A natural emulsifier

Dr Waldemar Buxmann, research and development director, Sternchemie, reports on the benefits of using sunflower lecithin.

As a natural emulsifier, lecithin is indispensable in the manufacture of baked goods, chocolate and confections. For some years now the use of sunflower lecithin for this purpose has been increasing, as the rapid increase in the amount of GMO soy being planted has led to more and more uncertainty concerning supplies of IP soy lecithin [?]. However, multiple application tests have shown that sunflower lecithin can be used as a substitute for IP soy lecithin in the production of baked goods and chocolate without problems.

Baked goods

Higher volume yield, better freshness retention and crispier crusts are just some of the benefits offered by lecithin in the manufacture of baked goods. It stabilises the gluten structure in the flour and increases the elasticity of the gluten network, making the dough easier to work. Since lecithin helps the powdery components of the bake mix bind better to the fat and water, it also improves the machine workability of doughs. At the same time the more even distribution of fat makes it possible to reduce the amount of fat needed, for example to under five per cent in cookies. Without lecithin it would be necessary to use more fat to give the dough a similarly good consistency. These benefits apply to both soy and sunflower lecithin.

A series of tests were carried out to identify the similarities and differences between soy and sunflower lecithin in various categories of baked goods. A variety of lecithin products were tested, including de-oiled pure lecithin powder, liquid standard lecithin and powdered lecithin components in different concentrations in bread, biscuits and fine baked goods, including ice cream cones. These tests clearly showed that both give comparable results both in respect of dough processing as well as in the quality of the finished products.

For the baked goods industry in particular, sunflower lecithin is available in powdered form. Bakeries can easily mix it with flour, sugar and other dry ingredients, and then add the liquid components subsequently. Sunflower lecithin is available pure as a de-oiled powder, as well as compounded with various other carrier ingredients such as wheat flour, gluten, maltodextrin, glucose and milk powder. Customer-specific compounds can also be prepared.

Chocolate manufacture

In chocolate manufacture, lecithin gives a homogeneous low viscosity chocolate mass with short conching. The mass is relatively easy to work and has an appealingly soft melt. Lecithin reduces fat bloom, which also helps chocolate stay fresh longer. Lecithin also has the economic benefit of reducing the amount of cocoa butter needed by eight per cent.

To find out whether sunflower lecithin has the same functional characteristics as soy lecithin in chocolate production, tests were carried out to looking at dark and milk chocolate samples. The results showed that at the same dosing, standardised sunflower lecithin has identical properties to soy lecithin in milk chocolate. In dark chocolate the flow moisture point was slightly higher. However, adding about 0.1 per cent more sunflower lecithin gave the same flow moisture point as with soy.

Blind tastings were used to test the flavour profile. For both milk and dark chocolate, there was no difference in flavour between sunflower and soy lecithin. In summary, slightly more sunflower lecithin is needed to get the same viscosity as with soy lecithin. But there are no significant flavour differences.

By upgrading the process and using improved raw materials, it is now possible to produce sunflower lecithins that are equivalent to IP soy lecithin in colour and flavour. They are light in colour and almost neutral in taste and smell. This makes them especially suitable for products that are sensitive in terms of colour and flavour, such as white chocolate.

Unlike soy lecithin, raw lecithin from sunflower seeds contains other substances that can affect the quality. Using a specially developed process, the raw lecithin is refined to a greater degree than is usual for normal standardisation. This process produces sunflower lecithin of such high quality that it can be used to create pure sunflower lecithin powder.

A broad portfolio of sunflower lecithins are available that have been optimised for various applications. This includes standard all-purpose products as well as lecithins that are highly stable in oil mixtures and have improved water dispersibility. Low viscosity sprayable lecithins that are especially suitable for instant products, and can be individually adapted to customer needs are also available.

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