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Lavish, delicious and yet low in calories: a WACKER product derived from natural corn starch offers a low-fat alternative to synthetic emulsifiers and products of animal origin – and is taking the Mexican baked goods and confectionery market by storm.
A visit to a Mexican pastry shop quickly turns into an intoxicating feast for the senses. The surprising part is not the exquisite smell emanating from display cases filled to overflowing with sweet creations – what astonishes European customers instead is the overwhelming visual opulence of even the smallest shops in remote desert backwaters. The repertoire includes delicate, melt-in-your-mouth cream tortes in a riot of colors, and countless variations of cupcakes, all decorated in wildly imaginative ways.
Like their neighbors throughout the Americas, Mexicans love their extravagant desserts – a real challenge in a country where temperatures in many locations climb to over 30 °C each day and shipping routes for fresh foods can easily assume continental proportions. So how do pastry chefs’ creations survive the stifling heat without melting – or even going bad – within the space of hours?
CAVAMAX® W6 from WACKER is one of the secrets of the Mexican confectionery miracle. This emulsifying fiber opens up a world of opportunities for bakers and pastry chefs, makes confectionery healthier and, even better, is made entirely from renewable raw materials like corn starch.
Behind The Scenes at ARIS’ Test Kitchen
ARIS is a Mexican family business that supplies easy-to-use product components for making baked goods and confectionery, such as ready-made frosting and icing for cakes and gateaux.
Alternative to Solid Fats and Emulsifiers
Pastry chefs use ready-made colored fondant to create miniature decorations for their cakes and pastries.
Commercially available cake icings and cream fillings are usually made with solid fats, whose components can include saturated fats and, in some cases, trans fats – both of which can raise cholesterol levels and contribute to diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Plus, traditional desserts such as cream fillings and chocolate mousse frequently require the addition of emulsifiers to stabilize them or of extra proteins to serve as whipping aids. Conventional emulsifiers include mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids, such as proteins or the lecithins found in egg yolk. CAVAMAX® W6, also known by its chemical name alphadextrin (or alpha-cyclodextrin) has key advantages over these emulsifiers, which are often based on animal products: it is stable in warm or acidic conditions, it contains no cholesterol or fat, and it is non-allergenic. In the pastries and baked goods sector, CAVAMAX® W6 is used as a vegetable-based alternative for creating oil-in-water emulsions. This makes it particularly suitable for innovative food applications such as icings with no solid fats, egg-free confectionery fillings, and fat-free, whipped fruit desserts.
Cyclodextrin molecules – degradation products of starch – are nothing more than multiple sugar molecules bound into a ring with a three-dimensional, conical structure. Inside this structure is a water-repellent cavity capable of receiving a fat-soluble “guest” molecule – provided its size and shape are compatible. Whenever residual fatty acids enter the cavity in the alphadextrin, the result is a surfactant structure similar to an emulsifier. In addition to stabilizing the otherwise immiscible oil and water phases of the emulsion, this structure also lends cyclodextrins other extraordinary properties. These properties are coming into more widespread use, especially in the food industry, where they protect sensitive ingredients, improve the taste of foods, and optimize product texture and consistency.
Particularly Heat Resistant
FROST is a soft, ready-to-roll sugar paste that can be used for decorating confectionery directly with the aid of a dispenser.
Another property that is especially beneficial in warm to tropical countries like Mexico is their extraordinary resistance to heat. Products that contain CAVAMAX® W6 have been found to be more stable and better suited to storage and transport conditions than those containing traditional ingredients. This was also a reason why the product developers at ARIS, a company located near Mexico City, took an interest in alphadextrin from WACKER. A family-owned business, ARIS sells time-saving product modules that are easy to use in the production of baked goods, pastries and confectionery.
Following a workshop that WACKER held for its industrial customers, ARIS developers returned to their in-house test lab to begin experimenting with new product ideas based on CAVAMAX® W6. “Our colleagues at ARIS were enthusiastic right from the start about the possibilities of CAVAMAX® W6,” explains Dr. Helmut Reuscher, sales director for the Americas and head of WACKER’s Food and Dietary Supplements Laboratory in Adrian, Michigan (US). Working closely with WACKER food experts, ARIS was able to develop FROST, its first product formulated on the basis of CAVAMAX® W6, within just one year.
3D MODEL OF ALPHADEXTRIN: The computer model clearly shows the ring-shaped, three-dimensional structure and the cavity inside the cyclodextrin. It is this cavity that enables the cyclodextrin to reversibly include other molecules, even fat-soluble ones: that is the cause of the emulsifying and stabilizing action of these ring-shaped sugar molecules in desserts, mayonnaise and cake frostings.
Soon Ready for Market Launch
are non-reducing chiral sugars, whose molecules are made of several glucose building blocks linked into a ring. According to the number of glucose units, a distinction is made between α-, β- and γ-cyclodextrin: α-cyclodextrin consists of six, β-cyclodextrin of seven and γ-cyclodextrin of eight glucose units. Cyclodextrins are natural degradation products of starch. The cyclodextrin molecules are structured so that the hydrophilic (water-loving) glucose building blocks face outwards and there is a a lipophilic cavity (i.e. one with an affinity for fat) on the inside.
FROST is a soft, ready-to-roll sugar paste that can be used for decorating cakes directly with the aid of a dispenser. CAVAMAX® W6 is the key ingredient in FROST.
“This is a really nice example of how international collaboration between two companies can lead to interesting innovations for the market,” says Alejandra Estrada, sales manager at WACKER in Mexico City. Before the second year of development work was out, the company had also readied another product for the market: AUSTRAL.
ARIS uses the second product, AUSTRAL, to reduce the proportion of unhealthy solid fats such as palm and coconut oil in its cream fillings, creating a substitute for traditional whipped cream and buttercream. The innovative vegetarian whipping aid comes in powdered form, rather than as a liquid, making it easier to use, exceptionally resistant to heat and highly suitable for shipping. It works just as well for a fluffy cream-puff filling as it does for a creamy cake frosting – the consistency depends on how much water is added to the powder. “AUSTRAL allows chefs to incorporate air into a wide variety of dessert products without using fat or protein,” Reuscher explains. “And it gives them an excellent tool for adjusting the mouthfeel from creamy to solid.”
Mexicans love brightly colored baked goods – such as the birthday cake shown here.
For the experts at WACKER, cyclodextrins are a perfect example of the successful marriage of biotech and chemical expertise. In the future, food specialists hope to make even greater use of the synergies between these two areas of expertise in order to develop new products. “As our work with ARIS shows, this kind of collaboration can yield innovations tailored precisely to the unique demands of our customers,” Reuscher observes. Small and medium-sized suppliers for the global food industry stand to benefit most: “After all, most of these companies don’t have their own research and development department.”
And that means Reuscher and his WACKER colleagues will likely be helping more and more customers develop culinary sensations for the discerning palate that are both healthy and innovative.