Pectin as a Gelling Agent for Confectionery Products

There is a wide range of confectionery products that utilize pectin as a gelling agent. These include jellied fruits, jelly layers for cake snacks, gummy candies, pastilles and aerated products. Pectin is isolated from natural products such as apple pomace and citrus peels. The manufacturer can manipulate the process to produce high- and low-ester pectins, which have different applications depending upon product pH and other characteristics, explained Frank Mattes, president, Herbstreith & Fox Inc., in his presentation titled, “Pectin as a Gelling Agent for Confectionery Products.”

High esterified pectins, those with a degree of esterification (DE) of 60%, are used for confectionery products such as jelly fruit with high concentrations of sugar and other sweeteners. The chart “Setting Range of High Esterified Pectins” shows the setting range for high esterified pectins for pH and soluble solids. As the pH decreases, lower levels of soluble solids may be used. Compared to other hydrocolloids, pectin has a relatively high setting temperature. This can be adjusted to the process requirements by using buffer salts to get the right depositing time for the product. The use of buffering salts (known as retarders), such as potassium citrate, sodium-potassium tartrate, sodium lactate and sodium citrate, affects both setting temperature and gel texture. For example, sodium citrate produces gels that are described as elastic-viscous. The use of pectin gels with varying degrees of esterification and different retarders allow the product development scientist to adjust the setting and the texture of jelly fruits.

In production operations, the selection of the proper type of pectin, planned blending steps and process systems will help to minimize process issues. These include poor hydration of pectin, the formation of lumps leading to weak setting of the finished product and syneresis, or weeping of water. One way to overcome this is to blend the dry pectin with other dry ingredients such as sugar. When manufacturing pectin jellies, proper control of the process, which includes hydration of the pectin, control of total soluble solids, control of pH, proper cooking and agitation times, and control at the filler will yield an end product meeting the highest quality standards.

Depending upon the application, pectin gels may be used in combination with other gelling agents such as gelatine and starch. Combining pectin with gelatine yields products that have long, tough gum-like textures. Additionally, they are more stable at higher temperatures than gums based only on gelatine, so shelflife is increased. As the level of pectin increases, the texture becomes more elastic brittle, whereas increasing the gelatine component yields products that have a gummier character. Pectin also can be used to produce aerated products, such as foamed bananas or angel kisses. Egg whites or other proteins may be used as emulsifiers so that the coagulating protein will create the foam, and pectin will give the required firmness.

“Pectin as a Gelling Agent for Confectionery Products,” Frank Mattes, president, Herbstreith & Fox Inc.,
—Summary by Rick Stier, Contributing Editor

A New Approach to Making Sugar-free Grained Sweets

Graining (or crystallization) is a characteristic of certain sweets that is used to enhance texture and overall appreciation of the product. Crystalline sucrose is the most common sweetener used to contribute to graining in confectionery products, explained Tom Parady, associate program coordinator at Roquette America Inc. Examples of grained sweets include fudges, crème centers for chocolates, nougats, ready-to-spread cake frostings, after-dinner mints and certain hard toffees. Very fine crystals are required to ensure proper mouthfeel, and so the processor must pay careful attention to the crystallization process. Therefore, grained sweets are typically more difficult to make than those that are not grained. Sugar fondants, which are agglomerates of very fine sucrose crystals in an amorphous matrix, may be used to greatly simplify the process. Sugar fondant products are available for direct purchase from a supplier or can be made in-house and then used by the confectioner.

One of the difficulties of manufacturing sugar-free candies is ensuring that these products have the same texture as that found in their sugar-based counterparts. The major bulk sugar replacers used in sugar-free foods are polyols, which are saccharide derivatives in which the carbonyl group has been reduced to an alcohol. The characteristics of polyols that determine their application in foods include their organoleptic features—sweetness, cooling effect and solubility. (See chart “Properties That Influence Taste.”)

The nutritional properties of polyols include partial metabolism, reduced calories and reduced insulin response. They also have high stability and represent a wide range of hygroscopicity and therefore can provide superior functionality to sugar in some applications. When using polyols, processors can make certain desirable label claims. These include “reduced calorie,” which is a minimum of 25% fewer calories than a standard product; “low calorie,” which is 50% fewer calories; and “sugar free,” for products that contain less than 0.5g of sugar per reference serving.

Maltitol often is the first choice of sugar-free sweeteners, thanks to its high degree of sweetness, similar solubility to sugar and low cooling effect. However, it has not been used extensively as the graining component in grained sweets. This is due to the slow rate of maltitol crystallization, which can make maltitol graining difficult to control.

Slower crystallization rates may result in larger crystals, which can then produce excessive grittiness. This problem has been addressed with the development of a dry maltitol fondant. The fondant is a dry powder composed of agglomerates of very fine maltitol crystals. These crystals are released in the presence of water, so the process is for soft, grained sweets only. The water only dissolves enough fondant to free the fine crystals of maltitol. The high crystalline content of the fondant is such that equilibration is reached rapidly; therefore, a long graining period is not required. The base process requires no cooking; however, slight heating may be beneficial in the initial steps of the process to counter any cooling effects from ingredient dissolution. Maltitol fondant has been shown to be an excellent ingredient when manufacturing sugar-free products such as crème centers, nougats, fudges and ready-to-spread frostings. Specific formulations for these items are available.

“New Approach to Making Sugar-free Grained Sweets,” Tom Parady, associate program coordinator, Roquette America Inc.,
—Summary by Rick Stier, Contributing Editor