Reducing sodium through chemical leavening can be simple with the right roadmap

04.06.2021 By Charlotte Atchley

Sodium-containing chemical leavening systems may be easy to use and affordable. But replacing them with their non-sodium counterparts doesn’t have to be difficult as long as formulators know what road signs they are looking for. The desired characteristics of the finished product are first and foremost.

“Each baked good is a masterpiece of its own with a particular formula and set of ingredients that work together to create every delicious aspect of the baked good,” said Yanling Yin, PhD, director of RD&A, ingredient solutions, Corbion. “For example, you would likely choose different ingredients and leavening systems for a flat-top muffin versus a dome-topped muffin. Depending on the process and when the leavening occurs, you could see two very different outcomes.”

Achieving the desired outcome requires a knowledge of the reaction happening and how to replicate it without — or simply with less — sodium.

“Analysis of the current leavening system is critical. Formulators must pay attention to neutralizing values, solubility, reaction rates and activation temperatures,” said Nita Livvix, R&D manager, Clabber Girl. “To seamlessly lower sodium, matching these attributes of the current leavening system with sodium free options is crucial to maintaining the quality of the baked product.”

Non-sodium options for leavening acids include monocalcium phosphate (MCP), calcium acid pyrophosphate (CAPP) and dicalcium phosphate dihydrate (DCPD). Cream of tartar and glucono delta-lactone work for bakers looking for organic acids. Potassium bicarbonate and ammonium bicarbonate, in certain applications, can provide bakers with a sodium-free base. But formulators must understand the original leavening system’s elements and then adjust based on the replacement’s capabilities.

”“If formulators are substituting potassium bicarbonate for sodium bicarbonate to further reduce sodium levels, they should be aware that to achieve similar levels of carbon dioxide production, they will have to increase the level of potassium bicarbonate by 19% to achieve similar end product baked characteristics,”Paul Brightsenior innovation manager and product category manager for chemical leavening, AB Mauri North America.

A new level of popularity

Artisan bread’s ascent in popularity began at least 15 years ago, and has now reached a level the category has never seen before, said Rolf Tschenscher, baking business development manager for Lesaffre Corp. “There are already indications that commercialized bread isn’t as favored by consumers as artisan bread,” Tschenscher said. Part of it has to do with ingredients — health-minded shoppers, in particular, don’t like some of the unpronounceable words they’re more likely to find on commercial bread.

Education is another reason for artisan’s rise, and the explosion of social media has exponentially increased the number of people exposed to artisan breads, how to make it, what’s in it and other information, Tschenscher said. Organizations like the Bread Bakers Guild, founded in 1993, have also done a great job of getting the word out, he added. From a producer’s point of view, there are financial advantages to expanding your artisan bread portfolio, Tschenscher said — namely, higher margins.

“Today (artisan is) more dominant than the commercialized aisle, which is shrinking,” he said. “And we’re also seeing, through social media, an explosion due to pandemic home baking of sourdough.” Demand has gotten so high during COVID, many supermarkets have run out of yeast, Tschenscher said. Fortunately for commissaries, third party kitchens and other offsite suppliers of artisan breads to supermarkets, technological breakthroughs have made it much easier for producer to turn out artisan product efficiently while not sacrificing quality, Tschenscher said.

Thanks to new equipment, there is now, he said, “the capability to produce larger amounts and supply local supermarkets.” And Tschenscher is optimistic about the artisan industry’s ability to scale up even more to bring artisan bread to more and more Americans. On a trip to his native Germany, Tschenscher took some Americans who manage industrial bakeries on a tour of what he called an “industrial artisan” bakery.

“One of the visitors said, ‘I cannot imagine this on a large scale in North America,’” Tschenscher recalled. The manager of the German bakery said “Yes, you can,” and Tschenscher concurs. “You just need to assign a designated space. And technology will help us get there.” Lesaffre’s recent investments in its Cedar Rapids, Iowa, facilities, including a recently opened ingredients plant, shows the company’s commitment to scaling artisan, Tschenscher said.

Lesaffre is doing everything it can to get the word out about how it can help bakers of artisan breads. “What not a lot of people know is that Lesaffre offers the biggest assortment sourdoughs. We make starters, in powder and liquid form, and active sourdoughs without the use of commercialized yeast.” First launched in Europe, these and other products are now finding homes in North American markets.

Commissaries, central kitchens and other offsite facilities that supply retail grocers are doing an excellent job with artisan bread, and their presence is growing, Tschenscher said. For many such facilities, however, adding artisan can be a steep learning curve.

“It comes with challenges,” he said. “It requires lot of skills and time to make sourdoughs. Fermentation tanks, other equipment, refreshing on a regular basis.”

Lesaffre offers significant support to help commissary-based and all artisan bakers find the right way to produce good sourdoughs bread with the right equipment. “We support them to take the next step.”

The future for artisan is bright, Tschenscher said. Even with the success of the gluten-free movement, bread is “in” again.

“Gluten-free is still very strong, but even there, we’re seeing a big increase in gluten-free sourdoughs and will continue to see more and more of those.” From baby boomers on down, the demand for higher quality bread is strong, Tschenscher said. What’s happened with microbrews, chocolatiers and other higher-end food and beverage makers is happening with bread. And after the pandemic, when home bakers go back to work, they’ll still crave those artisan breads they made during quarantine.

Many won’t have the time to keep baking them; instead, they’ll start buying them at their local grocery store or bakery. “We will see chains come up with better quality breads than they have in past,” Tschenscher said. “It’s a very strong movement, to go back to exploring new foods, whether artisan breads or craft beers or the butcher, or pastry products.”