Roger Daniels is driven by service to others. And for him, there’s no better way to serve than by providing people with great food through baking.

“Food is about relationships and honing one’s skills to reconcile the science side with the art side of what makes outstanding bakery products,” he said. “This has afforded me the opportunity to meet great industry friends and to advance ingredient interaction through key insights as it relates to shortening, oils and margarine in bakery products.”

A longtime baking veteran, Mr. Daniels will celebrate his 35th year in the industry in August. He graduated from Ohio State University with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and a master’s degree in food science and technology.

Mr. Daniels has worked throughout the industry over the years. This includes serving as a food techologist at American Home Foods, Milton, Pa., where he worked on popular products like Pam cooking spray and Chef Boyardee pasta. From there he moved to Campbell Soup Co., Camden, NJ, as a senior food scientist involved with Prego pasta sauces and Campbell’s Chunky Soup. In 2001 he joined Bunge as director of new business development before progressing to director of research and development. And in 2011 he began his current role as vice president of research, development, innovation and quality at Memphis, Tenn.-based Stratas Foods. Along the way, Mr. Daniels secured an MBA from Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania.

Mr. Daniels said he’s also focused on attracting more talent to food science.

“Food science as a curriculum is science-based, yet it is not as well-known an area of higher learning for up-and-coming students as areas such as culinary school or engineering,” he explained. “Our industry needs all types of talent. Attracting higher numbers of food scientists who are exposed to a broader curriculum than specialists pursuing culinary or engineering degrees is the current challenge.”

Why might a baker want a custom shortening or oil?

The difference between a fat and oil is its physical form at room temperature. A fat presents as a solid and an oil presents as a liquid. Shortening is a blend of oil and fat crystallized to a morphology which, when used in a dough, functions to help soften a dough matrix. It accomplishes this by enrobing/wrapping around the flour protein, thereby shortening the linkages of the protein/protein interactions. Workability of a shortening is the area that a fats and oils chemist may customize. A baker may want a customized shortening to achieve an icing with working properties over a wider temperature range, while another baker may need a highly emulsified customized shortening to achieve a balance between piece inclusion and crumb softness for the desired eating properties.

How can shortening be customized to fit bakers’ unique needs?

The fats and oils chemists may use blending technologies (i.e., oils and fats in specific ratios with or without minor additives like emulsifiers) coupled with crystallization processes to achieve the requested workability of the shortening over a variety of temperatures or over a variety of use conditions. 

From a topline perspective, the shortening needs to work as received by the baker, in the baker’s shop, through distribution/shelf life, and on the consumer’s plate. For example, the challenge for a consumer packaged goods company or baker is that they need a bakery shortening to function as received without undo work on the baker’s part to be ready to cream into a recipe. Next the bakery shortening needs to achieve the desired end result like a cake with desired rise, spread, dome and crumb texture with no, or at least minimal, visual defects like blistering or cracking. This is followed by relying on the shortening as a major contributor to achieving the desired shelf life and post-bake organoleptic properties. Finally, all of this should be accomplished to meet the end users’ nutritional needs. 

What information does a baker need to know to customize a shortening or oil for their product/process?

Through collaboration with their shortening supplier, a baker may be armed with insight into the appropriate shortening, margarine and/or oil for their specific application. Oils are typically limited to brownies and some cookie applications. Margarines confer flavor, tenderization, layering and structure to pastry applications. Shortenings with emulsifiers are formulated for a variety of cake and icing applications.

What factors determine the effectiveness of shortening in baked goods?

Shelf life of the shortening as it relates to workability is the critical component. A baker needs to have confidence that the workability of the shortening at the bakery temperature range is consistent. For instance, the shortening is required to hold its shape and not oil out at higher temperatures and conversely cannot be too firm at lower temperatures. Using a blended shortening that has been properly crystalized enables achievement of the sweet spot between excellent and inferior bakery shortenings.

How does a reduced saturated fat claim impact what oils a baker might use?   

A saturated fat is one that is comprised solely of saturated fatty acids. A typical oil is a blend of mono- and polyunsaturates and saturates. A baker who wants to achieve a reduced saturated fat claim will likely be guided to a high-oleic oil and saturated fat blend with or without emulsifiers. The end product achieved can match up with full saturate containing shortenings, but the path to the end product may entail adjustments to the blending, mixing and baking processes on the baker’s part.

How do you help bakers maintain functionality while achieving a reduced saturated fat claim?  

Stratas Foods has a strong technical service provider presence in the industry. Our team is available to work alongside bakery professionals to achieve the desired output from use of our shortenings.

What are some of the most common issues bakers face with the shortening/oil in their formulations?

Too little or too much of the right shortening seems to be the primary issue involving the shortening component. In general, bakery ingredients are either tenderizers or tougheners. Finding the right balance between the toughening power of the proteins from eggs and flour and the tenderizing power of the sugars and shortenings is the common challenge. Working with the Stratas Foods team is the right step on the journey to reconcile science with the art of bakery science.

How can emulsifiers aid in the performance of shortening in baked goods?

Emulsifiers work to bring water-loving and water-hating components together to achieve a uniform blend. This helps to translate to cakes that rise just enough, pastries that puff appropriately to achieve the desired distinct layers and buttercream-style icings that have the desired foaming characteristic without slumping or falling off the cake.