September 1, 1998

26 Min Read
Maximizing Convenience With Bakery Mixes

Maximizing Convenience
with Bakery Mixes
September 1998 -- Design Elements

By: Scott Hegenbart
Contributing Editor

  Packaged bakery premixes provide convenience for consumers, foodservice operations and even industrial-scale bakeries. Not only do they save preparation time, they eliminate ingredient-selection hassles. In addition, they allow rapid preparation of consistent products. When creating bakery premixes, however, it is important to realize that the formulation and ingredients differ somewhat from those needed for a finished bakery product. Still, with an organized formulation plan and proper ingredient selection, creating bakery premixes can be made less challenging. What's in a name  Bakery premixes fall into one of three general types: complete mix, dough base and dough concentrate. Each has distinct advantages and disadvantages, and will offer the product developer unique formulation challenges.  Complete mix. As the name implies, this type of mix is an all-inclusive, dry powder blend that requires the end user simply to add water; form or pan the resulting dough or batter; proof, if required; and bake. Complete mixes are used primarily by consumers and foodservice operations because it is usually more cost-effective for an industrial bakery to buy bulk flour rather than purchase it as part of a premix.  The most obvious advantage of a complete mix is convenience. The only ingredient the end user need measure and add is water. For foodservice operators, complete mixes also can prove cost-effective, because they can be prepared by less-skilled staff.  A third advantage is consistency. Consumers have an expected level of quality whether they are baking a cake from a mix at home or purchasing one from a baker who uses premixes. Not only do premix manufacturers take care of all the measuring, they also conduct quality-assurance testing to confirm that the ingredient proportions are correct.  While complete mixes can be great problem solvers, they aren't without some disadvantages. The first of these is quality. This isn't to say that it's impossible to create bakery mixes that make high-quality finished products, but it does require some special care. For example, many bakery formulas require eggs; a dry mix requires dehydrated eggs. Although many high-quality dried egg ingredients are available, food technologists must carefully select and test dried eggs to make sure they provide the desired quality.  Another issue in complete mixes is shortening and oil selection. For a dry premix, the oil and shortening either must be plated onto the flour or one of the dry, beaded forms used. Plating shortening onto a dry carrier may alter its functional properties and, thus, affect the finished product. Dry, beaded shortening might not provide the wide range of performance options available in regular shortenings. When formulating, compensate for this by either using samples of beaded shortening in the laboratory, or plating the shortening onto the flour prior to test-baking.  Keep in mind that complete cake mixes will be mixed in a single stage without the creaming stage of a typical multistage cake formula. This means that air ordinarily incorporated into the shortening prior to the water addition must now be incorporated into an aqueous mixture. Surfactants, such as propylene glycol monostearate, can aid air incorporation into a single-stage cake mix. Nevertheless, the texture will always be coarser than that of a multistage cake. This disadvantage becomes even more noticeable if the batter sits for an extended period before baking, because the air bubbles will tend to coalesce into ever larger bubbles over time.  Dough bases/partial mixes. Unlike a complete mix, dough bases are partial mixes that require the end user to add not only water, but usually oil or shortening and eggs. Some bases might even be designed to provide a generic mix that can be modified with other ingredients to form various baked products. Like complete mixes, however, partial mixes are used primarily by consumers and foodservice operators because bulk flour is more cost-effective for industrial bakers.  Partial mixes offer the same fundamental advantages - convenience, cost-effectiveness and consistency - as complete mixes do. Although measuring shortening and eggs, in addition to the water, adds some opportunity for error on the part of the end user, most premix users do not consider this to be significant. In addition, using fresh eggs and regular shortening can improve the quality of the finished product and eliminate the need for the food technologist to find alternatives that are suitable for a dry mix.  Another advantage that has made partial mixes more popular in recent years is the increased popularity of "speed-scratch" products. These are prepared mixes designed for the addition of ingredients by the consumer to create greater consumer interactivity in product preparation. This interactivity is believed to provide greater satisfaction for the consumers as it gives them more of a sensation that they have "made" something themselves.  One of the primary challenges of a complete mix is identifying forms of shortening and eggs that are suitable for a powdered mix, yet will provide the desired product quality level. This need is eliminated with the partial mix as the consumer will contribute these ingredients. Nevertheless, avoiding this disadvantage creates another.  The mix's end users will have access to many different types of oils and shortenings, which may lead to many different types of functional performance. Also, since fresh eggs tend to come in a variety of sizes, but are listed in package directions only in terms of egg quantity, not specific weight, this may lead to variation. End users also may make errors in measuring these ingredients which, in many bakery foods, are functionally critical. Consequently, the food technologist must take greater care when formulating the partial premix so that it is tolerant of such variations and provides consistent product within a reasonable variation of formula. Laboratory testing with some of the potential end-user errors will help confirm the technologist's success at making the mix more robust.  Because the consumer is adding the oil or shortening, it might be tempting to formulate cakes for multistage mixing to improve texture. Be aware that some consumers will inevitably ignore package directions and use an all-in mixing method to save time. A way to deal with this is to formulate the mix so that an acceptable product results with either method. Better yet, design the mix with just a single mixing stage, since many studies have shown that consumers prefer ready mixes with no more than two or three steps in the package directions.  Dough concentrates. Industrial bakers and foodservice operators can combine the convenience features of a mix with the cost-competitiveness of buying their own flour by using a dough concentrate. A typical dough concentrate will contain shortening, dough conditioners, surfactants, dehydrated eggs, flavors, etc. - pretty much everything except yeast (if the product is yeast-leavened), roll-in shortening (for laminated products, such as croissants) and most of the flour. If they contain any flour at all, it is as a filler which helps absorb shortening to give the concentrate its typical firm, paste-like texture.  Offering the same convenience and consistency as complete mixes, concentrates also present the same challenge of identifying high-quality dehydrated eggs and a shortening that maintains the proper functionality. This is especially true since little, if any, flour is present to dilute the concentration of salt and certain dough conditioners that may accelerate oxidative rancidity in the fat. This is why dough concentrates are not marketed to consumers - they simply wouldn't use sufficient quantities to avoid oxidation problems. For industrial bakeries and busy foodservice operations, however, this is not a concern. In fact, dough concentrates are ideal for continuous, high-throughput, automated operations. Two formulas in one  Creating a bakery premix, base or concentrate is like formulating two products. A food technologist first must devise a successful formula, then create a mix, base or concentrate that duplicates the resulting product.  "If you take a scratch formula, the ingredients that are in it are generally the same as what you'd put into any dry blend," says Walt Schierioth, director of technical program development, American Institute of Baking, Manhattan, KS. "For the most part, you can make that switch from a small recipe to a large batch with no problems."  The first challenge when making a mix will be compensating for ingredients that have significant levels of water, such as honey, syrups, milk, eggs, etc. This is obvious for a complete dry mix or partial mix/base, but also is important for dough concentrates.  First, determine the solids content of the water-contributing ingredients and calculate their dry contribution to the formula. Then take the moisture and add it to the figure for the formula water. These calculations will yield the correct formula amount for the dried or powdered versions of the moist ingredients and provide the corrected amount of water needed to reconstitute the mix with proper absorption. Keep in mind that these figures are a rough estimate at this point, and will be refined with bake testing and further formulation.  The next step in preliminary formulation is to determine just how complete of a mix to make. Not all applications require a complete mix. Consumers want the convenience of a complete mix, but retail shops, foodservice operators and wholesale bakers might only need a base to which they add certain ingredients more cost-effectively.
  "Something to which you'd add only water or liquid ingredients are usually the sort of thing for retail shop bakers," says Mike Beavan, manager bakery ingredient development, Watson Foods, West Haven, CT. "The larger, wholesale operation usually uses a base that contains maybe a little of the sugar and salt, some of the fat, together with all of the enzymes, conditioners and all that."  According to Beavan, bases typically will be designed for use at a rate ranging from 5 lbs. per 100 lbs. of flour - which is very common for bagels, pizza crust and tortillas - to 10 lbs. per 100 lbs. of flour for breads and rolls. When designing a reduced-calorie product, the base might even be designed to be used at a rate of 20 lbs., or even 30 lbs., per 100 lbs. of flour.  "The smaller the baker, usually the more ingredients are put into the base," Beavan says. "Bases designed for the big wholesale bakers require an almost scratch-like formulation. What you put together for those often only includes dough conditioners and improvers, oxidants and reducing agents, and dough strengtheners."  After determining what needs to be included in the premix and what will be added by the end user, the food technologist is left with the first preliminary formula. Now, the ingredient selection and formula refinement process begins. With the grain  As the dominant ingredient in most bakery foods and many premixes, flour selection often is the first order of business. The degree of effort put into selecting the flour for a premix depends mainly on what the premix is required to do. For a mix designed for a specific type of product, the flour may need to be custom-tailored for optimum quality. For large-scale foodservice operations - such as hospitals, school systems and the military - the mix may be designed as a base for several different products so a more general-purpose flour is all that is needed.  "Usually, you try to direct the flour toward what you're trying to sell it for," says Morrie Meyer, director of new product development, American Ingredients, Inc., Kansas City, MO.  For complete mixes, flour selection usually follows typical baker's conventions. For example, bread and roll mixes have hard wheat flour while cakes and cookies require a soft wheat flour. Often, very specific blends of flour will be used to make the finished product as consistent as possible. This is a tremendous advantage to smaller end users who might not have the capacity to stock such a variety of flours.  "Because many mixes are made by companies that have milling operations, they have many flour blends at their disposal," Schierioth says. "This allows the mix developer to use different flours or different protein contents to get qualities - such as eating quality, crumb grain and texture - that they wouldn't be able to if they only had one flour available."  Depending on the scope of mixes being produced, a mix manufacturer may have up to five different types of flour available. These will include low-protein cake flour, mid-protein all-purpose flours and high-protein bread flours. These can be blended back and forth to obtain custom properties in the finished product.  "You really do need someone skilled enough to use the different protein flours to get the right results," Schierioth says.  For dry mixes, flour usually requires no special treatment unless the mix is designed for extended storage. In this situation, low-moisture requirements may be necessary. "The U.S. military requires three years of storage, so the flour has to be dried down by a couple percent of moisture," Schierioth explains. "This increases the shelf life of the mix, but also increases the absorption. The baker must be directed to add more water back upon reconstitution to compensate."  With breads, this usually is not that important. Achieving proper absorption in doughnuts and other fried products, however, is very critical as it will directly affect the fat absorption and finished product yield. When using lowered-moisture flour for a long-term storage mix, thoroughly test the mix to determine the amount of water required for consistent, high-quality results.  Unlike complete mixes, dough concentrates and many bases often contain little or no flour. In fact, they're designed so that the end user adds their own flour - a big economic advantage for larger operations that can buy flour in bulk. Nevertheless, flour quality is still a consideration when formulating these premixes.  First of all, the food technologist might be formulating a custom premix for a client that uses a specific flour. Here, samples of the end user's flour should be obtained so that the premix can be formulated to work optimally with it. But remember that many industrial bakers will buy flour from different suppliers based on price, so the flour quality may vary. Even operations that keep to the same supplier will suffer some variations with different wheat crop years.  "Here, you have to build some flexibility into the base or concentrate," Meyer says. "If the flour begins to change - whether the protein is going up or down - you may design the premix so the end user can compensate by varying the use level."  For bases and concentrates, special flour specifications, such as finer grinds or lower moisture levels, aren't always necessary, but may be helpful. Finer grinds, for example, will have more surface area and can absorb more fat. This gives the food technologist more flexibility when designing a concentrate and can help make it easier to manufacture consistently.  "It depends on how much the supplier charges for the flour," says Meyer. "If they charge too much for that special processing, it may not be worth it, and you'll have to find another way around that problem. If price is not too much of a detriment, having those special features can be helpful." Fat: a big concern  Next to flour, fat is possibly the most critical ingredient for many bakery foods. Fat not only contributes tenderness, rich flavor and mouthfeel, but it's required for aeration in cookies and cakes - a key element of basic structure formation. Fat also helps lubricate doughs for proper machining during manufacturing.  "One of the biggest concerns is fat," Meyer says. "You have to have the right amount of fat and the right type of fat to make your mixes work well in the finished product."   Premixes offer the opportunity to create the fat system for optimum finished-product quality. A premix manufacturer can blend fats, or have one manufactured to specification for a desired effect - something a small retail baker simply doesn't have the resources to do. Fat does, however, present very different challenges when formulating a premix.  When most scratch formulas were developed, bakers didn't have access to a wide range of emulsifiers. For products requiring aeration, these bakers devised multistage mixing procedures in which fat, sugar and certain other ingredients were first creamed together to create the necessary air pockets for proper structure. When all of the ingredients are assembled together into a mix, multiple stages often are no longer possible. For this reason, a fat selected for a premix requiring aeration will need added emulsifiers. In many cases, this requirement can be fulfilled by an already emulsified shortening from a supplier.  "Having a fat made to specifications is better," Meyer says. "Blended fats give you things you may not want, such as winterization, so they don't work as well or give you the lubrication you need in the finished bread or rolls."  Once the correct fat is selected, the correct formula level must be selected. In a scratch formula, the fat level is primarily dictated by the desired effect in the finished product. This is still the case with a premix, but practical matters for processing the premix itself also must be considered. A good example of how this works is in the case of dry mixes for layer cakes. "Here, the fat levels tend to be higher to begin with," Schierioth explains. "Once the moisture is removed to make a mix, the total fat level becomes a very high percentage.  "The 'danger zone' is about 20% on up for a plastic hydrogenated shortening," he says. "When you start blending this with the dry materials, the fat coats them so that they repel water. This changes the absorption properties of the mix."  Another problem with higher fat levels is that the mix may be subject to "greasing." This occurs when mixing the dry ingredients with fat. As mixing continues, the mix begins sticking together and may become packed. "Obviously this is not dry and free-flowing," Schierioth says. "This presents problems in packaging as well as the absorption problem."  One of the ways of overcoming a greasing problem in the premix is simply to reduce the fat content. "Long before fat reduction became popular among consumers, mix manufacturers were doing it because that was the only way to make the mix go through the process," Schierioth says. "You reduce the amount of bulk fat - generally a plastic hydrogenated shortening - and you replace it with an emulsifier, or a spray-dried shortening."  A general guideline is that 0.5% emulsifier based on 100 lbs. of flour (baker's percent) has the effect of 5% (baker's) shortening. This will vary depending on the product. Remember, too, that altering the fat level may necessitate varying some of the other formula ingredients, too. "This doesn't mean that if you have 20% fat in the mix you can take it all out and put in 2% emulsifier," Schierioth says, "but you might be able to take out 5% to 7% of the 20% and come back with a high-aerating emulsifier for your cake."  Reducing fat levels might not be an option with very high-fat products such as pie crust, brownies and some cookies. In this situation, either liquid carbon dioxide or dry ice could be added to the mixer to keep the fat solid and reduce the potential for greasing. High-fat mixes also may require the addition of a flow agent.  Another option is to forego a free-flowing dry mix, and create a concentrate instead. This solves some problems, but fat levels still must be considered carefully even in the more plastic dough concentrates. Beyond sweetness  Sugar and other sweeteners contribute a sweet taste and necessary functional properties. Yeast-leavened goods depend on them as food for yeast, flavor enhancement, crust color, texture and shelf life. In cakes, cookies and other soft-wheat products, sugar helps cream air into the fat.  As with many things, however, too much of a good thing can be detrimental. "Sugar and shortening can be a hazard if their combined quantity approaches 50% of the mix," Schierioth warns. "The sugar tends to cut the shortening, and disperse it too thoroughly into the mix." Not only can this lead to greasing in the premix, but too much sugar breaks apart the continuous fat phase during makeup and inhibits proper aeration. It may be tempting to think that sugar could help reduce greasing by selecting a smaller particle size. But if the sugar is too fine, it will become too thoroughly coated with fat to disperse properly. Even if this weren't the case, altering the sugar's particle size can affect cake structure and cookie spread.  Some premix manufacturers avoid sugar altogether. For bases and concentrates designed for larger-scale users, letting the end user add the sugar usually is more economical, anyway. If a complete mix is the goal, adding sugar to the premix formula is required. Just keep some of the potential problems in mind as you formulate. Minor details  Flour, fat and sweeteners establish the basic structure in a baked product, but they do not totally control the result. Various combinations of leaveners, for example, can dramatically affect the texture and eating quality of cakes or cookies. Proper enzyme selection can make the difference between a bread that maintains desirable softness or turns into a gummy mess. Because a detailed overview of how to select minor ingredients for bakery mixes would prove lengthy, only the special challenges for premix formulation will be reviewed.  Leavening agents. After mechanical aeration, leavening agents further expand the air cells during baking. One common leavening agent is yeast. Admittedly, yeast - even active dry yeast - isn't often added to bakery premixes. Nevertheless, formulators must consider the potential yeast choices of the premix's end user, and test accordingly.  For example, a bakery mix might be targeted for those consumers who are more likely to use active dry yeast. At the same time, the company could decide to market the same thing to retail bakers who are more likely to use compressed yeast. The formulator must be sure to test the premix with both, and optimize the formula no matter what type of yeast is used.  Another situation is creating a custom premix for a specific wholesale baker client. Here, the simple solution is to obtain samples of the yeast the client uses. For the most part, however, premixes for general sale will be used with a variety of yeast types with varying quality levels.  With chemically leavened premixes, this variability is eliminated as the leavening system is usually designed especially for the formula and is included in the premix. Here the challenge is to ensure that they release carbon dioxide at the correct time.
  In theory, bakery premixes - whether dry blends, bases or concentrates - should be of low enough moisture to avoid premature CO2 release. However, premixes might be stored in humid conditions or water could be added to a batch only to have mixing and baking delayed. Building tolerance to such situations demands more thought when specifying chemical leaveners.  "Particle size is enormously important in leavening action," Beavan says. "Or, you could use some sort of encapsulation to control release of some of the acid if you wanted to slow down the leavening action."  One concern about encapsulated leavening agents, however, is that encapsulation adds to the cost of the ingredient. "Ingredients for bakery foods are looked at in terms of pennies per pound. It doesn't take much to put the mix a cent or two over," Schierioth says. "It may not be quite the case for foodservice or grocery products, because you have different margins. But for industrial products, the cost of an encapsulated ingredient can definitely make a difference."  So, then, how can a food technologist formulate his or her way out of this situation? One way is to adjust the manufacturing order of the premix so that the leavening is blended with the fat and becomes coated.  Emulsifiers. We've already discussed the importance of emulsification because mixes usually are made up with single-stage mixing. Emulsifiers also help build tolerance into a mix because a consumer - or even a large bakery - may allow doughs and batters to sit out. Without an extra boost of emulsification, the air cells can coalesce, resulting in uneven crumb texture. In the finished product, the emulsifiers maintain a desirable soft texture.  Each of these properties require thorough bake testing during development. As part of these tests, the food technologist must examine "stress" conditions: under- and over-mixing, time delays between mixing and baking, and storage testing. In particular, storage tests must be performed not only on finished product, but on the premix itself, to check for potential ingredient interactions. Ethoxylated mono-diglycerides, for example, can react with ascorbic acid, causing the premix to develop an undesirable color.  Enzymes. Bakery premixes usually are distributed and sold at ambient temperatures, which might turn out to be rather warm in distribution. Under such conditions, common baking enzymes tend to quickly lose their activity. Any storage tests should confirm survival of enzyme activity in the finished premix. If formulating a premix for industrial use, it may be simpler just to leave enzyme dosing to the end user.  Dough oxidizers. Although potassium bromate once was the oxidizer of choice, it has fallen out of use throughout the world. Bromate-free oxidizing systems are available, but often contain ascorbic acid which can have some negative interactions with other ingredients. Ascorbic acid also is unlike bromate in that it doesn't consistently provide oxidation where needed: at the proofing stage and into the oven. Fortunately, food technologists can minimize this effect in a premix.  "There are two ways this is typically done," Beavan explains. "First, you could give the system something else to oxidize, such as l-cysteine active dry yeast. Or, you could choose to coat the oxidizer." By skillfully choosing the fat, the coating thickness, and the balance between coated and uncoated oxidants, the formulator can tailor the rate of the ascorbic acid reaction so that it approaches that of bromate.  Oxidants may interact with other ingredients. This may simply reduce the overall oxidizing capability in the premix, or may even lead to unsightly dark spots or off-colors in the premix. Again, the only solution is thorough storage testing.  Flavors. Using flavor ingredients in bakery premixes isn't much different than in scratch bakery formulas. Other flavor-contributing ingredients, such as nuts, dried fruit pieces, etc., are a different matter. Because of the intensity of mixing in a premix, these ingredients will tend to break up and lose desirable piece identity. In a premix, they should be added last and mixed just enough to distribute evenly. For consumer premixes, another option is simply to include a separate package of the pieces in the same box. For industrial premixes, such ingredients may just be left out and the wholesale or retail baker allowed to add their own "finishing" ingredients. Tolerance  Once the premix is in the hands of the end users, any number of variables can ruin even the best of premixes. "Tolerance is a key word," Beavan says. "There are many more inexperienced people in the baking industry than there were even 10 years ago. Many bakeries are highly automated, and there may be too much dependence on the control person."  Building tolerance into a formula doesn't mean that the product must be perfect under all conditions, but that it should at least perform satisfactorily within a certain range. For example, a food technologist should test the premix by undermixing and overmixing it. Also, oven temperatures, in actual practice, might be up to 30° too warm or too cool. Test-bake the premix with such off-settings, and adjust the formula, if necessary, to improve the results.  Although premixes are designed to avoid scaling errors, the end user is still responsible for adding one crucial ingredient: water. Some users will always fail to accurately measure this important ingredient, so designers should test the premix formula with approximately 10% too much and 10% too little water. Another variable is water quality. If water is too hard, doughs can become stiff and difficult to machine.  A final thing to keep in mind is the directions for the premix. "In many foodservice operations, and for consumers, you have to keep the directions simple for many reasons," Schierioth says. "Some people may not be able to read or can't understand the language the directions are written in. More common are the people who just don't read the directions."  Creating a bakery premix involves a lot more than just removing water from a formula. Different ingredient considerations and the need to build tolerance into the formula presents food technologists with a fair challenge. Still, the effort is worth it to provide convenience and consistent baked products to consumers, foodservice operators and bakeries.   Scott Hegenbart is multimedia production specialist with the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he develops methods for teaching food science using computer-based multimedia and the World Wide Web. During his nearly 14 years in the food industry, he has authored numerous articles on food product development for a wide variety of publications.SIDEBAR:
Oil and Water Do MixOne method to customize a standard bakery mix is to add flavors. Bakers and bakery manufacturers use various flavor forms, including emulsions. Ingredient technology improvements have led to greater diversity in this area, and suppliers also are developing customized forms to meet specific requirements.Emulsions transform oil-soluble flavors into water-dispersible flavors. They widen flavor options by allowing the use of essential oils for flavoring cakes, rolls, cookies and breads. Both oil-in-water and water-in-oil types are available. The former can be diluted with water, whereas, the latter form can only be diluted with oil or oil-soluble liquids. The usage level of gums to thicken and stabilize emulsions is quite low, and therefore has no adverse effects on other parameters, such as flavor or texture. On the other hand, gums add soluble dietary fiber and extend bakery-product shelf life and stability. Gum arabic is widely used for flavor emulsions, as it forms a thin film around the flavor particle, thus fixing the spray-dried flavors. Fixing of spray-dried flavors reduces undesirable interactions with other ingredients and oxidation - this provides longer storage life. Other gum systems - including xanthan, propylene glycol alginate and tragacanth - in combination with starch and/or maltodextrin, are widely used in flavor emulsions.Using flavor emulsions in baked products increases flavor stability and solubility, since the colloidal system protects the flavor from evaporation and interaction with other ingredients. It also facilitates uniform incorporation of flavor into the product. The recommended level will depend on the flavor strength, but the traditional dosage for a bakery emulsion is 0.2lbs./100 lbs. of dough. In case of concentrated flavor, 0.05% is used."Homogenization is the key thing in the manufacture of emulsions," says Earley Fernando, flavor chemist, Blue Pacific Flavors and Fragrances, Irwindale, CA. Homogenization reduces the larger fat globules to smaller ones, promoting uniform particle size distribution and emulsification. Homogenization also improves the appearance and textural properties of flavor emulsions. The right particle size is important for emulsion stability. "An important test for flavor emulsions is particle-size analysis, using Coulter counter," Fernando says. "The desired particle size is 1 to 2 microns." The smaller the particle size, the more stable the emulsion is. Larger particle size will destabilize the emulsion, resulting in poor organoleptic properties.
--by Andaleeb AhmedBack to top

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