MICROWAVES ON A MISSION Danish-based ingredients manufacturer Palsgaard has been aware of the problem for some years. But, with numerous ingredient development projects on the go at any one time, it wasn’t until 2013 that the company turned its attention to helping its cake-manufacturing customers to lift the quality of their microwave mix recipes. Given that food and ingredient manufacturers have been experimenting with microwave cake mixes since the 1980s, Palsgaard realised that solving the problem was going to take a concentrated, sustained effort. At the same time, a more holistic approach was required rather than focusing on finetuning or replacing individual ingredients. Special resources were allocated in the company’s labs, with a mandate to work in near isolation from other projects until a solution was discovered. The project was headed by application technologist Lasse Kolding Sørensen. “When talking to cake manufacturers, we only had to mention dryness or complicated ingredient mixes and they would start nodding vigorously. So we knew which problems were key to address.” The Palsgaard team suspected that the difficulty of getting microwave cake mix recipes right – and the potential brand damage from disappointed consumers – was holding many manufacturers back. So they set out to deliver a compelling solution that would simplify mix recipes and provide an end result that, in the hands of consumers, closely resembled an ovenbased cake, more of the time. “We wanted to come up with some recipes that could give the industry the confidence to work further on their microwave products,” says Lasse. “Luckily, I was given all the resources I needed to really throw everything up in the air and start again from scratch, working with as many recipes and running as many tests as I needed to. And that made all the difference.” wave radiation interacts with water to create a boiling rather than baking effect. To make matters worse, cake mixes are demanding applications, with all ingredients added at once and, especially with microwave products, with an extremely short stirring and baking time. None of these challenges, however, could stand in the way of a concentrated effort in Palsgaard’s labs. And after months of work, and more than a few frustrating moments, a convincing solution finally emerged. DYNAMIC DUO THE CHALLENGE Microwave ovens don’t provide the perfect setting for producing cakes. Far from it, in fact. One of the problems is that the changes in, and interactions among major ingredients, which would normally occur over a lengthy baking period in a conventional system, can’t be completed during the short baking period of a microwave system. The reason for this is that micro- The results are impressive, to say the least. Two distinct recipes were created, one for a rich chocolate cake, the other for a coconut-flavoured product. When cooked in a microwave oven at 1,000 W for 50 seconds, both recipes produced remarkably appealing cakes that feature genuine cake-style consistency and don’t quickly dry out. Adding to their appeal, the two recipe suggestions can easily be personalised by the consumer to fit his or her own tastes and creative urges. For example, a toffeefilled chocolate added to the stirred chocolate cake batter will result in a delicious lava cake that’s a real treat when served warm with a scoop of ice cream. And freshly chopped pineapple or raspberries can add a fresh, fruity touch to the coconut cake. There’s yet another advantage, too, with the Palsgaard recipes: consumers who like their indulgent treats to be as convenient as possible will be pleased to find that removing the finished cake is as simple as turning the container upside down on a plate. The cake won’t stick to the container’s sides or appear damaged after removal. Much of the recipes’ success, it turns out, lies in the fact that both are based on a balanced mix of raw materials whose crucial ingredient is an emulsifier system well-suited for a tough job: fast dispersion and hydration using al- While developing the two recipe suggestions Palsgaard also ensured that they would work if consumers were to try try to personalise the cakes - e.g. by adding a toffee-filled chocolate, or by adding fresh fruit to the coconut cake.
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