Natural ingredients with nutritional and functional benefits allow consumers to indulge without the guilt.
For some, the words “healthful” and “indulgent” are so diametrically opposed it would be odd to include them in the same sentence. Moderation in all things is still considered one key to good health. But today, a myriad of new baking ingredients provide more healthful options for formulators.
Indulgence can be difficult to define. For some, nothing can satisfy an indulgent craving but a sweet product, while others might enjoy a thick, hearty slice of savory bread.
More healthful baking can begin with the most fundamental of ingredients, the flour. Bakers have options for replacing some of the traditional refined white flour with other ingredients in varying combinations that can improve the nutritional profile of the end product without affecting flavor or texture.
Bakers can increase whole grain content in cookies, cakes and other sweetgoods or in more traditional breads using ingredients, such as 100 percent whole wheat flour that mimics the flavor and texture of refined white flour, according to ConAgra Mills, Omaha, Neb.
The company uses a milling process that reduces the bran and germ components of the wheat berry to a smaller particle size, thus eliminating the textural differences that commonly differentiate whole wheat from refined white flour. The soft wheat flour is recommended for cookies, cakes and pastries.
However, formulators need to compensate for the higher rate of water absorption common to whole grain flour. Monitoring water levels and mix time can prevent cracking and ensure proper gluten formation. “Depending on usage level, the addition of whole grains may require ingredients to strengthen the dough, such as vital wheat gluten, in addition to adjusting baking time and temperature to control the level of browning on the product's surface,” says Harold Ward, senior quality specialist, ConAgra Mills. The benefit of using a new flour mixture is that, “depending on the inclusion level, labels can reflect the amount of whole grains in grams and the amount of fiber,” he adds.
Full of beans
Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Decatur, Ill., turned to domestic bean crops when creating bean-based powders, notes Beth Ragan, communications, ADM. To add nutritional benefits, such as protein and fiber into baked products, the company uses a variety of bean powders, such as black, red, navy and pinto beans.
The powders reconstitute within five minutes and are non-GMO and hypoallergenic. They are low-fat and cholesterol-free and a source of vitamins A and C, potassium, calcium, magnesium, folate, zinc, iron, copper and polyphenols.
Product developers at ADM recommend substituting anywhere from 10 percent to 30 percent of the flour in a formula on a 1:1 basis. These powders contain slightly less moisture (9.5 percent) than most flours, so additional water and dough retention time may be needed.
Another type of bean, okara, is being tapped by the Israeli firm NutriGal, part of the Galam Group. Although current plans won't include the U.S. market for at least two years, the company wants to move okara into the baking segment to help create more healthful products.
Okara is the high-protein, high-fiber insoluble pulp that remains when soymilk is extracted from the beans. The company is processing the pulp into an ingredient that could partiallyreplace the flour in formulations. Okara is reportedly rich in fiber and protein; low in fat; contains other helpful nutrients, such as calcium, iron and riboflavin; and has high water retention capabilities.
Ordinary bread can be transformed into indulgent specialty bread by adding cheese. Cheese is popular in artisan breads. Dairy delivers flavor, function and nutrition, notes Sharon Gerdes, senior account manager for Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), Rosemont, Ill. “Consider Swiss- and Cheddar-filled pastry dough, or bread pudding topped with Colby,” Gerdes adds.
Another indulgent product that poses a natural fit for dairy is cheesecake. In research DMI conducted in 2007, 47 percent of those surveyed said individually portioned cheesecake and chocolate cups “met a need,” Gerdes notes. Individual portion desserts offer control in terms of calorie count and size. A combination of regular cream cheese with a milk protein concentrate helps increase protein and calcium content simultaneously.
“Any time you have dairy ingredients high on the product label, it lends the perception to consumers that the product is more wholesome and natural, contributing to the aura of a permissible indulgence,” Gerdes says.
Dairy derives a sweet benefit
Using the dairy derivative lactose as a raw material, Friesland Foods Domo USA, Chicago, developed a prebiotic syrup that enhances the growth of beneficial Bifidobacteria. “Seventy percent of a person's immunity is derived from the digestive system, and keeping the good bacteria in balance is critical to good health,” says Sarah Staley, vice president, business development, Friesland Foods.
The ingredient is GRAS, heat stable and low pH stable. “A lot of prebiotics break down with little to no efficacy left over the shelf life, but we have stability data proving this prebiotic syrup retains its efficacy and reaches its target destination, the lower intestine,” Staley says.
The prebiotic ingredient enhances end product flavor without masking or adding bitter notes. It behaves like sugar syrup and is added as a standard ingredient with other liquid phase ingredients. It is used at low levels in formulation and, as such, will not affect product spread, browning, texture or mouthfeel, yet provides prebiotic benefits in a flavorful format, Staley says.
Fishing for better health
More healthful products can be created when omega-3 is used as a functional ingredient.
Ocean Nutrition Canada's omega-3 is microencapsulated in a powder-locked double shell. “It looks like a basketball filled with ping pong balls,” says Lori Covert, vice president of marketing for the Dartmouth, Nova Scotia-based company. The shell does not dissolve until it is in the lower intestines, so there is no impact on product flavor.
The powder can be added into a dry mix, is process tolerant and very stable. It would be easy, Covert says, to get 32 mg into an average serving size of baked cookies. At that level, a product can be considered an “excellent” source of omega-3.
Omega-3 derived from fish oil offers a balance of EPA and DHA, beneficial fatty acids efficiently used by the body. A number of structure/function claims have helped convince the public that products with omega-3 offer good health benefits and because these claims cover a broad age range, the baking industry can attract specific target markets to selected products enhanced with omega-3, Covert adds.
Garden variety sweets
Ingredients, such as garden-variety vegetables, can help boost the nutritional and flavor profile of indulgent baked products.
Bakers might consider using butternut, pumpkin or sweet potato in sweet breads or biscuits. “Butternut has floral aspects mixed with rich notes and adds a lot to sweet breads or cookies,” says Chris Stepan, corporate chef, Vegetable Juices Inc., Bedford Park, Ill. These types of ingredients can hold a lot of moisture, he cautions, so lower the oven temperature and extend the bake time.
Non-thermal concentrates contain four times the vegetable or fruit content of a puree. As such, the Brix content, or the measure of the percentage of soluble solids of a liquid fruit filling or a particulate, can be up to four times higher than that of a comparable puree. The higher the Brix, the more dissolved solids the filling has. Formulators should keep in mind that this affects water activity and migration, oven temperature and other processing considerations.
“Non-thermal concentrates could be used as substitute sweeteners; we've been using them in other applications at 13 percent to replace high fructose corn syrup,” Stepan says. “They offer formulators a clean finish, with no artificial aftertaste.”
Honey is another liquid sweetener that can help replace some sugar in formulation. When substituting honey in formulation, the liquid should be reduced and the temperature should be adjusted as honey can cause baked products to brown more rapidly, notes Charlotte Jordan, project manager, National Honey Board (NHB), Firestone, Colo.
Honey's hygroscopic nature helps extend the shelf life of baked products. It also contains enzymes, such as amylase, that break down the gelatinizing starch during baking, so bakers can reportedly remove some of the emulsifiers and preservatives for a cleaner label.
In addition, honey contains antioxidants. Market research by NHB shows consumers are willing to pay up to 15 percent more for products that contain honey because of its natural appeal and more healthful image, Jordan says.
Natural, more healthful ingredients give rise to a greater demand for baked products that satisfy consumers' cravings without the guilt.