Food Strengtheners and Sweeteners

Food Strengtheners and Sweeteners

Strengtheners provide stability, ensuring that the baked goods does not collapse once it is removed from the oven. For most baked items, the major strengthener is flour, often referred to as the "backbone" of baked goods, because it provides the structure or framework.

Flours include wheat flours of varying "strengths" or hardness, from soft pastry flours to hard wheat used for breads and pastas, as well as special flours and meals including whole grain flours, rye, pumpernickel, oat, rice or cornmeal.

Flour functions as a strengthener because of its proteins and starches. The proteins present in eggs (found in the whites and yolks) allow them to serve as a strengthener as well. Eggs are used in this way for cakes, made by the foaming method.

Starches are also important to many baked goods' overall structure. The starch granules first swell in the presence of liquid. Then, as they are heated, they swell even more, trapping liquid or steam within their expanded frame. As heat continues to set the starch into a stable structure, texture is also affected.

As for sweeteners (sugars, syrups, honey and molasses) perform other functions in addition to providing flavor. Sugars in any form tend to attract moisture, so baked goods containing sweeteners generally are moist and tender. They also have a longer shelf-life than unsweetened baked goods.

The caramelization of sugar is responsible for the appealing brown color on the surface of many baked products. Heat applied to the sugar causes this browning reaction. Besides affecting the color, caramelization also gives a product a deep, rich and complex flavor. An obvious example is the difference in taste between simple syrup, made by dissolving a sugar in water, and a caramel syrup.

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