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This natural substance occurs in many foods from animal and vegetable sources, and it is an internationally approved food ingredient.
Its molecule has both hydrophilic and lipophilic (water-loving and fat-loving) parts, readily supporting the dispersion of oil and water in doughs and batters. The phospholipids in lecithin add nutritional value to products.
As an emulsifier, lecithin fosters uniform distribution of ingredients, but it functions in other ways in different kinds of bakery products.
In cakes, biscuits and cookies, lecithin can reduce use of eggs and fat and produce better mixing action and machinability. It protects against oxidation, and in puff pastry and Danish, it upgrades the flakiness of the dough by suppressing contraction. When making donuts, lecithin improves moisture retention and cuts fat take-up during frying by more than 20%, producing a moister, less greasy finished product.
Frozen doughs made with lecithin form desirably fine ice crystals during freezing, avoiding large irregular sizes that have negative effects on the crumb and crust. In bread, lecithin improves the extensibility of the gluten network, thus making doughs more stable during fermentation and easier to process. It can cut kneading time to save energy. Lecithin’s water-binding effect improves the product’s shelf life.