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By Marcia Wood
April 3, 2014
Some of today's popular baked goods might tomorrow contain a butter-like extract, derived from rice bran oil, as a partial replacement for margarine, butter or shortening. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) chemist Erica L. Bakota and her colleagues with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Peoria, Ill., developed a process for making the extract, which somewhat resembles a nut butter.
The product's texture and composition are apparently unique, according to Bakota.
In preliminary experiments at the ARS National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Bakota and her colleagues used the extract in place of some of the butter called for in standard recipes for granola and for white bread. Feedback from taste testers who participated in these preliminary experiments indicated that the substitutions did not detract from the taste or texture of either the granola or the bread.
Unlike some shortening and margarines, the extract is free of trans fats, which contribute to increased risk of heart disease. Another plus: The product is shelf-stable and resists oxidation that could otherwise result in off-flavors and unpleasant odors.
The extract consists primarily of unrefined rice bran oil and rice bran's natural wax, which is used in confections. It also contains minor amounts of vitamin E; plant sterols, including some that are of interest to medical and nutrition researchers because of their potentially health-imparting properties; and gamma-oryzanol, shown to lower levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol in humans.
The Peoria team's extraction procedure evidently differs from other approaches for making a butter-like product from rice bran oil in that it uses very low temperatures. ARS, the USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, is seeking a patent for the procedure. Bakota is looking for collaborators interested in developing new uses for the product.
A staple at Asian food markets or other specialty or gourmet grocery stores, rice bran oil has a mild flavor and is high in vitamin E, an advantage that many other well-known cooking oils don't offer. The oil comes from the outer layers that are removed when rice grains are milled and polished to produce white rice.
Bakota and teammates Michael J. Bowman, Hong-Sik Hwang, Sean X. Liu, Debra L. Palmquist, and Jill K. Winkler-Moser, all with ARS at Peoria, described the research in a 2013 article published in the European Journal of Lipid Science and Technology, and in a new article accepted for publication in that journal. The studies are highlighted in the April 2014 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.