Whether baked at the retail, cafe, or industrial level, bread, muffins, and other baked foods without dessert offer an invitation to savor when they include fruit, nuts, or seeds. These plant-based ingredients provide color, flavor, texture and nutrition in the form of fiber, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals or antioxidants that appeal to the growing number of consumers seeking health and wellness. be wanting more of every bite.
But working with such inclusions and toppings can be tricky, said Kami Smith, culinary presentation manager, Pecan Deluxe. She said it was important to identify attributes of the finished product to select the best ingredient formats.
This includes exploring consumer expectations of the product, such as the importance of on-pack claims such as “made with real fruit” or “contains heart-healthy almonds.” Cost constraints, as well as distribution and merchandising constraints, must be considered.
Shelf life expectations are also key. Fruits often add moisture to batter and dough while nuts and seeds absorb water and can lose their crunch over time. The format of the ingredients is important.
“When baking bread with nuts and fruit, you need to consider the dough because higher levels of these inclusions can weaken the overall bread structure,” Davis said. “Some inclusions like peanuts disappear during mixing or processing. Other inclusions, such as larger nut pieces and dried fruit, require softening or hydration before being added to the dough structure. Depending on the level of inclusions, more dough or gluten strengtheners may be needed to achieve the desired product height.
“Another consideration is how a high percentage of inclusions and smaller granulation sizes can cause the bread to lose volume and become denser and denser,” he continued. “To maintain a lighter texture, increasing your dough-to-dish ratio will help you increase volume without dramatically increasing dough strengtheners or gluten.”
Fruits, nuts, and seeds are conventional baking inclusions, but there are other possibilities for using them in baking applications.
For muffins and quick bread, individually frozen (IQF) berries and fruits are often preferred as they experience minimal bleeding and spoilage. For best results, these fruit pieces should be added during the final blending phase.
“It minimizes crushing,” Ms Smith said. “Dough color should be very low and the fruit will be evenly distributed in the baked product.”
In general, IQF berries perform well. The same is not true for some other fruits.
“The density of frozen blackberries, raspberries and blueberries is perfect for a muffin or quick bread dough because they suspend well, whereas a slice of frozen peach will likely lose its suspension in the oven and sink to the bottom,” said Ms. Smith.
One solution is to use frozen dice pieces. Another is to add the fruit in a different format, for example, as part of a streusel topping.
“Choose to use frozen or dried whole fruit over slicing fresh fruit,” Ms. Woods suggested. “This prevents bleeding, discoloration, oxidation and moisture migration. The fruit will retain its bright, appetizing color better. Cooking with nuts isn’t as tricky, but you have to consider the intention for the nut to be appreciated.
There is less of a problem when the nuts are mixed in the system before cooking. Nuts and seeds on baked foods can add visual appeal, but don’t always provide flavor and texture.
“Look at the time a nut sits on a muffin,” Ms Smith said. “It can be the difference between a superb toasted nut that expels oils and creates a fragrant experience and one that is simply burnt. Nuts and seeds are very high in oils, and not all nuts or seeds can withstand the heat index of a hot oven for long.
When added to batter or batter, it’s best to use roasted nuts to ensure the desired flavor, Ms Smith said.
“If nuts are used as a garnish, use raw chunks,” she said. “They will be roasted in the oven.”
For an extra flavor adventure, nuts and seeds can be seasoned, sweetened, or even covered in chocolate. Think Parmesan-encrusted pine nuts on herb-garlic artisan bread.
Bread volume, integrity, and consistency can be especially tricky when making swirled bread.
“The goal is to get the same amount of filling and swirls in every loaf, but gravity and other production variables lead to inconsistencies,” Davis said. “Using a jet of water before incorporating the swirl is the key to consistent swirling. We use a method of adding flavored topping to the dough as a slurry. Slow, slow speed on the spiral kneader allows good incorporation of the filling and even distribution.
“Water is also key when adding nuts and seeds to the outside of bread or toppings,” he said. “A simple pan of water to wet the dough is a great help when rolling the dough in nuts or seeds.”
Fruits, nuts, and seeds are conventional baking inclusions, but there are other possibilities for using them in baking applications. Smokey Waters, Director of Culinary Innovation, Pecan Deluxe, said: “Putting fruit, nuts and seeds into baked goods is a tried and true practice, but there is more room for these items to be used as topical application to baked goods.
Kate Leahy, spokeswoman for Sunsweet Ingredients, added that quality is key.
“For example, nuts should be shelled in a way to minimize breakage and stored in a way that prevents rancidity,” she said. “Some nuts, especially walnuts, are loaded with an enviable amount of healthy oils, but they easily go rancid if stored improperly. The advantage of using quality dried fruits is that they naturally keep for a long time. , without preservatives, and that they can be stored at room temperature.
Dried plums, also called prunes, are a versatile fruit for bread and muffins because they aren’t too sweet. In chunk and dice format, they have a pleasant chewy texture. They soften and can form streaks if a dough is fermented for several hours and then mixed again. It can be a way to add visual excitement to an otherwise ordinary cooked food. This ability of dried fruits to absorb moisture and soften can inspire creativity.
This article is an excerpt from the December 2019 issue of Baking & Snacking. To read the full article on fruits and nuts, click here.