Tips for Formulating Dairy-Based Sauces
What makes a person crave a plate of Alfredo pasta, or a cup of macaroni and cheese on a cold winter day? It is all in the sauce – the rich, dairy-based sauce that is key to making the perfect comfort food. Consumers may describe this indulgent texture as “creamy” or “thick” and the Gum Gurus at TIC Gums developed Food Texture Terminology to create a more concrete description of the attributes of an ideal cheese sauce.
In order to obtain these ideal attributes in cheese-based sauce, the major focus lies on the stabilization of the emulsion between the cheese or oil and the water in the formulation. Emulsification prevents separation of the sauce mixture, a defect that consumers may describe as “separated” or “watery” and consider unappealing.
Some gums are natural emulsifiers, as they contain both hydrophilic and hydrophobic portions that have the ability to stabilize and keep the lipid phase dispersed evenly throughout the water phase, while other gums contribute similar functionality by stabilizing the formulation
“How will gums work together to improve the texture of my cheese sauce?”
In sauce, gums have the ability to enhance the characteristic texture of cheese (high mouth coating ability, slow mouth clearing and increased surface wetting) in addition to preventing separation. Our Gum Gurus recommend the following gum systems that contain tested ratios formulated for specific applications in dairy-based sauces:
“Why does there have to be water in my sauce formulation?”
Water is necessary in order to hydrate gums, which must be fully hydrated to function properly. It is not possible to hydrate gums in a cheese/oil mixture alone. Once properly hydrated, gums are able to prevent phase separation and enhance the texture of the sauce.
“What are the best systems to add to my formulation if my sauce will be frozen and thawed?”
In a frozen cheese sauce, the Gum Gurus recommend the following freeze-thaw stable options:
“What should I consider if my cheese sauce is going to be retorted?”
Retorting a cheese sauce exposes it to extreme temperature and pressure. Due to this process, you should produce a cheese sauce that is slightly more viscous than the final target texture in order to account for the harsh processing conditions that may lead to a thinner product.
“What if I am a making a non-dairy cheese sauce?”
Often dairy-free cheese sauces face the same stabilization challenges as dairy-based cheese sauces. Action Gum 1144 Powder is a gum blend that works well in non-dairy sauces. Caragum® 200 or TICorganic® Caragum 200 are products that can work successfully in both non-dairy and dairy sauces.
“The guar is giving a mealy flavor to my cheese sauce. Are there other alternatives?”
Guar gum is the most widely used general purpose thickener and texture modifier in the food industry, but it can potentially impart a beany, grassy odor in a cheese sauce. GuarNT® USA Flavor Free 5000 is a reduced odor, medium viscosity guar gum that can be used as a replacement for regular guar gum. Download the white paper
“Can I use xanthan gum in my cheese sauce formulation?”
In heated milk applications, xanthan gum can create curdling of dairy proteins. Past research has found that the xanthan macromolecules cause the casein micelles to come out of suspension. The Gum Gurus usually recommend limiting the use of xanthan gum in dairy-based sauce applications.
“We are making an Alfredo sauce – what would the Gum Gurus recommend?”
Caragum 200 or its certified organic version, TICorganic Caragum 200, provides a viscous texture resistant to flow similar to starch but at much lower usage levels does not mask the flavors in the sauce. We have provided an Alfredo recipe that uses Caragum 200 below.
Selecting gums for your sauce formulation