Of green tea, cherries and more
Green tea, identified by its vibrant green color and grassy flavor, can be used as an ingredient in baked goods, most notably biscuits and cookies. While green tea has superfood status, matcha green tea takes it a step further, thanks to the extra dose of antioxidants generated by its distinctive growing method.
“Matcha green tea is a Japanese green tea traditionally used in Japanese tea ceremonies,” said James Oliveira, sales representative for Aiya America. “When used in baked goods, not only does it contribute antioxidants, but it also adds an exotic element due to its color and taste. Bakers often like the fact that it creates natural green color without the need for artificial coloring. Matcha can be easily incorporated into baked goods, and since it is a powdered tea, it can be treated like any other dry ingredient.”
Rona Tison, senior vice-president of corporate relations for Ito En (North America), Inc., said, “The fresh balance of sweetness and herbaceous grassiness is a taste profile and sensation like no other. Innovative matcha applications include cheesecake and chocolate chip cookies. The powdered ingredient also readily blends into coatings, frostings and icings, adding both color and flavor.”
Taiyo International, Inc. supplies premium organic matcha green powder and markets a line of green tea extracts that range in strength of green tea taste, color and EGCg content.
“They are available with or without caffeine,” said Bill Driessen, director of Taiyo International. “Our extraction technology allows us to offer a highly purified white powder ingredient with a minimum 94% EGCg content. When used in formulations, it is possible to make an EGCg content claim on packages. Such an extract can be used in combination with green tea or matcha, or alone, to boost the catechin content of baked goods.”
Among the fruits, blueberries may be recognized as the original superfruit, with cranberries not far behind, but many more that have achieved like status.
“Montmorency tart cherries contain anthocyanins, antioxidants that contribute to their ruby-red color and distinguishing taste,” said Jeff Manning, chief marketing officer for the Cherry Marketing Institute. “Researchers credit these same compounds for tart cherries’ potential for reducing inflammation at levels comparable to some well-known pain medications as well as playing a role in decreased inflammation, oxidative stress and muscle damage associated with exercise.
“For fruits and vegetables, a dark, vibrant color is often a cue for more powerful compounds inside,” Mr. Manning continued, “which offers a great excuse to break up the beige color inherent to so many baked goods with a pop of color and nutrition.”
Seeds are also great add-ins to baked goods. The two most notable concentrated sources of antioxidants are chia and flax. Both also provide protein and omega-3 fatty acids, two nutrients consumers seek out as part of their health-and-wellness regimen.
And there’s chocolate, a favorite ingredient in baked goods. Cocoa is a concentrated source of flavanols, with dark chocolate made from specially processed cocoa packing the greatest punch.
“Total flavanol content of commercially available cocoa and chocolate products can be influenced by a variety of biological and processing circumstances,” Mr. Heemskerk said. “To date, cocoa bean genetics, cocoa bean handling and processing, as well as manufacturing processes, are all believed to influence total flavanol content of on-shelf, finished cocoa and chocolate products.”
As with other antioxidants, the F.D.A. limits claims that can be made with cocoa and chocolate. To best communicate, marketers will often describe a product as dark chocolate and quantify its cocoa content.
The good news is that today’s consumer is label-savvy. A baker may not be able to openly claim the addition of antioxidants, but the consumer has learned to read between the lines. Think blueberry muffin, green tea cookies and dark chocolate-coated chia cranberry bars.