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Zeelandia introduces new, enzyme-based technology for extended cake freshness

Keeping cake fresh longer

Retaining the initial freshness of cakes is a challenge for every baker, large or small. Using innovative enzyme technology and expert tasting panels, Zeelandia has developed a highly effective solution. XFresh technology helps to extend cake sensory shelf life and at the same time offers consumers higher quality. Extending a cakes sensory freshness fits seamlessly into Zeelandias innovation strategy, says Global R&D Director Michiel Bruschke. One of the four key themes in our R&D programme is to help customers improve their end-product performance. As the periods between production and consumption become longer, many bakers are looking for ways to keep cakes perfectly fresh during that time. While for others the focus is on increasing the quality of their cakes during the existing shelf life. In both cases, the challenge is to retain the cakes initial freshness for as long as possible. Bruschke defines this initial freshness as the quality the cake has the day after its been baked, which is when most cakes are at their best. Enzymes fit for cake Freshness can be extended by using enzymes, a technique that has been common practice in bread-making for years. For cake its a different story, says Bruschke. Until recently, none of the existing enzymes were suitable for the particular combination of sugar, fat and moisture found in cake products. The most common enzymes used in bread, amylases, help preserve freshness by changing the structure of starch in a way that allows it to retain moisture better. This process is kick-started by the enzymes natural tendency to break down starch and convert it into sugar. However, cake products already contain relatively high amounts of sugars, which render the traditional amylase enzymes more or less inactive. But in recent years new enzymes have been developed. Although these were not primarily designed for cake applications, Zeelandias R&D specialists were quick to spot their potential. They looked promising, although we werent immediately sure that they would deliver the desired effect in cakes", says Bruschke. "So over the past few years weve closely monitored the technological progress made by enzyme manufacturers and their product improvements, and weve spent a lot of time testing the enzymes in a wide range of cake applications. You need to know exactly how each enzyme reacts in specific conditions and applications." Defining freshness But the first hurdle in converting a promising technology into a proven solution wasnt so much of a technical nature. "The first question we had to ask was: how do you define freshness? And how can you objectively determine whether a particular enzyme really extends sensory freshness? This question could partly be addressed in Zeelandia's laboratory, where parameters like elasticity and resistance to pressure can be measured precisely using sophisticated equipment.

But to cover the whole range of freshness criteria - including moistness, crumbliness and mouthfeel - you have to rely on people to do the tasting, says Bruschke. Of course, we routinely use consumer panels. Tasting sessions like these produce useful results, but ultimately they are subjective. That's why we set up a Sensory Panel, a group of external experts who have been trained to describe their sensory perceptions using a shared, highly specific language. You could say their sensory perceptions have been calibrated, so their assessments become an objective measure of freshness. XFresh test results Armed with this method, Zeelandia could start experiments with different combinations of enzymes, when necessary in combination with other ingredients such as emulsifiers and dextrines. This resulted in a concentrated mix, called XFresh, which yielded impressive results in tasting panels. Four-week-old pound cakes were rated virtually as fresh as one-week-old equivalents. When comparing three-week-old muffins, the muffins made with XFresh technology were perceived as 50% fresher. We started out by developing a mix for pound cakes, but decided to add two varieties aimed at smaller cakes, says Bruschke. There's a clear trend among consumers towards smaller, portioned cakes, and obviously these are more susceptible to drying out. Made-to measure mixes However, Bruschke emphasises, the XFresh technology only really comes into its own in combination with specific cake mixes. Theres such a wide range of cake applications, not to mention the wide range of tastes among consumers in different countries, that you cant really expect one solution to meet all needs. For example, most Dutch consumers prefer cake to be quite moist, compared with their German or Spanish counterparts. That obviously affects the local definitions of freshness - which in turn may mean that you need a different combination of enzymes and other ingredients to achieve the desired result. According to Bruschke, XFresh technology should first and foremost be seen as a toolbox for creating tailor-made solutions. Weve built up a huge database with information on dozens of enzymes and their effects. We also have a tried-and-tested method for describing initial freshness. Through our local R&D departments, that information can be used to help customers create cakes with extended sensory freshness. Maybe specific applications call for a slightly different mix of enzymes. Its also possible that some adjustments may be needed in the customers cake mix, in which case well work with them to reach exactly the right balance. I think thats where our main strength lies: we understand the baking process inside out, so we know which controls to adjust for a perfect result.

European Baker (July/August)