The global bakery products market is forecast to reach $447 billion by the year 2017, according to a report from Global Industry Analysts. This growth largely will be fueled by new consumer preferences for conveniently portioned, easy-to-consume bakery goods.
And a few layers within that flaky croissant lies another huge trend: the emphasis on healthier eating, and specifically on increasing fiber intake.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, Americans should eat 14g of dietary fiber for every 1,000 calories. The Mayo Clinic further states that men 50 years old and younger should consume 38g of fiber per day, and older men should get at least 30g daily. For women, it's 25g of fiber for those over 50 and 21g for women under 50.
While there are a variety of fibers available for bakers to include, powdered cellulose has proven to have versatile functionality. Solka-Floc, JustFiber and NutraFiber are brands of cellulose from International Fiber Corp., North Tonawanda, N.Y., that can enhance the structure of baked goods in many ways. Depending on the fiber's polymer chain length, powdered cellulose can retain about 3.5-10 times its weight in water. This increased moisture retention can help extend a product's shelf life. Moreover, these fibers are considered gluten-free and contribute zero calories, all without negatively impacting textural characteristics and volume.
"In general, low levels — 1-2 percent — of functional fibers are recommended for product improvements, whereas higher levels — 5-8 percent — are used for fiber enrichment," states Ramakanth Jonnala, research project leader for cereal science at International Fiber.
Solka-Floc and JustFiber can act as pseudo-emulsifiers in cake and muffin batter systems he explains. "These fibers can improve the aeration process, resulting in better air cell retention and larger volume. And depending on the formulation and processing conditions, these can increase the volumes in baked goods 5-20 percent, while improving moisture retention and extending shelf life."
How sweet it is
According to the USDA, the U.S. is the world's largest consumer of sweeteners, and many Americans still have a "sweet tooth" that must be appeased. When choosing a sweetener, bakers should consider the multiple roles it will play in a product and the sweetness level the product requires.
Sucrose ("table sugar"), a fructose-glucose disaccharide from either cane or beets, represents the sweetness standard, typically rated at 100 percent. In comparison, fructose's sweetness level equals 140 percent and glucose (a.k.a. dextrose) is 70 percent.
"There is growth in products with reduced sugar in order to lower the overall caloric content," says Eric Shinsato, a technical manager for Ingredion Inc., Westchester, Ill.
For sugar-free products such as cookies, it is not so much the bulk and texture that are difficult to duplicate. "Maltitol syrup and crystalline maltitol can both be used to replace sugar in baked goods and still achieve the desired taste and textural characteristics," he says. "However, maltitol is not a reducing sugar and does not contribute to browning when baked.
Color development may come from other naturally occurring sugars or proteins or may be enhanced with natural colors such as caramel."
Stevia, the high intensity all-natural sweetener extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant, is finding applications in many product categories, and bakery is no exception. "Recent product introductions in the baked goods segment have used either stevia as a stand-alone high-intensity sweetener or in combination with other natural high-intensity sweeteners, such as monk fruit extract. However, when formulated properly, stevia can be the single source for sweetness," notes Shinsato.
High-intensity sweeteners do not provide the bulk of sugar, however, and typically need to be paired with low-calorie carbohydrates to give the necessary volume. Polydextrose is a common bulking agent, providing minimal sweetness on its own and one-fourth the calories of sugar (1kcal/g).
Sucralose has a taste profile similar to sugar and considered by the FDA to be non-caloric. It's about 600 times as sweet as sugar and maintains its sweetness over a long shelf life — unlike some other no-calorie sweeteners. It can be used to sweeten baking mixes, ready-to-eat and frozen baked goods, pie fillings, and cake frostings or icings.
Also unlike other artificial sweeteners, sucralose is heat-stable at up to 450°F, so it can be used as a replacement for sugar in cooking and baking. The major drawback to cooking with sucralose was found to be that it does not produce the browning or caramelization the way sucrose does.
According to the National Honey Board, honey's use in the baking industry extends well beyond sweetening, and includes increasing the shelf life of bakery foods through the three main factors that help maintain crumb softness: preventing moisture transfer, delaying starch recrystallization or retrogradation, and hydrolyzing starch.
Liquid honey is hygroscopic and enables products to maintain their moisture content far longer than products that use dry sweeteners. Also, since honey has an average water activity of 0.55, it does not give up its water easily and acts as a natural humectant.
The amylase enzyme present in honey promotes crumb softness by effectively hydrolyzing the starch, thereby contributing to moisture retention. Honey acts to extend a bakery product's shelf life in two ways. First, the ingredient's high acidity (average pH 3.9), inhibits mold growth; second, the fructose content helps to lock in a product's moisture level during storage.