Organic baking is more than just ingredients

by Jeff Gelski
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Lin Carson, Ph.D.
Lin Carson, Ph.D., c.e.o. of Bakerpedia, discussed organic baking at the International Baking Industry Exposition Oct. 9 in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS – Ingredients are not the only area of concern in organic baking. Successful organic baking also requires added emphasis on equipment, processes and sanitation.

“It’s not just the product or the process,” said Lin Carson, Ph.D., chief executive officer of Bakerpedia, at the International Baking Industry Exposition Oct. 9 in Las Vegas. “It’s the entire baking system in your bakery that you’re trying to change when you’re trying to convert from conventional to organic.”

Ovens and cooling towers come into play. Proof boxes and workers’ shoes are potential food safety hazards, she said.

Dr. Carson worked at Dave’s Killer Bread before founding Bakerpedia, Portland, Ore., in 2014 to offer the baking industry information about trends, ingredients and baking processes.

In organic baking, she said such ingredients as bromated flour, DATEM, SSL, mono- and diglycerides, azodicarbonamide (ADA), and L-cysteine are no longer options. In conventional baking, such ingredients allow for broader parameters in the baking processes. For example, bakers possibly can overmix dough and put a lot of pressure on the dough, Dr. Carson said. Bakers do not have that “luxury” when creating organic product, she said. Equipment and processes may need more attention for acceptable quality and shelf life.

Heat may cause problems in several ways.

“Most organic bread needs a lot of gluten, and a lot of gluten means a lot of mixing, and a lot of mixing means a lot of heat,” Dr. Carson said. “So you really need to get that temperature down.”

To control heat, she spoke positively about a rapid hydration technology that sprays water onto flour ingredients and gluten.

With regard to the oven, over-baking can be a problem, drying out the bread and shortening shelf life.

“For organic baking you don’t have the luxury of not knowing what is going on in the oven,” Dr. Carson said. “You have to know.”

She recommended a crumb set zone of about 15% for organic bread to keep it moist and extend shelf life.

“You don’t want more than 20% in your crumb set zone,” Dr. Carson said. “If you put more than 20% in your crumb set zone, that is really going to dry out your bread.”

Packaging product while it’s too hot may lead to condensation and mold, she said. Water needs to come out of the product while in the oven and in the cooling tower. Packaging at too high a moisture level may lead to slicing issues and slicing blades wearing out quicker. She recommended packaging at 38% moisture level for organic bread.

For a food safety issue, bakers may find it harder to control mold when working with organic product. The humidity and dust levels inside the bakery become more important.

Pathogens may accumulate in proof boxes. When visiting bakeries, Dr. Carson said she has encountered proof boxes that smelled.

“It smelled not because of the bread,” she said. “It smelled because bacteria is growing in there.”

Proof boxes need to be scrubbed down and allowed to dry to kill pathogens.

Shoe-cleaning programs also may be an issue in organic baking.

“Don’t allow your employee to walk into the plant with your regular day-to-day shoes,” Dr. Carson said. “If you take care of the shoes, you’ll take care of the pathogens in your plant.”

Besides quality and safety, cost becomes an issue with organic baking in the form of ingredients.

“I’ve heard organic yeast requires organic cane sugar, a whole bunch of non-chemical processing aids, and that’s why organic yeast is so expensive,” Dr. Carson said in giving one example. “When you use such ingredients, your costs of ingredients just go up.”

In organic baking, enzymes may help at certain stages of dough processing, and ascorbic acid may help with the oxidation system within the dough. Vinegar and cultured wheat may be used in place of calcium propionate.

Legally, marketing product as organic might be safer than marketing it as all natural. Organic is well-defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program while all-natural is not, Dr. Carson said. This lack of definition could provide the leeway for the filing of consumer lawsuits over all-natural product claims.

“I really need to point out it’s very dangerous to go the all-natural route because it’s not defined,” Dr. Carson said.

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