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Selecting an Optimum Starch for Snack Development

David Huang National Starch and Chemical Company Bridgewater, NJ Specialty starches have the potential for tremendous processing, textural, and mouthfeel advantages in snack development. With dozens of food starches available, it can be difficult to know which one will best meet a particular functional challenge. This article gives some guidance on how to select an ideal starch for a particular type of snack and specific attribute. Baked Snacks Key concerns for developers of baked snacks include texture, product shape, and surface color. Baking develops the product's structure, makes it edible, and makes it aesthetically desirable. Baking concerns encompass internal product temperature, which increases slowly compared with extrusion or frying. Slow heating means pregelatinized starches, also known as instant or cold-water-swelling starches are needed for this application. These starches are preferred because of the slow cooking process and because there is a minimum of water in the snack dough. With their fine starch granule size, waxy-based starches are most suitable for baked snack products because tests show they permit easy sheeting and good binding, which results in minimal breakage. Carefully chosen specialty starches can improve texture and forming and reduce cracking and breakage. For texture improvement, a modified, pregelatinized starch derived from waxy maize will serve well. To minimize forming and shaping problems, a bland, modified food starch that mimics fat or a modified, cold-waterswelling starch will give good results. Resistant starches (see sidebar on resistant starches) and high-amylose corn starch and modified high-amylose starches (see sidebar on amylose and amylopectin) can be used to reduce cracking and breakage that result in excessive losses. Fried Snacks Frying cooks a product to make it edible and dehydrates the product, creating a unique texture and pleasing mouthfeel. Oil temperatures typically reach 204- 260C (400500F), and processing time is short due to fast heat transfer. Under- or over- frying may affect texture and color. The use of an appropriate specialty starch for fried snacks can result in better texture, mouthfeel, and reduced oil absorption. Cross-linked or modified starches prevent the disruption of starch granules that can lead to poor texture and toothpacking in the mouth. With proper modification, specialty starches made from waxy maize, corn, and tapioca may be used to prevent these problems. High-amylose starches sometimes are used as coatings and may reduce oil absorption during frying because of their strong film forming characteristics. Modified high-performance resistant starches can provide these functions.

Extruded Snacks Moist, starchy ingredients heated and sheared at high temperatures and pressure produce a melted, putty-like dough that expands when the pressure is released. By manipulating the ratio of high-amylose to high-amylopectin starch, a target texture can be achieved. Generally, native starches cannot resist the high temperatures and high shear associated with extrusion. In contrast, cross-linked starches can resist shear and very high temperatures. However, excessively cross-linked starches lower the starch granules swelling capacity, resulting in a snack with reduced expansion and nonuniform texture. Thus, a snack developer must select from many potential cook-up starches, including those made from corn, tapioca, and waxy maize. To select the best starch for the application, developers need to correctly quantify their maximum shear and know the temperature range in the extruder. If a snack developer can tell a starch manufacturer the degree of shear, the temperature, and any preferences for the starch base, a quick recommendation can be made. If a snack developer increases the amylose content of an extruded snack formula, the snack will be firmer, more crunchy, and harder. However, These gains will be made at the expense of expansion, which declines as the percentage of amylose increases. An increase in amylopectin, on the other hand, increases snack expansion and softness. For puffed snacks, the optimum cross-linked waxy corn starch can help control expansion and increase product uniformity. Half Products and Pellet Snacks Snack pellets and half products are typically made from corn and other starches, usually blended, and processed or cooked in long-barrel twin-screw (TS) cooker extruders. Cooking is followed by jacket cooling or venting, without puffing. The product is dried under controlled humidity and matured for moisture equalization. Expansion may be accomplished through frying, hot air, or microwave emission. The advantages of half products for both producers and consumers include inexpensive and easy shipping and low risk of breakage during shipping. After shipping, the product can be completed and flavorings can be added that accommodate geographical preferences. Producers also benefit from reduced capital investment for different production locations. Specialty starches can be used to improve half-product texture and flavor. In processing half products, specialty starches can be used to rapidly increase viscosity in a TS extruder and bind various flours. Also, a starch can act as a seal on the pellet surface, enabling more consistent expansion by frying or baking. For increasing viscosity, expansion and binding, a pregelatinized, modified waxy maize starch, a cold-water-swelling modified waxy maize starch, and a pregelatinized, modified tapioca starch are good choices. For density control, resistant starches, modified high-amylose corn starch, or, in some cases, unmodified high-amylose corn starch will serve well. It is sometimes desirable to use starch combinations to achieve a variety of attributes. Some proponents think that the longer starch chains found in potato or cassava starches improve the seal on the pellet exterior, which may lead to more uniform expansion during baking or frying. A snack developer may try adding potato or waxy starch to rice meal to create extrudates that have improved texture and desirable properties.

Film Forming, Sheen, Protection, and Bonding If resistance to breakage, sheen, and bonding of flavors and other foods are important product attributes, then specialty starches can also play a role. A powder made from waxy corn starch solids forms a film on foods to hold spices or bits of other foods on the substrate-food surface. Used on cookies, the powder creates a film with a glossy sheen. For example, tomato bits, spices, and cheese slivers can be held firmly to a cracker. Small fruit bits also can be bonded to a cracker with this type of powder. In another case, baked or fried snacks coated with this type of product are more resistant to breakage during transport and handling. The strong film formed on the surface protects the snack from cracking due to vibration and impact. Originally developed to hold finely powdered spices on snacks, this type of product also creates an attractive sheen and minimizes breakage of fragile snacks, so consumers can open a container with more unbroken fullsize snacks. This type of specialty starch also successfully holds larger bits on snacks and other foods. For example, this type of specialty starch creates a bond strong enough to hold sesame or poppy seeds on a bun or roll and creates a sheen that makes the product look homemade. In an age when fusion cuisine is increasingly accepted, the possibilities for combining foods are growing more exciting thanks to this type of product. No special equipment is needed for spraying the starch powder on foods, and the drying time ranges from a few seconds to a few minutes, depending on the thickness of the film and the temperature during heating. Conclusions The role of specialty starches in snack foods includes texture improvement, greater expansion, enhanced crispness, improved adhesion of flavors and food bits, reduced breakage, processing aid or dough enhancement, and improved surface appearance. The information provided here can serve as a guide for selecting the optimum specialty starch for a specific application. Starch manufacturers often offer samples of their products. With this knowledge, snack developers are more likely to successfully pick several samples that will meet their specifications. Testing several starches rather than the hundreds that are available can save significant time and reduce frustration while bringing a new snack to market or troubleshooting a process to optimize snack performance and minimize waste. Reference 1. Yue, P., and Waring, S. Resistant starch in food applications. Cereal Foods World 43: 690, 1998 David P. Huang David P. Huang is the cereal and snack business manager at National Starch and Chemical Company in Bridgewater, NJ. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in food science from Michigan State University in 1979 and 1982, respectively, and an M.B.A. degree from Farleigh Dickinson University in 1990. Before joining National Starch, he was general manager for H.J. Heinz.

Amylose and Amylopectin Amylose. Amylose is one of two starch fractions (Fig. 1 shows a chemists view of the fraction). Amylose forms cohesive gels, because of its long chains and readily receives hydrophobic compounds such as lipids and mono- and diglycerides. The glucose straight chains found in amylose are packed tightly together. Its anhydroglucose units are linked by alphaD-1, 4 glucosidic bonds and form linear chains. The level of amylose and its molecular weight vary among starch types. Amylose molecules are typically made up of from 200 to 2,000 anhydroglucose units. Aqueous solutions of amylose are very unstable due to intermolecular attraction and association of neighboring amylose molecules, which leads to an increase in viscosity, retrogradation, and under specific conditions, precipitation of amylose particles. Retrogradation is the irreversible insolubilization of starch paste with formation of a precipitate or gel, depending on concentration. Retrogradation is mainly due to the presence of amylose in the starch. The linear amylose molecules are attracted to each other and form bundles of parallel polysaccharide chains through the formation of hydrogen bonds between hydroxyl groups on neighboring molecules. The tendency of amylose molecules to retrograde is increased by molecular weight reduction to a chain length of around 100 anhydroglucose units. Amylopectin, which has a branched structure, shows less tendency to retrograde. Retrogradation occurs during baking, extrusion, and frying of snack product, resulting in a light crisp texture. Amylopectin. Amylopectin is the second of the two starch fractions. Figure 2 shows the branching that identifies the fraction. Amylopectin is a constituent of starch that has a polymeric, branched structure. Because of this branched structure, amylopectin delays or prevents gel formation, and retrogradation is slower than with amylose. Amylopectin pastes appear stickier than high-amylose pastes. In addition to the 1,4 bonds, that are present in amylose and the linear segments found in amylopectin, the amylopectin molecule has alpha-D-1,6 bonds that occur every 20-30 anhydroglucose units. Aqueous solutions of amylopectin are characterized by high viscosity, clarity, stability, and resistance to gelling. The level of amylopectin varies among different starch types. Waxy starches are almost 100% amylopectin. Table I shows the percentage of amylose and amylopectin by starch base. Typically, waxy starch pastes provide a cohesive, gummy texture and are considered nongelling. Used in rice crackers, waxy rice helps impart a light texture, while amylose rice types are better for heavier snacks.

Fig. 1. Chemists conception of a short segment of an amylose chain.

Fig. 2 Chemists conception of a segment of amylopectin showing branching of chains.

CH 2


Table I. Percentage of Amylose and Amylopectin by Starch Base Source Percentage Amylose Corn Waxy Corn High Amylose Corn Potato Rice Waxy Rice Tapioca/Cassava/Manioc Wheat Sorghum Waxy Sorghum Heterowaxy Sorghum 25 <1 55 70 20 19 >1 17 25 25 <1 < 20

Percentage Amylopectin 75 > 99 30 - 45 80 81 > 99 83 75 75 > 99 > 80

Resistant Starches Resistant starches resist the effects of digestive enzymes and are not digested in the small intestine. When consumed, resistant starch acts more like a fiber in the human diet. Standard methods for analyzing total dietary fiber in ingredients and foods can be used to analyze resistant starch. Naturally found in many cereal grains, fruits, and vegetables, resistant starch can be used in some processed foods, such as cheese curls, pretzels, and tortilla chips. Figure 3 provides some details about resistant starches. As a snack food ingredient, resistant starches contribute to low water-holding capacity, excellent expansion, easier processing, improved overall eating quality and bland, unobtrusive taste and color. When snack developers would like to include a label claim of Good source of high fiber, they may want to consider resistant starches, because they permit this type of claim. Resistant starches may be used alone as a fiber source or with other food fibers. Yue and Waring (1) provide more information on uses of resistant starch in food applications.

Fig.3. Schematic diagrams and definitions of resistant starch classes.

Table II. Some specialty starch choices for baked snacks by function.

Table III. Some specialty starch choices for fried snacks by function.

Table IV. Some cook-up specialty starches by degree of shear and temperature by starch base.