Clean Label Freshness in Soft Pretzels

When making a great-tasting soft pretzel, the importance of shelf life looms large. To preserve a satisfying experience for the consumer, pretzel makers must consider the effects of time on taste and texture. Traditional dough conditioners have long been used to mitigate staleness in soft pretzels. However, as consumers are increasingly seeking simple ingredient lists, pretzel makers need alternatives to common emulsifiers and anti-staling agents such as DATEM, sodium stearoyl lactylate, and L-cysteine. Fortunately, there is an innovative, clean label solution available: the use of enzymes during processing and production. This translates into clean label pretzels that stay fresher longer than those formulated with chemical emulsifiers and other additives.

The Clean Label Trend

The trend toward “clean” labels, which are simple and easily understood by consumers, has become well-established over the past decade and will likely continue to gain in popularity. Consumers increasingly value transparency and information from the brands they purchase.

Formulating for Clean Label Freshness 

For soft pretzel brands that seek to align with the clean label trend, the use of chemical emulsifiers and anti-staling ingredients can be problematic. However, removing these ingredients can create other problems in production (machinability, rollability, etc.) and consumer experience (toughness, chewiness, etc.). Fortunately, enzyme-based dough conditioners can correct for these factors and extend shelf life better than traditional ESL ingredients.

Take, for example, diacetyl tartaric acid ester of mono- and diglycerides (DATEM), a common emulsifier used to strengthen doughs. This additive improves dough strength, tolerance, and elasticity and enhances crumb structure. Similarly, sodium stearoyl lactylate (SSL) is a widely used, chemically synthesized emulsifier that binds to proteins during dough development. SSL improves gluten development, which makes doughs stronger. During baking, SSL binds to starches, making finished goods more resistant to staling.

However, despite these benefits, the presence of DATEM and SSL on a label can be a stumbling block for consumers looking for recognizable ingredients that they trust. Formulating for freshness while maintaining a clean label requires non-chemical approaches to conditioning doughs. Particularly for soft pretzels, dough strength and extensibility affect the textural properties of the end product. As such, clean label solutions must account for these factors, which greatly affect the consumer’s perception of freshness.

Clean Labeling in Novel Pretzel Formulations 

Better-for-you snacks are on the rise, according to a report from IRI Worldwide, with the strongest growth being in “permissible indulgences.” These are snacks that consumers believe to be somewhat indulgent but that also offer health benefits. Using whole or ancient grains in soft pretzels can add “better-for-you” value by increasing the fiber content and improving the overall nutritional profile. Or, consider a low-salt soft pretzel that appeals to the heart-conscious consumer.

For both high-fiber and low-salt formulations, dough conditioning is of paramount importance. This is because high-fiber pretzels need dough stabilizers and usually require more than the average amount of emulsifiers, while reducing the sodium in soft pretzel dough can affect fermentation tolerance, mixing times, and proofing. This is where enzyme-based dough conditioners, such as Encore™ Plus by Lesaffre Yeast Corporation, come into play. To maintain clean labels for better-for-you applications, enzyme-based dough conditioners can replace chemical conditioners while ensuring the same functionality for food makers and enjoyable experience for consumers.

Clean Label ESL with Encore™ Plus 

Lesaffre’s Delavau Bakery Partners by SafPro® group developed its Encore™ line of custom solutions to offer CPG and foodservice brands products for mold inhibition, anti-staling, strength, extensibility, clean label, and more. Encore™ Plus offers clean label formulation with the added benefits of extended shelf life and resistance to staling.

In a controlled quality test, soft pretzels were baked and held in a warm oven at 170 °F. At the initial scoring, prior to warming in a chamber, both the control group and Encore™ Plus test group were similar in bite, chewiness, and softness. However, after 30, 60, and 90 minutes, the Encore™ Plus pretzels had a noticeably softer bite than the control group pretzels that were made using a traditional dough conditioner.

For bagged soft pretzels, test data shows that pretzels formulated with Encore™ Plus are slower to stale and have a better texture than pretzels made with traditional dough conditioners. After 24 hours, the Encore™ Plus pretzels were softer to bite and chew than the control group. Moreover, a ball probe texture analysis showed a significantly lower staling rate for the Encore™ Plus group than the control. For these packaged soft pretzels, Encore™ Plus extended textural shelf life from four hours to 24 hours, a 600% improvement.

Additionally, in terms of machinability and handling, pretzels made with Encore™ Plus were identical to those made with traditional chemical dough conditioners. Mix times did not change, and the pretzel doughs remained extensible and easily shaped. This data demonstrates that the Encore™ system is a better choice than traditional emulsifiers for soft pretzel applications.

Interested in seeing how Encore™ Plus can improve your soft pretzels? Visit the Delavau Bakery Partners by SafPro® website for more information.

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