By Marina Mayer
Bakers and snack producers continue to dream and search the world over to discover the latest new ingredient that will help them develop the most innovative product that every consumer wants. In their imagination lurks this super snack or indulgent treat that satisfies a craving, while delivering better-for-you options.
Maybe they should just open their eyes because that incredible ingredient is right in front of their faces.
Of course, it’s chocolate that makes the world go round, and that’s why many chocolate producers are reformulating previous solutions and reinventing the chocolate wheel to suit their customers’ ever-changing needs.
In these stressful times, consumers are getting back to the basics and eating those comfort foods that make them feel good inside, says Curtis Himpler, senior bakery food technologist and certified master baker for Kerry Ingredients & Flavours.
“People are not spending a lot of money and if they can, they regain some of that comfort with chocolate,” he says.
The Beloit, Wis.-based ingredient supplier is seeing a rise in other chocolate-decadent items such as clusters or bark, which is a flat rectangle of chocolate that’s been hardened to add as a scrap or shaving.
“Only a few select people knew of what a bark was years ago, along with the different combinations that are now out in the industry,” Himpler says.
Savvy consumers have become more educated about chocolate than in previous years, Himpler adds.
Specifically, they understand that chocolate from one region may deliver certain characteristics and flavors than chocolate from a different region.
For example, a combination of a Bavarian-custard filling with bananas layered with dark chocolate provides for a mouth-watering treat. Meanwhile, a blend of graham cracker base with a marshmallow filling covered in chocolate or chocolate string glaze produces a decadent snack bar.
“With some chocolates, it only takes a small amount to satisfy your need,” Himpler says.
Furthermore, Neil Widlak, director of product service and development for ADM Cocoa, Milwaukee, Wis., says that he’s seeing his customers incorporate more surface applications such as drizzles and chips into their products.
“In tough economic times, people often turn to chocolate as an affordable indulgence,” he says. “We’re also seeing an increase in the use of yogurt and other flavored compound products.”
They also are incorporating compound coatings as a drizzle or a coating on baked snacks, says Courtney LeDrew, marketing manager for Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate.
In response, the Lititz, Pa.-based company introduced a lineup of chocolate compound coatings and cocoa powders specifically designed for baked snack and sweet good applications.
For instance, the Wilbur line of colored and flavored compounds comes in Cherry, Butterscotch, Cinnamon and Peanut Flavored Drops. Additionally, the Wilbur line offers confectionery wafers available in White, Cocoa, Dark and Peanut Flavored varieties. They contain no hydrogenated fats and create a cleaner label, yet tasty product.
“Manufacturers can turn a traditional product into something premium by using a high cocoa content chocolate or by replacing the standard chip or chunk size with one of a larger size,” LeDrew says.
Meanwhile, Cargill’s Gerkens 10/12 Natural Organic Cocoa Powder is a standard fat, natural organic cocoa powder that gives off a subtle brownish-red color, LeDrew says, and delivers a rich, mild chocolate flavor profile.
Cargill also offers premium chocolate under its Peter’s Chocolate brand such as Burgundy semi-sweet chocolate or Gibraltar Bittersweet baking chunks.
Likewise, WILD Flavors, Inc. launched a blend that makes it easier for manufacturers to create antioxidant-rich chocolate. Specifically, the natural powder contains plant extracts from green and white tea, green roobios and grape seeds, which can be added to chocolate bars and pralines or mixed with fruit fillings to boost antioxidant levels. Additionally, the blend can be included in chocolate mass after conching, or polishing of the chocolate, the company says, to prevent from destroying the antioxidants throughout the processing stage.
“WILD provides flavors that augment the cocoa or chocolate in products to either achieve a specific flavor or mouthfeel, thus creating a specifically customized chocolate product,” says Marlene Smothers, senior manager of sweet applications for the Cincinnati-based company.
WILD also uses cocoa polyphenols to boost up the antioxidant level in baked products, Smothers says.
“Using just the polyphenols gives the antioxidant properties without the fat/sugar, but the polyphenols do not taste good,” she adds. “[We] have also provided Resolver technology flavors that can cover up the bitter notes of the cocoa polyphenols.”
To provide consumers with an additional health attribute, Barry Callebaut North America introduced ProBenefit chocolate, which is enhanced with probiotic bacterial cultures that have no influence on taste, texture and mouthfeel, says Parveen Werner, director of marketing for the Chicago-based company.
Because probiotics are a live culture, the chocolate must be added after a product cools down before its baked or fried.
“The new product can be used in the same applications as traditional chocolate, with the exception of baking applications where the temperature would exceed 107°F,” she says. “At or above these temperatures, the survivability of probiotic bacteria is greatly diminished.”
Barry Callebaut also launched Fruitovations, which are fruit-based chocolate ingredients made with real fruit powder from natural fruit juice concentrate and contains zero artificial colors or flavors.
“They can be used in a number of applications, including enrobing, bottoming, drizzling, panning, moulded products and fillings,” Werner says. “Fruitovations are a great way for bakeries and snack food manufacturers to break the typical seasonality of chocolate with exciting new options for spring and summer.”
In Full Bloom
Despite its popularity, using chocolate in various formulations can present a slew of mishaps, forcing bakers and food technologists to rely on trial and error.
For example, one of the most common mistakes when handling chocolate is improper storage and temperature.
“Chocolate bars and chips are tempered products that can experience something called ‘bloom,’” says Mike Quinn, a food scientist for Kerry Ingredients.
Blooming, he says, is a white, hazy appearance caused by melting and random re-crystalization of cocoa butter. Therefore, chocolate needs to be stored in temperatures between 55°F and 65°F.
“Moisture on chocolate causes a similar problem,” Quinn adds, “allowing for the melting and reformation of sugar crystals also appearing as a white haze on the chocolate’s surface.”
According to Widlak, other common mistakes are improper tempuring and cooling after enrobing or molding chocolate.
“Manufacturers can work with their suppliers to identify the optimum tempering or cooling conditions for their process and identify compatible fat systems or proper barriers to separate incompatible fats,” he adds.
To eliminate such mistakes, ADM Cocoa works to provide advice about what’s important in regards to properties and attributes in chocolate, compounds or powders.
“Flavor, color and texture are key attributes of chocolate,” he says. “From sourcing beans to optimizing process conditions, we work with customers to find a product that best meets their ideal quality and value requirements.”
Barry Callebaut’s Innovation Center in Pennsauken, N.J., for example, continually studies new raw materials and processing techniques, Werner says.
“There is extensive literature on how to manage the tempering process, but many users still struggle with controlling the exact temperatures that are required for success,” she adds. “Proper technical support is key to learning how to handle chocolate, which is why we work so closely with our customers.”
Aside from incorrect tempuring and cooling, manufacturers also must avoid incompatible fat systems between coating and the center.
Certain lauric-based fats such as palm kernel oil and coconut oil are incompatible with cocoa butter and can create blooming, says Katy Cole, technical sales and services manager for Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate
“Today we are seeing many manufacturers developing products with softer oils to reduce trans and saturated fats,” Cole says. “These more liquid oils are very mobile and will migrate more quickly to the surface of the core, interacting with and softening the cocoa butter.”
Not to be confused with chocolate bloom, another mistake is sugar bloom, which looks similar by the naked eye but is caused by sugar crystals, not fat crystals, at the surface of the chocolate, Cole says.
“It occurs due to condensation forming on the chocolate,” she adds. “It’s important to ensure the final stage of the cooling tunnel is above the dew point to prevent this.”
Thirdly, the smearing of chocolate inclusions on belts and packaging during the post-baking process is another common problem, especially on high-speed cookie lines, Cole says. To prevent this from happening, she suggests that bakers add dextrose to the chocolate inclusions, which causes the chocolate to harden faster and not smear on the belts and packaging.
Smothers advices that bakers and snack producers need to be careful when selecting chocolate forms to ensure they directly affect the taste and mouthfeel of a product.
“Flavors alone cannot replace the fat, sweetness or mouthfeel of ‘real chocolate,’” she says. “It is a balancing act to make a large range of products taste chocolaty. Also, the variety of chocolate and the personal preferences of consumers must be accounted for.”
Even though chocolate users are getting back to the basics of formulation with the right blends and temperature, today’s new varieties of chocolate can add a little innovation to any baked good or snack product.
* Photo courtesy of Barry Callebaut North America