For commercial bakers to create countless numbers of delicious, quality baked goods with the dependable consistency their customers count on, it takes more than the standard flour, sugar and eggs they use when baking for the family at home. Specialty ingredients, such as emulsifiers, help maintain the quality, freshness and integrity of the baked good and help deliver the taste and texture consumers have in mind when they hand over their own hard-earned dough at the register.
What is an emulsifier and how does it work? Many highly experienced bakers really couldn’t say; they just know the difference it makes.
Put simply: An emulsifier is an ingredient that improves the interaction of two or more elements that wouldn’t normally mix -- such as oil and water. In baked goods, emulsifiers help:
- Inhibit staling of breads and other grain-containing products to maximize the product quality
- Improve the tolerance (or machinability) of the dough as it passes through bakery manufacturing process to minimize yield loss
- Provide lubricity through the slicing process to reduce crumbing
- Increase batter stability to minimize impact of ingredient & process variance on sweet baked goods
- Enhance the eating experience by improving the texture in cakes and muffins.
Certain types of emulsifiers, such as powdered monoglycerides and lactylates are referred to as crumb softeners since they work with the starch to provide a soft and moist eating experience. Crumb softening emulsifiers are produced from vegetable oils and are formulated with ease of use in mind. They are available in both powders and semi-solid pastes to provide excellent functionality regardless of process limitations.
In addition to acting as crumb softeners, emulsifiers can also interact with gluten to provide dough strengthening. Dough strengthening emulsifiers provide tolerance in the baking process and reduce the impact of flour quality variation. The improvement in tolerance and consistency result in a reduction in yield loss and manufacturing cost. In addition to crumb softening and dough strengthening, emulsifiers also provide batter aeration, stabilization, help achieve consistent volume, and optimize texture resulting in the quality and consistency consumers expect.
“Consumers expect particular tastes and textures from bakery products,” says Jim Robertson, category manager, emulsifiers at Corbion. “Although they are used at low levels, emulsifiers deliver cost effective functional benefits that are critical to the consistency and quality consumer expect."
“Bakers work hard to give their customers the same enjoyable eating experience every time. But that can be hard to do when environmental conditions are challenging, consumer demands keep evolving and regulatory changes require reformulation,” Robertson says. "By enhancing tolerance, quality and shelf stability in baked goods, emulsifiers can make these challenges more manageable.
Although emulsifiers have been making it easier for bakers to ensure the quality and consistency of their products for many decades, the technology continues to improve, according to Robertson. He says Corbion continually invests in its emulsifier portfolio to drive further advancements in finished product consistency, processing efficiency and the overall sustainability of business practices for the industry.
“That continual investment in basic research puts us in a position to deliver even more value in terms of enhanced quality and functionality, process optimization and sustainability,” says Robertson.
Corbion has also made the conscious effort to ensure its multifunctional emulsifiers are bio-friendly and produced from renewable vegetable sources, making it easier for bakers to meet their own sustainability goals. By 2019, all palm oils used in Corbion’s emulsifiers will be RSPO-certified and from suppliers committed to minimizing negative impacts on palm-growing regions and their communities.
Matching the right emulsifier to the baking application can come down to minute differences in specific product formulations, according to Robertson. That’s why Corbion's application team and technical service group work directly with bakers – often on the production floor – to identify and implement the most fitting emulsifier for the application, troubleshoot processing issues and ensure the effectiveness of the solution.
“We have a lot of passion for this industry and for the enormous difference specialty ingredients make for bakers large and small,” says Robertson. “You only have to look at what our emulsifier portfolio can do to understand just how significant that value is.”