Networks of micronized fat crystals grown under static conditions†
Dispersing micronized fat crystals (MFCs) in oil is a novel route to largely decouple fat crystallisation and network formation and thus to simplify the manufacture of fat-continuous food products. MFCs dispersed in oil form a weak-interaction network organized by crystal aggregates in a continuous net of crystalline nanoplatelets. The rough surface of MFC nanoplatelets hampers stacking into one-dimensional aggregates, which explains the high mass fractal dimensions of the networks formed in MFC dispersions. Applying shear does not have a significant effect on the fractal dimensions of MFC networks, and MFC aggregates in the range of 5–10 μm remain intact. However, shear leads to a significant loss of storage modulus and yield stress over a time frame of an hour. This can be attributed to irreversible disruption of the continuous net of nanoplatelets. Rheo-SAXS revealed that shear releases nanoplatelets from the continuous net, which subsequently align in the shear field and undergo rapid recrystallisation. The release of thin and metastable nanoplatelets from the weak-link network bears relevance for simplified and more effective manufacturing of emulsified food products by effectively decoupling crystallisation, network formation and emulsification.