Cutting chemical preservatives
The F.D.A. defines the chemical preservative category as any chemical that, when added to food, tends to prevent or retard deterioration. The good news is that ingredients excluded from this list include common salt, sugar, vinegar, spices or oils extracted from spices, as well as substances added to food by direct exposure like wood smoke.
Preservatives prevent deterioration, which can take the form of mold growth, staling and the development of objectionable flavors and odors, such as those described as rancid.
The desire to enrich baked foods with nutritional but unstable ingredients, most notably omega-3 fatty acids, greatly increases the oxidation challenge. Additional issues are encountered when using specialty whole grains because they contain the germ, a source of naturally occurring polyunsaturated fatty acids prone to oxidation.
Fat degradation has long been an issue in baked goods because many recipes rely on butter or vegetable oils for flavor and performance. In general, the more polyunsaturated fatty acids on a fat molecule, the faster it will go rancid. This is due to the unstable double bonds that participate in the various degradation processes.
The most common approach to retard lipid auto-oxidation is to include antioxidants in the formulation. This is often done at the ingredient level, with suppliers adding antioxidants to the fat or oil to retard the chain reaction from getting past the initiation stage.
Traditional synthetic antioxidants are very effective, easy to use and low cost. But being chemically derived, they are seen as undesirable in the clean label environment.
Instead, bakers are embracing clean label antioxidants that can be discreetly added to product formulations. Common options are classified as tocopherols and high-phenolic plant extracts, such as those sourced from rosemary, green tea, acerola and licorice. Natamycin, a naturally occurring antifungal agent long used in cheese-making, is another option for bakers, depending on customer approval.
Natural sweetness, color
With sweeteners and colors, clean label formulating is not as straightforward as with flavors and antioxidants. These continue to be highly scrutinized by activist groups, so bakers are wise to evaluate their options based on desired marketing claims.
With colors, allowed claims can get very confusing. Basically any ingredient with the sole purpose of adding color to a food or beverage is a color additive, and all color additives require prior approval by the F.D.A. as food additives. The F.D.A. classifies them as either “certified” or “exempt from certification.” The first is also commonly referred to as artificial or synthetic, and the latter, by default, is often characterized as natural.
The F.D.A. does not consider any color added to a food as being natural, unless the color is native to the product itself. For example, strawberry pie filling colored with strawberry extract could be labeled “all natural,” providing that none of the other ingredients in the filling were characterized as artificial. Such a description would not be possible if beet juice, an F.D.A.-recognized color additive, was used for a colorful boost. In this case, a phrase such as “free from synthetic colors” or “colored with vegetable juice” would be the best labeling option.
When it comes to sweeteners, the food industry as a whole has made reducing added sugars a priority. For bakers, this can be challenging. This is because sugar in its many varied forms, including high-fructose corn syrup (an ingredient on Whole Foods Market’s unacceptable ingredient list), is essential for baking. Not only do these carbohydrates add desirable sweetness, but because of their unique chemical nature, they also perform many other critical functions in baked goods.
|||SIDEBAR — Case in point: Dough tolerance|||
Case in point: Dough tolerance
Formulating cleaner label breads involves understanding of each ingredient’s unique function.
|Jesse Stinson, application manager of sweet bakery goods for Corbion Caravan|
“When you’re thinking about dough tolerance, it starts at the mixing bowl and goes all the way to the finished product,” said Jesse Stinson, application manager of sweet bakery goods for Corbion Caravan. “It’s important to start with an optimized formula and properly develop the dough during mixing to get the best possible dough machinability and strength. Dough goes through a significant amount of stress during processing, so it is important to have the right dough conditioners in the formula that can handle this stress and still get a nice-looking loaf of bread.”
Many traditionally used dough conditioners don’t make the clean label cut because they are based on a system of additives, some with long chemical names, according to Bradley Cain, vice-president of R.&D. for Cain Food Industries Inc.
|Bradley Cain, vice-president of R.&D. for Cain Food Industries|
“Enzymes are a great clean label alternative,” Mr. Cain said. “They allow bakers to eliminate many of the traditional chemical emulsifiers and strengtheners used in dough conditioners.
“For the most part, enzymes are very stable and do not react with other ingredients before being hydrated. We even have a blend specifically for frozen products. These enzymes provide the tolerance required during the frozen state to produce quality finished baked goods.”
Enzymes can also manage firmness, resilience and adhesiveness.“Texture is another characteristic that may be controlled with enzymes,” Ms. Stinson said. “We’ve formulated enzyme systems that enable bakers to reduce the number of ingredients in 100% whole wheat bread from 17 to 13. Advances in enzyme technology can be very helpful with simplifying the ingredient statement of all types of baked goods.”