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 TechNeed Challenge

Seeking: Ways to reduce the fat content of commercial baked goods while maintaining high quality and freshness

A mouth-watering croissant. Croissant copyright (c) Microsoft Inc.

In order to meet corporate goals for product nutrition and health, this organization must reduce the overall fat content of its commercial pastry offerings from ˜27% to 17% and reduce the saturated fat content from 13–15% to 6%, while continuing to maintain its high quality standards for freshness, texture, mouth feel, and taste. Shelf-life must be maintained for 60 days.

The technology to produce high-quality commercial Danish pastries and croissants is well-established. The consumer perception of quality centers on texture and mouth feel, even more than on taste (most baked goods based on quality ingredients will taste acceptably good). Maintaining texture in a croissant product is especially important.

The current method of constructing the pastry requires layers of dough kept separated by alternating layers of fat (3–4mm thick). During baking, the fat melts and migrates into the rising dough, thus creating directionally oriented holes where it had been. These oriented holes are critical to texture.

Simply reducing the amount of fat to achieve overall fat content goals reduces the separation between the layers and adversely affects the texture and mouth feel of the final product. In addition, reduced fat levels affect the shelf life of the product. Softness and texture both suffer after the product is no longer immediately fresh.

Fat performs three functions in the pastry:

  • It produces the oriented holes and dough layering, critical to texture and mouth feel.
  • It acts as a plasticizer. Fat moves into the dough, softens it, prevents staling of the starch, and helps maintain freshness.
  • It produces a specific mouth feel by slowly melting in the mouth. Most industry fat-reduction research currently is focused on reproducing this specific mouth feel.

This organization believes that the plasticizer function may be most difficult to duplicate in a fat-reducing ingredient (or blend of ingredients). Some technology already exists for producing oriented holes and dough layering with reduced fats, but does not perform the plasticizer function, which is critical to shelf life.

The company has been able to prepare acceptable baked goods at 23–24% fat (less fat than their current offering). However, this does not meet the company’s nutritional guidelines, nor does it meet their quality guidelines for taste and mouth feel.

Fat replacers have been tried, but the quality of the resulting Danish pastry and croissant products were poor. Standard margarines have an 85% fat content; this organization has tried a 60% fat shortening, but the product demonstrated a “dry” mouth feel.

Some experiments have been done with pectins, starches, dextrin, and fiber. Results have been unsatisfactory.

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