Naturally occurring or added, phospholipids have long been recognized as playing an important role in bakery products. They are components of ingredients such as milk and eggs, and can be added in the form of commercial soybean lecithin to exert a positive effect on product quality, shelf life and processability.
Value-added lecithin products extend the shelf life of yeast-raised baked products by slowing starch retrogradation. Lecithin also strengthens gluten to improve both the elasticity and extensibility of yeast-raised doughs, which makes them more machinable. The improved gluten strength also results in higher gas retention, yielding better volume and crumb structure.
In soft cookies and cakes, lecithin slows moisture loss. It helps prevent checking in crackers, wafers, and ice cream cones to impart longer shelf life and less product damage. The emulsification properties of lecithin improve the creaming stage of products like cookies and cakes for better fat distribution. This results in more tender baked goods, even with lower fat levels . Use of lecithin increases cookie spread and cake volume. It is also an effective emulsifier for achieving fine cell size and consistent crumb structure in cakes.
A growing use for lecithin is in low-fat and fat-free baked products. These products are often made from dough that is sticky and difficult to machine without added fat. Lecithin adds lubricity to reduced fat doughs for products such as tortillas, cookies and pretzels. It contributes to increased throughput and decreased clean-out time for extruded products. In the case of extruded fat-free pretzels, lecithin significantly reduces the down time for cleaning cutting knives and it reduces the brittle bite.