading: Optimal gum function depends on hydration]

“To choose a correct gum or gums system to obtain the desired outcome, look for gum interactions with other dough ingredients like emulsifiers, starches, enzymes and proteins,” said Peggy Dantuma, business development director, bakery, Kerry North America.

This is where questions of hydration and free water come into play as well as the ions generated by other ingredients, Dr. Regan said. The overall pH balance of the formula will also impact the hydrocolloid decision.

As McKenna Mills, senior technical services specialist for bakery, Cargill, pointed out, the process can also have an impact on the optimization of the gum or hydrocolloid and therefore should not be ignored when choosing the right ingredient. Dr. Regan suggested bakers know the type of mixer that will be used as well as other processes the dough or batter may need to endure: pumping, depositing, sheeting, moulding, dividing or shaping. Bakers should be ready to discuss with ingredient suppliers the different temperatures the dough or batter will be subjected to and whether the final product will be frozen. And don’t forget any bench time as this resting stage can provide an opportunity for the dough or batter to change. 

Dr. Regan also suggested bakers keep in mind any legal requirements such as label declarations, nutrition claims and ingredient restrictions like clean label. Even finished product marketing comes into play, like the difference between organic and ‘made with organic ingredients.’

With all of these parameters to keep straight and so many gums and hydrocolloids to choose from, there isn’t an off-the-shelf solution. Bakers will often need technical experts to help them assess their needs and options as well as test the formulation.

“We’re here to talk you through it, and the more information you can give us, the better information we can give you, and the less time you’re wasting in your facility,” Ms. Mills said.

Once a path forward is determined, however, testing is still critical to get the hydration, solubility and process right. Otherwise, bakers won’t be reaching their goals, and they’ll be wasting money on hydrocolloids that aren’t fully functional. 

“Testing parameters for each product need to be monitored to make sure the gum is adding the desired benefits,” Ms. Dantuma said. “Validate bench trials and then plant trials and monitor the finished products.”

With the right guidance and testing, gums and hydrocolloids can be an incredible source of strength and stability in a wide variety of bakery applications.

This article is an excerpt from the November 2021 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Gums & Texture, click here.