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Soy lecithin is a nearly ubiquitous food additive, found in a great many processed foods and personal care products on the market today.

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Here it acts as a stabilizer to make the foam last longer. Lecithin, found in the cells of living organisms, was first discovered by the French chemist Maurice Gobley in 1850; it is an oily substance, a mixture of phospholipids and oil.

See: How to make a soy lecithin foam using an inversion blender. Chemically, a phospholipid has two hydrophobic fatty acid chains and a hydrophilic end consisting of a phosphate group — linked by a glycerol molecule.

For this reason it is added to foods to allow substances to mix more smoothly in water without clumping.

In baking, soy lecithin is used as a conditioner to make the dough easier to work with.

Soy lecithin is particularly useful in stabilizing oily mixtures such as salad dressings and mayonnaise.

It serves the same purpose in candy bars to keep the fatty cocoa butter mixed with the cocoa and dairy – to enable a smooth, velvety mouth feel.Lecithin can be derived from soybean oil or egg yolks; it is also present in peanuts, wheat germ and canola oil.Soy lecithin is most widely used because it is inexpensive, a byproduct of soybean oil production (soybean prices are kept low, partly due to federal price supports). Soy itself is a common allergen, but the soybean allergen is associated with the protein fraction of the bean.Cellulose is modified to obtain different functional properties.Microcrystalline cellulose is made by the hydrolysis of cellulose, while carboxymetheylcellulose is obtained by reacting cellulose with chloroacetic acid.Even if food products don’t specifically list soy lecithin, they may be marked “Contains soy.” Chemically, soy lecithin is an emulsifier, meaning that it takes polar and non-polar ingredients that would not normally mix (such as oil and water), and helps them to homogenize and remain mixed.

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