Sugar often comes first to mind when one thinks of confections. Fat, however, is not only a significant component of many confections, it is often critical.
In the world of chocolate confections, cocoa butter is considered the gold-standard fat. Cocoa butter is a solid fat at ambient temperature, which is responsible for its many desirable eating qualities. Cocoa butter is also polymorphic, which means the same cocoa butter can crystallize into a variety of forms. These different arrangements result in different properties in confections, including melting point, snap, strength, glossiness and texture.
Many consider cocoa butter the perfect confectionery fat. However, its biggest drawback is economics, which is why added cocoa butter" is most common in real chocolate confections." Other confections, including chocolate-flavored coatings, fillings and chips, as well as toffees, caramels and more, will reduceor even eliminatethe amount of added cocoa butter through the use of vegetable fats designed to mimic cocoa butters highly desirable characteristics. These fats are aptly categorized as confectionery fats."
When confectioners choose fat ingredientscocoa butter or designer confectionery fatsmany characteristics must be considered. Regardless of application, confectionery fats must remain relatively stable during storage, as most confections are expected to have a rather long, ambient shelf life. Further, many commercially produced confections go through a rigorous supply chain, making melting point an important consideration.
During the past 30 years, oil chemists have identified processes that transform various vegetable oils into effective cocoa-butter alternatives for select confectionery applications. When choosing a confectionery fat for a particular application, formulators typically choose from three categories: cocoa butter equivalents (CBE), cocoa butter replacers (CBR) and cocoa butter substitutes (CBS).
Entire recipes can substitute cocoa butter with a CBE, however, some of the raw materials used to produce CBEs may face issues such as low yields and short supply. CBSs, on the other hand, contain a high level of lauric acid, which causes a high degree of incompatibility with cocoa butter; research suggests that 5% is the maximum inclusion of CBSs in cocoa butter and vice versa for cocoa butter in CBSs to maintain acceptable temper and appearance. And CBRs contain similar fatty acids as cocoa butter, but tend to have a high concentration of trans fatty acids, which have limited compatibility with cocoa butter and also are considered unhealthy.
For a closer look at confectionery fats, as well as a look at the confectionery global market and confectionery flavor inspirations, visit Food Product Design's Digital Issue Confectionery Fats.