With the help of a 3D printer, a food scientist at Rutgers University in New Jersey has created the first in a series of “functional foods” that include low-fat chocolate in any shape imaginable. To create low-sugar and sugar-free varieties of the new chocolate formulation, Prof. Qingrong Huang of the university’s School of Environmental and Biological Sciences is already at work on this.
The research opens the door to what the researcher envisions as a brand-new category of
“functional foods”—foodstuffs created specifically to have health advantages.
Huang reported on his and his team’s discovery in the scientific journal Food Hydrocolloids under the title
“Development of fat-reduced 3D printed chocolate by substituting cocoa butter with water-in-oil emulsions” to make healthier varieties of chocolate easily available to consumers.
We all enjoy eating chocolate,
but we also care about our health, he said.
“The printing of chocolate in 3D is a significant and unique area in the food printing industry.
The 3D extrusion printing of chocolate typically involves the melting and recrystallization of cocoa butter, unlike other food materials like fruits and meats,
necessitating precise control of both thermal and fluid conditions throughout the printing process.
How can low-fat chocolate be 3D printed in various forms?
By separating two immiscible (unable to mix) liquids into tiny droplets, researchers can make emulsions. In emulsions, the two liquids usually separate very quickly,
as with oil and vinegar, unless a third, stabilizing ingredient known as an emulsifier holds them together. For instance, the emulsifier in vinaigrette dressing is an egg.
Typically, cocoa butter, cocoa powder, and powdered sugar are combined with any one of a wide range of emulsifiers to create chocolate candies.
To find the ideal ratio between liquid and solid for 3D printing,
the scientific team tested various ingredient ratios for an everyday chocolate recipe.
They developed a water-in-cocoa-butter emulsion held together by gum arabic,
an extract from the acacia tree that is frequently used in the food industry,
to reduce the amount of fat in the mixture.
To improve the flavour,
scientists combined the emulsion with golden syrup before adding it to the other ingredients.
A new frontier for Food tech
Huang argued that despite how delicious it is to consume, chocolate is a material ripe for investigation by food scientists.
The team investigated the physical characteristics of the printed chocolate by applying advanced techniques to study the molecular structure and physical properties of chocolate.
They were looking for the ideal texture and smoothness
“for a good mouthfeel” as well as the perfect viscosity level for printing. They varied the percentages of all the primary ingredients before settling on one mixture, trying numerous different water-to-oil ratios.
In 3D printing, a printer is used to quickly build up layers of material to turn a digital model into a physical object.
According to Huang, a smartphone app can be used to program the 3D printer and the shapes it creates.
Ultimately, according to Huang, he wants to create functional foods that people can print out and eat. These foods will contain healthy additives he has studied for more than 20 years,
including extracts from orange peel, tea, red pepper, onion, rosemary, turmeric, blueberries, and ginger.
The creation of specialized edible products with tailored taste, shape,
and texture as well as optimal nutrition based on consumer needs is made possible by 3D food printing technology, according to Huang.