Cook

Conventionally, licorice paste is manufactured in 1/2 to 1 ton batches in open steam-jacketed kettles. The mixing paddles must efficiently sweep the heated paste from the kettle walls as the paste has poor heat-transfer properties. Cooking times can vary from 60 to 220 minutes. Steam pressures around 60 psi are adequate.

Licorice paste has many unusual rheologic properties resulting in large variations in observed elasticity. These largely occur through variations in starch gelatinization. Factors that influence the degree of gelatinization are quantity of flour, quality of flour, batch boiling time, concentration of sugars, and available water.

The progress of gelatinization in the batch can be followed microscopically by alteration in appearance of starch granules. As boiling continues, the granules swell and eventually rupture. (This change can also be clearly seen under polarized light when the characteristic cross on the surface of the granules disappears when the granule rupture occurs.) Count lines, shoelaces, reels, etc (long textured product), will show starch that is fully swollen or ruptured whereas sandwich paste and centers for Good & Plenty® (short texture) should show only partial gelatinization of starch.

The gloss of licorice is dependent primarily on moisture content which typically in the final product is 16-20%. Too high moisture can lead to mold growth, so sometimes preservatives are added. At the end of the cooking process, moisture is reduced to 23-32%. After cooking, the licorice paste is partially cooled then extruded or stamped into its final shape and placed on trays in racks, after which it goes into a warm, dry room known as a stove where more moisture is removed down to its final moisture content. The time of stoving will vary depending on the thickness and shape of the final piece and the amount of moisture to be removed. If this process is rushed, a hard crust will form on the surface of the licorice, which inhibits the moisture loss from the center of the product. When the product is dried in this manner, the moisture from the center will ultimately migrate to the surface and cause it to be sticky. Good air circulation within the stove is essential. Stove temperatures should be 100-125°F, with relative humidities of 50-60%.

Figure 2 outlines the various steps in both the batch and continuous processes, along with an indication of the relative process times. A semicontinuous final moisture process is also included for comparative purposes.

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