May 9/Prepared Foods’ May 2011 -- Experts predict 2011 will be the year of the pie. “What makes pies particularly trendy this year is, among other things, their versatility,” offers Linda Hoskins, executive director of the American Pie Council. The many sizes and flavors allow for much creativity, but smaller pies are especially trendy now, with fruits that are in season.

Sodium Chart
By using calcium-based instead of sodium-based leavenings, sodium can be reduced by 25% and calcium increased up to 10% of the DV in most products.

Like anything else, pies can contribute to a healthy diet, as seen in recent pie contests around the country; there are healthier categories, such as gluten-free and no-sugar-added pies. Pies are used for all sorts of events, including weddings. Handheld pies are particularly good for picnics and outdoor outings. “There is always something new that can be done with pie, it just takes imagination and creativity,” states Hoskins.

 Another big trend is reducing childhood obesity. Lowry Martin, CEO and president of Have Your Cake and Eat It Too, says, “Catering to kids, we make and sell muffins containing a full serving of fruits and/or vegetables, and 100% whole grain. These muffins are a perfect breakfast when eaten with yogurt or milk, and school districts are purchasing them by the truckload.” Using no preservatives, the muffins meet or exceed nutritional guidelines for schools and incorporate raw vegetables and fruit. Examples of the muffins for schools include Bluenanaberry, Squashyalicious, Strawberryblues and Cornyalicious. Martin adds, “Our biggest goal is to fight childhood obesity, but we need to keep in mind that school nutritional directors work with very tight budgets, so we like to roll up our sleeves and pitch in by donating time, effort and money.”

The company also tries to use as many local ingredients as possible. Have Your Cake and Eat It Too is a Farm to School Company working with the National Farm to School Network, which provides healthy muffins to several school districts in Virginia, Washington D.C., Prince Georges County, Baltimore City and New Jersey--they are growing quickly.  

Fruit Facts

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines make it clear that Americans should be eating more fruit, vegetables and whole grains. According to Larry Blagg, senior vice president of marketing for the California Raisin Marketing Board, “It takes only ¼ cup of raisins to equal one fruit serving.” California raisins, paste and juice concentrate also serve as fat and sugar replacers, shelflife extenders and mold inhibitors because of their tartaric acid content, according to a 1994 study completed at the American Institute of Baking.

Stuart McAllister, director of marketing--foodservice, at a popular fruit supplier, also states fruit and juices can be used to replace refined sugars, and they can also balance out the heavy texture of whole-wheat or multi-grain products. “Sometimes, when using fruit in baking,” explains McAllister, “weeping of juice from fruit pieces needs to be managed, either by reducing the amount of liquid in the recipe or using blanched or canned fruits that are fully drained.”

“In gluten-free baked goods,” McAllister adds, “fruit can balance out the flavor that may be lost when using less flavorful rice flour. In school lunch foods, it is important to integrate fruit across the menu, rather than just providing whole-fruit pieces. Baking is a great example of how to incorporate more fruit into the diet.”

“Dried fruits have the advantage of containing all the nutrients of fresh fruit, without the water, and provide added value to a wide variety of baked goods at reasonable cost,” adds Blagg.  
According to Blagg, “Raisins blend well with other fruits, like bananas, pineapple and even mango.” The latest winner of the Chicago French Pastry School’s annual pie competition was, uniquely, a rhubarb and golden raisin pie. And, at the 2010 American Pie Championships in Fla., the “Best of Show” was a Chocolate Walnut Raisin Pie. Raisins can also be found in such savory combinations as curry, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, red onions and chilies.
Whole Grain Goodness
To baked goods, whole grains deliver a well-balanced array of nutrients, like fiber, B vitamins, minerals, phenolic acids and flavonoids. Claims can be made on products containing grains, including FDA-approved nutrient content and health claims. “Because of the recommendations of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, sales of products made with whole grains have shown strong growth compared with their refined grain counterparts,” states Elizabeth Arndt, director of R&D at a popular grain supplier.  

Wheat is by far the most common grain used in baking, while rye, oats, corn, barley and millet are certainly staples. However, with the interest in exotic grains and gluten-free products, additional grains have been taking the stage. Amaranth, quinoa and teff are ancient grains that have higher levels of certain nutrients. For example, amaranth and quinoa are both higher in protein, folic acid and vitamin E compared with other grains. Amaranth and teff are more than 60% higher in iron compared to wheat.  

“The gluten-free category continues to show strong growth, with $300 million in 2009 annual sales, a 15% growth compared to the previous year. The estimated market size is $1.6 billion in gluten-free specialty products,” states Arndt.

As product developers incorporate more whole grains into bakery products, important considerations must be made. Grains affect moisture absorption, dough mixing and handling, finished product moisture and product color. To ensure optimal product flavor and shelflife, it is important to consider the storage and handling of grains. The type and level of functional ingredients, including gluten and dough conditioners, should also be a part of the equation. Inherent, unique flavors of grains are an area of opportunity for enhancing bakery products. For example, amaranth and quinoa both have some corn-like flavor notes, while teff has a mild grain flavor with a light molasses note.

“For those who may not want the taste and texture of grains in their bread, it is now possible to make products that deliver whole-grain nut-rition that are very similar to products made with refined wheat flour. Using proprietary whole-wheat flour with the taste and texture of refined wheat flour can be helpful, when formulating transitional products made with lower amounts of whole grain, going all the way up to 100% whole grain,” adds Arndt.

As per the proposed revisions to the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, the availability of whole grains must be increased. The current definition of whole-grain rich foods proposed by the IOM is that the food must be of a certain portion size and must also meet at least one of the following criteria: It must contain at least 8g whole grain per USDA-specified serving; meet the FDA-approved, whole-grain health claim, where at least 51% by weight is whole grain, along with other claim criteria; or it must have a whole-grain ingredient in the first position in the product ingredient listing.  
Nut Nutrition

Nuts are another staple in baking. Available in a variety of forms, including chopped, ground, sliced, toasted or plain, nuts add a unique taste and texture to foods. Their oils are healthy, and they pair well with many other baking ingredients, such as grains, cranberries, bananas, zucchini, carrots, chocolate and caramel. Nuts also enhance the nutritional value of cookies, pies, cakes, breads and muffins.  

Walnuts are unique among nuts and very common in baked goods. “Walnuts are the only nut to contain significant amounts of ALA omega-3 fatty acid,” says Jennifer Getz, marketing director, Domestic Calif. Walnut Board & Commission.  

Walnuts’ healthy amount of polyunsaturated fat gives them a rich taste and a softer “bite” than some other nuts. Because of this, walnuts should be used in baked goods that complement this texture (either softer or harder than the nut itself). Walnut pieces in baked goods have great synergy with sweet “bits,” like carrots, raisins and cranberries. Containing 2.5g of omega-3 fatty acid per ounce, walnuts function well in lower-fat baked goods, like scones, because their richness balances out the final flavor and texture.  

“Something to watch out for is that walnut pieces will sink to the bottom of a wet batter and cause uneven nut distribution in the finished product. Pre-coating the walnut with gum or starch will keep the nut suspended. Alternatively, lightly toasting the walnuts will dehydrate them and make them lighter, which will improve the final suspension and add flavor,” adds Rachel Zemser, MS, CCS, food scientist and product development consultant.

Zemser also notes, “In the past, gluten-free baked goods did not taste very good, but now, with nut flours, bean flours and other natural ingredients, we are seeing an influx of high-quality and tasty gluten-free baked goods.” Using walnut meal as a replacement for flour or blending walnut meal with gluten-free flours (like bean flours or rice flours) can improve the final gluten-free baked good, but R&D work is still necessary to find the right combination to give the final desired texture.

Learning Leavening
With the call for increased grains, fruits and vegetables, baked goods need good leaveners to incorporate these ingredients and maintain quality characteristics. For example, most fruits are acidic in nature and can react with the bicarbonate, causing faster reactions. “Additional bicarbonate may be needed to make up for the amount that the fruits quickly use. Another way to minimize this impact is to add the fruits in the latter stages of mixing and minimize holding times,” explains John Brodie, technical service manager–bakery, for a well-known phosphate supplier.

Because low-sodium baked goods are in demand, calcium-based leavenings are increasingly being used for reducing sodium and increasing calcium. “Sodium-based leavening can contribute 25% of the total sodium in baked goods,” states Brodie. “By using calcium-based products in place of sodium-based leavenings, sodium can be reduced by 25% and calcium increased up to 10% of the DV in most products.”  

However, leavening is complicated, with various baked goods having specific leavening requirements. For example, breads use yeast, which contributes CO2 and provides the typical bread flavors. Cakes use chemical leavening and a bicarbonate source, such as sodium, potassium or ammonium. Bicarbonates contain the CO2 being liberated by leavening acids at specific intervals, depending on the type of leavening acid. “Cookies and crackers typically use sodium or ammonium bicarbonates only (no leavening acid). This produces an alkaline product, contributes to crust-cracking (cookies) and an alkaline flavor, which is associated with these products,” adds Brodie. Some products require a slower-reacting leavener, such as frozen doughs and foodservice products with longer hold times.  

“Gluten-free baked goods are difficult to formulate,” Brodie says, “because without wheat flour, the batter is much thinner, and finished volumes are much smaller than typical baked goods. The problem with these types of products is that they do not trap CO2 in the batter.” The use of slower or more heat-reactive leavenings, such as SALP, slow SAPPs or a calcium-based version, can help. It is also important to increase the amount of starches and hydrocolloids, in order to increase batter viscosity and form a matrix to hold the CO2 in the batter.

For special considerations, suppliers of these key baking ingredients are always happy to help formulate and offer custom ideas and ingredients.  
Website Resources: -- Unique pie ideas and information -- A variety of menu ideas for use of raisins -- Everything about fruit -- Information on formulating with whole grains -- A product development guide for using walnuts -- Assistance with leavening issues -- A baking manufacturer working with the National Farm to School Network, providing healthy muffins to schools -- Connects schools to farms to provide healthy meals