Have you ever wondered why some cakes or pastries that you buy from pastry shops have that “X-factor”, both in taste or texture, which can’t be reproduced at home no matter how hard you try? The reason is because professionals have access to an arsenal of specialized additives that enable them to push the envelope of taste and texture in their creations.
The subject of additives is a very technical one and covers a broad spectrum of products ranging from emulsifiers, gelling agents, sweeteners, cake and dough improvers, flavor enhancers, and others. I do not claim to be an expert in these areas nor is this blog posting intended to be an exhaustive discussion on all the additives used by professionals. My objective is, based on some of the additives that I have used in the past, to provide a brief insight into how pastry chefs achieve professional results using some of these additives.
Pastry chefs use many types of additives to enhance flavor, extend shelf life, and improve texture. Some of the more commonly known additives that are easily obtainable in the retail market are items like flavoring oils, liquid glucose, sheet gelatin, bread softeners and dough improvers. Very common within professional pastry kitchens but very difficult to find in the retail market are items such as trimoline, ice cream and sorbet stabilizers, atomized glucose, and pectin NH. A more obscure additive that I have used in the past that is not a common sight even within professional kitchens is an emulsifier called Peco 50.
As you can imagine, different additives are used in different situations to obtain specific results. Additives are generally used to obtain results that will typically fall within these three categories:
– Extend product shelf life
– Improve product texture and volume
– Enhance taste
Trimoline is a very common and extremely versatile sweetening additive that is used in confectionary, cake, and ice cream making to add sweetness and to help retain moisture which, in turn, extends the shelf life of the product.
Products like cake improvers will help to retard moisture loss and increase the volume of sponge cake batters. Emulsifiers such as Peco 50 will help to reduce mixing times, retard moisture loss, extend shelf life and homogenize cake batters for better stability and tolerance.
Very high quality flavoring products like those from Sevarome can elevate the taste of the finished product and provide that “X-factor” that could otherwise not be achieved with more mediocre flavoring agents.
Unless you are operating a pastry business, you will not need many of these additives if you are baking at home and will be consuming your goods within a very short timeframe. Many of the additives are designed to be used in very high volume production environments where goods produced will eventually be stored for sale over an extended period of time. Also, restaurant pastry kitchens will use additives to produce certain effects for their plated creations that are typically not feasible or practical to be reproduced at home. Molecular gastronomy is one such practice that comes to mind.
When used properly, I do believe that pastry and baking additives are essential ingredients that can lift a product from mediocrity to excellence. Ultimately, the end result is to use the right balance of ingredients to produce goods that are highly palatable and visually appealing at the same time.
I’ve provided a list of a few vendors who supply additives to the professional market:
Z.A La Guide 1 43200
Yssingeaux Z.I. La Guide
Tél : +33 4 71 59 04 78
Fax : +33 4 71 65 54 24
Parc d’affaires SILIC
46 Rue de Montlhery- BP 80179
F 94563 Rungis Cedex
Tel: +33 (0)1 45 60 83 95
Fax: +33 (0)1 45 60 41 44
SE-117 68 Stockholm
Tel: +46-8-681 56 00
Fax: +46-8-18 29 79