Few people can resist nibbling on a perfectly-baked cookie. Many find the mouthwatering, nostalgic aromas of caramelized sugar coupled with the rich golden brown crumbles downright irresistible. But if you’ve ever eaten an under or overbaked cookie, you know that not all cookies are as delicious as they should be. Factors like setting the oven temperature too high or too low or baking the cookies for too long or too little time could negatively impact the texture and color of the cookie as well as someone’s experience eating it.
This is why large-scale cookie manufacturers need to carefully measure the color of their cookie products. Using a smart spectrophotometer that is capable of accurately measuring the color of textured samples (like crumbly cookies), you can ensure that every batch of cookies is baked to perfection and that they all appear uniform in color to your customers. Whether you produce just a few thousand packages of gourmet cookies every year, or you make millions of cookies in a wide variety of flavors and textures, a smart spectrophotometer can help you refine your manufacturing process.
Color is a Sign of Cookie Quality
The color of cookies and other baked foods can tell you a great deal about how the product will likely taste. This is due to caramelization and the Maillard reaction, a complex chemical process that causes food to turn brown as it’s exposed to heat.1 During the Maillard reaction, the proteins and sugars in the food are broken down by high temperatures, which results in deeper coloration and a significant change in flavor and aroma. In the case of cookies, the Maillard reaction browns the color of the raw cookie dough and produces strong aromatic compounds—that classic freshly-baked cookie scent.
For cookie manufacturers, paying close attention to caramelization and the Maillard reaction is important because too much exposure to heat over time could result in an overly bitter, brittle cookie. Likewise, too little heat exposure will impede the development of the Maillard reaction or caramelization, and the cookie will be soft, pale, and somewhat bland in flavor. Customers are aware of the connection between cookie color, texture, and quality, and the appearance of the cookie may impact a customer’s buying habits.2 This is why you need a smart spectrophotometer to ensure that all of your cookie products have gone through just the right amount of caramelization and appear consistent in color overall.
Measuring the Color of Your Cookies Can Be a Challenge
Even though the color of cookies plays a major role in the perception of cookie quality, measuring this color is a complex and sometimes frustrating process for manufacturers.3 Irregular textures, poor equipment maintenance, and needlessly time-consuming measurement protocols can make it much more difficult to analyze the color of your cookie products. Here are just a few of the challenges you might face:
The first hurdle that cookie companies face when testing their products’ color is that cookies are rarely completely uniform in shape, size, texture, and color. For example, a chocolate chip cookie usually has deep cracks that appear darker in color compared to other smoother areas of the cookie. These cookies also contain dark-colored chocolate chips that are scattered randomly throughout the baked dough. Both of these factors make it difficult to analyze the overall color of the product using the naked eye alone. Even some standard benchtop spectrophotometers struggle to accurately measure the color of a highly-textured sample like a cookie. With some instruments, you might have to change the texture of your sample entirely (by blending it into a powder, for example) before you can accurately measure the cookie’s overall color.
Not only does the texture of the cookie pose a challenge, it can also be time-consuming and labor-intensive to measure cookie samples individually. As a large-scale cookie manufacturer, you have to analyze the color of potentially thousands of cookies every year. Measuring one cookie at a time takes a great deal of time and effort. However, measuring just one cookie to represent an entire batch is risky, as any single cookie may not even be a reliable representation of batch consistency. If, for example, you choose one sample cookie that happens to be slightly darker or lighter in color compared to other cookies in the same batch, then it may cause you to waste a perfectly good batch of cookies because you believe that they’re all too dark or too light in color.
Equipment Wear and Tear
Normal wear and tear on your color measurement instruments can negatively impact the accuracy of your measurements. This is especially true when you use sample holders that have glass or plastic coverings that protect the sample inside. In many benchtop spectrophotometers, you place your sample inside of the holder and then cover your sample with the holder’s glass or plastic case, preventing the spectrophotometer’s sensor from touching the sample directly. However, over time, these glass or plastic sample coverings may become scratched or otherwise damaged, and this could prevent the spectrophotometer from making an accurate color reading. You’ll have to frequently replace your plastic or glass holders to ensure that your measurements remain accurate.
Each of the factors above can impact the accuracy of your cookie color measurements. However, when you invest in smart, non-contact spectrophotometers like HunterLab’s Aeros, you can overcome these challenges with ease.
How a Smart Spectrophotometer Solves Your Color Measurement Challenges
A smart spectrophotometer like the Aeros is specifically designed with textured products, like cookies, in mind. So, what makes the Aeros smart? The answer lies in its sophisticated use of technology that helps to overcome the challenges of analyzing textured and irregular samples:
Measure Your Textured Samples With Little Effort
The Aeros can accurately determine the distance between its sensor and the cookie sample below it, and it will self-adjust to the perfect height necessary for optimal color measurement; if you needed to measure the color of two different types of cookies, the Aeros would automatically reposition itself in response. So, a thin, flat sample of sugar cookies will likely be measured from a fairly low height, whereas a textured, lumpy batch of oatmeal cookies will likely be measured from a higher height. You won’t have to make these height calculations yourself because the Aeros’ smart sensor technology adjusts itself based on every new sample. You also won’t have to blend your cookie samples into a powder or go through any other destructive or labor-intensive sample preparation, as the Aeros is a non-contact instrument capable of measuring the color of textured cookies in their original form.
Measure More Samples At Once
The Aeros also overcomes the challenge of time-consuming individual cookie measurements by virtue of its generous sample area. In fact, the sample area measurement is the largest in the world, allowing you to put multiple samples on the sample tray simultaneously. From here, the instrument takes 35 different measurements in just five seconds while the smart sample platform rotates automatically in order to cover as many cookie samples as possible, allowing you to test a dozen cookies (perhaps more) simultaneously. You won’t waste time on individual sample tests, and you’ll also get an accurate sense of the overall color consistency of your cookie batches rather than relying on just one cookie to represent the entire batch. Additionally, you can share your data directly from the instrument to your company’s network via email or print results directly from the Aeros, saving you additional data gathering and processing time.
Simplify the Maintenance and Cleaning Process
The Aeros is specifically designed to minimize equipment wear and tear as well as sample contamination. As a non-contact spectrophotometer, the Aeros’ sensor never touches the sample or the sample holder, which means you’ll no longer have to use glass or plastic covers to protect your cookie samples and sensor. You won’t have to worry about glass or plastic coverings getting scratched or damaged over time because the Aeros doesn’t use them at all. Instead, the instrument adjusts its height automatically, making accurate measurements from a safe distance without the need of any plastic or glass protective covering. Additionally, sealed motor compartments and optics prevent cookie crumbs from wedging inside of the instrument. You can also completely remove the rotating sample holder to clean it, preventing cross-contamination between one sample batch and the next.
Using all of these features, the Aeros will help you obtain the most accurate and precise cookie color measurements possible, allowing you to refine your manufacturing process and ensure reliable color quality control with little hassle.
As a pioneer in the field of spectrophotometry, HunterLab has worked closely with the baked goods industry for over 60 years to help, manufacturers find the ideal instruments for their individual products. Today, our renowned spectrophotometers come packaged with state-of-the-art color quality control software, such as the Aeros’ EasyMatch Essentials, that is perfectly suited to capture, analyze, share, and store color data. Contact us to find out more about Aeros or any of our color measurement instruments and let us help you select the right tools for your needs.
- “An Introduction to the Maillard Reaction”, https://www.seriouseats.com/2017/04/what-is-maillard-reaction-cooking-science.html ↩
- “How to Tell When Literally Every Baked Good Is Done”, November 2017, https://www.bonappetit.com/story/how-to-tell-baked-good-is-done ↩
- “Quality and Energy Control of Industrial Biscuit Baking”, https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-94-011-1454-7_74 ↩
Mr. Philips has spent the last 30 years in product development and management, technical sales, marketing, and business development in several industries. Today, he is the global market development manager for HunterLab, focused on understanding customer needs, providing appropriate solutions and education, and helping to solve customer color challenges across these industries and cultures.