The US patent filing relates to shortening particles suitable for preparing batter or dough products like bread, cinnamon rolls, pot pie crusts, biscuits and dry mixes.
General Mills has reduced the trans fat content of the shortenings to less than 3% by weight, and the saturated fats to less than 61% by weight by blending a hard stock fat (fats that remained solid at room temperature) and ‘non-tropical’ oil (oils derived from plants in non-tropical climates).
It said non-tropical base oils such as soybean, rapeseed (canola), sunflower or peanut were significantly lower in saturated fats and were also less expensive than traditional tropical oils like palm, coconut or shea butter.
General Mills used the interesterification process on the oils – when the distribution of fatty acids on the triglyceride molecule were rearranged resulting in melting and crystallization similar to partially hydrogenated oils, but without the creation of trans fatty acids. The process could be conducted using an enzymatic or chemical process, it said.
“With the present trend towards healthier food products, there is a high demand for bakery products that contain healthier fat compositions, i.e., fats having a reduced amount of saturated fats and/or trans fatty acids,” General Mills wrote in its patent filing.
Tropical versus non-tropical oil
However, it added that in the past, formulators had often used fat ingredients that were high in saturated fatty acids to replace trans fatty acid compositions; for example palm kernel oil and coconut oil.
Coconut oil was thought to contain about 92% saturated fat; palm kernel oil about 82% and palm oil 50%, it said.
“In view of this, alternative fat compositions that are low in trans fat and/or saturated fats are very desirable. Shortening compositions, that can be prepared from non-tropical oils, such as soybean oil, are also very desirable.”
Cottonseed oil, for example, contained about 26% saturated fat by weight and soybean oil contained 15% saturated fat by weight.
‘Unexpected’ consumer acceptance and added benefits
Typical dough and batter shortenings made using tropical oils had a steep slope (m) for the Solids Fat Content (SFC) profile, General Mills said, which meant the fats melted quickly when placed in the mouth, avoiding a ‘waxy’ mouthfeel.
However, the dough shortenings made using the non-tropical oil blend had a relatively flat slope for the SFC profile. Despite this, General Mills said: “Unexpectedly, these compositions having a smaller negative slope can be used to prepare baked goods, for example biscuits, that are acceptable to consumers.”
In addition, it said the flat SFC slope meant the flakes were more stable as the particle did not melt as easily with small temperature variations that may occur during manufacturing, shipping or storage conditions.
The shortening particles also displayed a rapid crystallization rate, General Mills said, which was advantageous because it allowed the composition to be rapidly cooled and crystallized during the process of preparing the shortenings.