According to Tim Kenny, VP of Marketing at the California Raisin Marketing Board, raisins are a whole fruit that are naturally low in fat and sodium. They also contain unrefined sugars and dietary fibre that make them a viable plant-based fat replacement in baked goods.
Sweetened naturally by the sun on the vine or on trays, the California raisin industry produces a variety of raisin ingredients that are shelf-stable, contain no added sugar or juice, and can be used in applications ranging from bakery to snacks, cereals, confectionery, dairy and beverages.
'Raisin' some interesting facts
- California Raisins are simply grapes that have been cleaned, dried, de-stemmed and washed.
- The majority of California-grown raisins are the Vitis vinifera varietal. Other varietals and cultivars include Zante Currant, Muscat, Monukka, Sultana, Thompson Seedless, Fiesta, Selma and DOVine.
- California Raisins take three full years from initial planting before bearing fruit that is subsequently dried.
- Raisins are evaluated by government inspectors to ensure that they meet strict quality standards. Thanks to these standards, California Raisins have never been linked to any cases of foodborne illness, according to the CDC.
Research conducted by food consulting firm CuliNex delved into the benefits of using raisins in food manufacturing and foodservice applications, determining the optimum raisin ingredient and percent utilisation. The research team ran a series of experiments with a basic fudge brownie formula, replacing the total fat content contributed from the egg yolks and butter with 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% raisin paste.
It also investigated reducing the sugar content and increasing the bitter chocolate in the brownies to account for the sweetness of the raisin paste.
Compared to the control formula with 100% fat from butter and egg yolks, the recipes using raisin paste saw reduced overall calories, less total fat, lowered saturated fat, and less or no cholesterol while maintaining intended moisture and texture. It also found raisin paste to be a viable plant-based alternative to animal fats.
Taste, texture and overall rating
Replacement of butter/egg yolk fat with the lower percentages of raisin paste found very little change in visible crumb and texture. The internal moisture of the brownie was also unaffected by the substitution.
The research found the higher the raisin paste usage, the stickier the texture – however, the scientists concluded a gooey texture was a good fit for the brownies, which by nature, are best slightly undercooked.
Additionally, the increased raisin flavour was more detectable, but the fruitiness was seen as a natural complement to the bitter chocolate.
“California Raisin paste offers a functional and flavourful solution to high fat recipes, delivering an overall calorie reduction when used as a fat replacer,” concluded Kenny.
The California Raisin Marketing Board – created by a State Marketing Order in 1998 – is 100% grower funded and works to market activities to improve the demand for all categories of raisin usage. The Board also sponsors crop production, nutrition and market research.