Bakers can incorporate whey protein into bakery foods to gain healthful and functional properties. The ingredient has a bland flavor and is soluble in water in its powder form.
Flowers Foods' Nature's Own Wheat 'n Soy bread contains 4.3 grams of soy protein per slice.
In the diet and health game that many Americans play, flashy headlines, medical research and super-market trends have an extensive role in the popularity of certain ingredients. For example, the return of the Atkins diet spurred an increased demand for wheat protein, medical research touting soy's benefits upped the interest in soy protein and the booming popularity of nutritional bars enriched whey protein's stature.
These three separate but entwined trends toward more healthful products have placed protein on the center stage of functional and healthful ingredients. Bakers are enhancing the values of their products through protein enrichment, and promoting these values through health claims. Incorporating these ingredients into bakery food formulas requires slight formula modifications and a complete understanding of different types of protein and how they affect formulations.
Whey, wheat, and soy proteins are available as concentrates and isolates, from as low as 13% protein to more than 90% protein. Each type of protein has specific attributes. Whey has lactose and is a complete protein with all amino acids. Soy has higher protein efficiency than wheat, but neither soy nor whey has the structural capabilities that wheat protein (gluten) offers. All are competitive in price and often can replace more costly ingredients with equal functionality.
Soy-based ingredients have been used in the baking industry for ages, but bakers are beginning to promote soy content in new ways. Minneapolis-based French Meadow Bakery formulated a bread with 512 mgs of soy isoflavones to attract women interested in lessening menopause symptoms. The bread appropriately is named Women's Bread, and can be purchased nationwide in both natural stores and conventional supermarkets.
Flowers Foods, Thomasville, Ga., also manufactures bread with high levels of soy protein. The company's Nature's Own Wheat 'n Soy bread contains 4.3 grams of soy protein per slice and qualifies for the nutrient content claim as an "excellent" source of protein.
Compared to wheat and whey protein, soy protein has the most exposure regarding healthful properties. In 1999, Food and Drug Administration approved a health claim stating that the consumption of soy protein, as part of a healthful diet, can help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
Soy protein is derived from soybeans, which have a protein content of about 38%. Besides protein, soy contains nine essential amino acids and is a good source of phosphorus, potassium, B vitamins, zinc, iron and vitamin E. Soy fiber and high-density soy protein primarily are used to enhance the healthfulness of bakery foods, and to create products with reduced net carbohydrates.
Soy protein generally is produced by a chemical process that separates oil from meal. A new chemical-free process is being used in limited applications, but it is more expensive. The process is similar to the cold pressing of olive oil, and the resulting soy protein concentrate has a milder scent and flavor.
In addition to boosting a product's health content, soy protein is an ideal water binder. Its gelling and moisture binding capacity can replace milk and egg proteins in many applications.
Wheat protein always has been an integral part of baking, but the ingredient experienced a massive increase in usage as the Atkins diet gained steam. Many bakers reduced the carbohydrates in their products by reducing the amount of wheat flour used in a formula and replacing it with other ingredients, such as fiber or alternative sources of flour. This reduction in wheat flour required bakers to boost the gluten structure by adding wheat protein.
"We use a lot of wheat protein additives in our high fiber breads," Paul Stitt, Natural Ovens' founder, says. "What we've found is that adding the right balance of proteins gives our products the high quality we want."
Standard baking wheat protein consists of 75% protein, and has water absorption capabilities of 150% to 200%. Wheat protein has viscoelastic characteristics, meaning it absorbs water and stretches. It is the reason why bread maintains loaf volume throughout proofing, baking and cooling processes.
Wheat protein also provides bakery foods with an improved cell wall structure, one baking industry source says. When baked, the stronger cell wall promotes high loaf volume. "That's why most baked products are made out of wheat. It does have an integral gluten forming protein," the industry source says. "Stronger gluten cells will support the other ingredients in the bread."
One ingredient supplier further emphasizes the importance of wheat protein in bakery food formulas. "Without wheat protein, even adding dough conditioners, volume producers and everything science can provide, there just won't be volume because there's nothing for conditioners to work on," the supplier says. "Without wheat protein, a baked product will rise in the proof stage, but then when it bakes, it will fall."
Another benefit of wheat protein is its ease-of-use in bakery food formulas. According to one supplier, wheat protein is added to a formula with dry ingredients because wheat protein hydrates quickly and needs to be distributed evenly throughout the flour before water is added.
For years, whey protein has played a prevalent role in the nutritional bar market. In the baking industry, whey protein's exposure is growing as a functional and healthful ingredient.
"From a nutritional standpoint, whey is the only 100% complete protein concentrate," one baking industry source says. "It has all the amino acids in the right ratios for normal growth and development."
Whey protein is an easily digestible, high-quality protein. It contains all of the branch chain amino acids and contains sulfur with amino acids. The ingredient also has calcium.
Whey protein is a byproduct of cheese making, and is extracted using ultra-filtration processes to create concentrations of 35%, 60%, 80% and 90% or greater. Whey protein has a bland flavor and is soluble in water in its powder form. In general, whey protein provides ideal emulsification, interacting well with both water and fats without causing separation.
The most common functions for whey proteins in the baking industry are as egg, fat and milk replacers. However, the ingredient's lactose content performs numerous functions in bakery foods, such as improving browning qualities, enhancing the emulsification of fat in a baked item and holding moisture to reduce the effects of staling.
Whey protein also improves the appearances and tastes of sweet goods. "We have used whey protein to enhance color and flavor in our pie dough," Scott Florence, Nancy's Pies' president, says. The company uses whey in place of sugar to provide carmelization in the dough.
Although all forms of protein assist in producing better bakery foods, the ingredients are not without their disadvantages. Allergies are the main drawback of protein use, but correctly labeling these allergens will eliminate consumer confusion.
Many forms of protein also possess off-flavors. Soy long has been criticized for its "beany" taste, but newer methods of producing this protein greatly have reduced the pungent aroma and taste. However, it is hard to eliminate these characteristics, one researcher says.
Wheat protein has a light cereal taste and can possess off-flavors due to varying extraction processes. Whey protein possesses no off-flavors, but does affect the baking process because whey concentrate integrates with other ingredients very quickly, especially at high temperatures. As a result, both bake time and temperature must be reduced to avoid producing dark products.
Despite these processing challenges, incorporating various forms of protein into bakery foods can prove profitable. To find the desired protein type and level of usage, bakers must identify their needs and goals.
In most cases, bakers will need to incorporate more than one type of protein or a specific blend to obtain desired results. Fortunately, protein suppliers have done their research and have the knowledge to help bakers maximize protein's functions.