A Faster, Simpler Method for Cookie Manufacturers to Analyze Water Absorption in Flour

Unlike many aisles in the supermarket, the cookie aisle is often the store’s loudest display of packaging and graphics showcasing different flavor varieties, shapes, and many other attention-grabbing features to help product stand out. This type of marketing is a cookie brand’s promise of a unique snacking experience.

However, without having tight quality control measures at critical moments of the cookie manufacturing process, the experience immediately becomes an empty promise, which reflects poorly on the product brand.

Flour quality is paramount in the manufacture of all baked goods and snack foods, but in the case of cookies – whose texture, softness and/or crunch are important to the product category – having quantifiable data on important flour properties and how they will impact final product quality is vital for maintaining brand standards.

Water Absorption of Flour: The Key to Cookie Quality

When it comes to flour procurement for cookie production, water absorption capacity is top-of-mind for many manufacturers. Water absorption directly affects the handling process of dough, including its firmness, extensibility, elasticity, and other rheological qualities.

Cookies need water to form a dough, but that moisture needs to be removed to produce the final product. This means there is a competition for water between three main components:

  • Glutenin: A significant protein component in flour that directly relates to dough strength
  • Damaged starch: The ground starch resulting from the milling process, which affects dough rheology
  • Pentosans: A polysaccharide that can provide an indication on a dough's water retention, as well as product shelf life

Understanding which of these components binds more water will explain the characteristics of the flour and how it will create the dough – and thus, anticipate final product properties.

To measure these characteristics, many baked goods and snack food manufacturers have adopted the Solvent Retention Capacity (SRC) Method into their flour quality control measures. The goal of the SRC method is to assign a parameter profile to a batch of flour that will help the manufacturer predict product quality.

This article explains the SRC method in greater detail.

Figure 1: The SRC method is based on enhanced swelling behavior of principal flour polymer networks in the selected single diagnostic solvents shown here.

The SRC method (AACC method 56-11.02) has traditionally been a manual process performed in a quality control lab. The technician follows many successive steps – weighing flour, shaking, centrifugation, and draining – which can become time-consuming. There is also a risk of operator-dependent results through the manual process, which can make this method challenging to standardize.

A Major Cookie Producer Discovers an Automated SRC Solution

One cookie producer in China – who already made the manual SRC method an integral part to their quality assurance program – began research on a different alternative to streamline their operation. Considering the volume of manual steps required to perform the method, their quality lab technicians were spending much of their time performing this routine test, where it could be spent elsewhere in the lab.

Their research led to the discovery of the CHOPIN Technologies SRC-CHOPIN 2 system, which to their surprise was the only turnkey SRC testing machine of its kind. One of the features that immediately caught the producer’s attention was the fact that the SRC-CHOPIN 2 had met standard approvals from the AACC (56-15.01) and the ICC (Standard 186) as a repeatable alternative to their usual manual method.

Figure 2: The SRC-CHOPIN 2 offers all components necessary to perform the SRC method in a completely automated, walkaway system.

The company was provided a demonstration system by way of KPM Analytics Beijing to compare data against the manual method. After weighing the flour and loading the solvent syringes and tubes, they simply had to start the test by pushing a button on the touchscreen – no injecting solvent by hand, shaking, or draining was required by the operator.

While the quality assurance personnel were impressed with the time-savings and simplicity the automated solution could provide, it was not until they saw the test results where they were wholly convinced that the SRC-CHOPIN 2 could be a game-changer for their operations. The SRC-CHOPIN 2 results were well within the average of the manual results performed by multiple trained operators on the same flour.

Figure 3: Comparison of the performance of the automated SRC-CHOPIN 2 method and the manual method, use of coefficient of variation (CVR). The lower the CVR, the more repeatable/reproducible the method (Cereal Foods World, Vol. 64, No. 3)

Since these trials, the cookie producer has integrated the SRC-CHOPIN 2 as their sole method for performing SRC tests on incoming flour, which has allowed their technicians to focus their attention on other daily tasks.

Vital Quality Assurance Data Helps Deliver on Your Promise to Consumers

As demand for new cookie recipe formulations and flavors increases, the texture and quality your consumers expect from your brand should not suffer. However, thanks to automated technologies like the SRC-CHOPIN 2, incorporating measures or procedures to ensure flour quality does not need to add extra burden or responsibilities to cookie manufacturers.

If your company already makes the SRC method an important part of their quality control program and you are seeking a more efficient alternative – or you are simply looking for a way to predict the water absorption of your flour – contact us today!

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