Food Science/Questions needing (scientific) answers on corn puff production
QUESTION: Mr. Hoseney,
My parents run a traditional (read that as: trial and error only, no real science involved) snacks factory for 30+ years, and about a year ago I was tasked with running the corn puff production department. When they handed the department to me, they only transfer the most basic knowledge and recipes to make the products, but not the science behind it. So I know, for example, how to turn ground cornmeal into the finished product, that it need this grams of this ingredient, and at what temperature the puffs need to be dried before sprayed with seasoning, and so on. But I have no idea why it needs to be heated at so and so degrees Celsius. I have no idea what would happen if I add more of this ingredient or reduce that ingredient. I have no idea what would happen if I change the temperature of the dryer by so and so percent. I don't know how to extend shelf life. I know nothing about how the whole process really works, and I can't really ask them because they've been doing it based on trial and error.
As a result, the quality of the puffs I produced have been inconsistent (the crunch and the flavor), and the shelf life is really short. So my question is: is there a book or website or anything that can teach me anything (well, at least -a lot-) about corn puff production and storage? So from point zero until I have a sell-able product that won't spoil in less than three months.
Or can I just ask you here?
I would recommend you go to the AACC International press website. Two books I would call your attention to are Principles of Cereal Science and technology and Breakfast Cereals and how they are made.
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QUESTION: Hello again Mr. Hoseney,
Thank you for the answer, but cereal, you said? Are they processed the same way as corn puffs? From the description of the two books, I can see how they contain knowledge that might help me, but how much of those knowledge be applied to corn puffs? After all, the books are quite pricey.
Like I previously wrote, I currently already have a sell-able product, but the three main, urgent problems that plagued my product now are: inconsistent product texture from one batch to the next, rapid rate of moisture absorption, and rapid oil rancidity rate. So the crunchiness from today's batch may be different from tomorrows' batch, and the products have relatively short shelf life due to relatively rapid moisture absorption and oil rancidity rate. Three months max compared to up to a year industry standard.
From the many articles I read online, oil rancidity rate can be reduced by adding antioxidants, such as BHA, BHT, and tocopherol. I need to know how much to add to the puff (or cornmeal), and by how long will the shelf life be extended. How about the economic value of choosing one over the other? Regarding the product itself, I need to know how to choose the right cornmeal, how to measure water content, what ingredients to add and how much to make it to be the perfect crunchiness I want. What if I want it to be a bit harder? What if I want it to be softer? How do I keep the texture consistent from batch to batch?
All those questions are the most important ones floating in my mind at the moment, and if the books can help me answer those, then I'll go and get them right this second. Well, not right this second, because I need to get the books sent here to Indonesia first <sigh>.
So, what do you say?
As you know you have a number if problems. that probably cannot be easily fixed. While the anti-oxidants are effective in slowing rancidity development there are still a number of questions. 1. Is the corn meal sound? 2. How is the puffing done? 3. What temperature is obtained in the process. 4. Are the anti-oxidants legal to use and if so at what levels. 5. What are the storage conditions for the puffed product.
What equipment is used to do the puffing? How reproducible is the puffing, in other words if you use the same lot of corn meal do you get an identical product? This should tell you if the variation you encounter is because of the puffing equipment or variation in the corn meal. In general, the more puffing you get the softer the product and less puffing harder product. The degree of puffing can vary depending on the particle size, the moisture content, and the hardness of corn used to make the meal.
The moisture uptake of the product will vary with the degree of puffing, more puffing the more and faster the moisture uptake. As you can see there are many things that will influence the texture and suitability of the product.