Where does protein supplementation fit in baking today? Arguably less prominent than during the unlamented carbohydrate catharsis, supplements still are used to boost protein levels in products for healthful baking. Bakeries boast added protein on their labels as a selling point. However, the largest area for almost all protein is still in product structure: baking quality, texture, shelf life, mouthfeel, color and flavor.
Aside from the massive public espousal of whole grains, three new niches are on the rise where protein products are concerned. First is the dramatic evolution of what used to be the humble protein bar category, which once consisted of heavy, chewy and largely flavorless products. Today, bars are sought out as delicious single-serve meals sold in nearly every supermarket aisle and consumed as snacks, meal replacements and cereal bars. Second, ethnic products, such as flatbreads, tortillas and even pizza dough, all are reaping the benefits of added protein for structural and health reasons. Finally, the par-bake market benefits from the structural aspects protein isolates provide in processing, storage, thawing and baking.
Every protein supplier has experts eager to identify solutions that showcase their products. Industry
sources, such as the American Institute of Baking, American Egg Board and National Dairy Council, also are available to help. These may favor a specific type of protein product, but typically do not “sell” anything but solutions.
|Wheat protein isolates are used largely to improve flavor, crumb texture and appearance.|
| Many protein products are used as fat replacements because they mimic the properties of fat while keeping calories down. |
The most basic protein known to bakers is vital wheat gluten (VWG). It is used to increase cell structure and strength and add volume in bread products. It has gained popularity with the rise in multi-grain products that need an extra boost of internal strength to handle very heavy grain formulations.
“As the demand for whole grain and multi-grain product increases, the consumption of VWG increases proportionately,” says Ken Embers, career development manager, AIB International, Manhattan, Kan. “The addition of soy, whey and even wheat protein isolates can affect the structure, mouthfeel, flavor and color development of many baked goods, and this needs to be considered when developing a formula,” he adds.
Embers notes it pays to remember basic bread is just flour, water, salt and yeast. Gluten is the protein backbone of baking. However, that does not mean other proteins are not valuable for adding unique features to products, including healthful protein levels. It only means bakers need to reformulate to address issues that arise when using other proteins.
Joel Payne, senior scientist, corporate food technology at Cincinnati-based Kroger Bakeries, agrees. Kroger uses VWG for its wide variety of bread and rolls, but for functional reasons, not for nutritional enhancement. “We also use eggs, milk powders and a lot of soy flour. But, again all are used for functional rather than nutritional reasons. We use more wheat gluten for our whole grain products than the rest, but again, it’s to bump up the gas-retention capabilities of the dough.”
Isolates are a big part of the wheat protein market and are used both for function and nutrition per major
suppliers, such as ADM Milling, Decatur, Ill. and MGP Ingredients, Atchison, Kan.
Again, much of the use for wheat protein isolates is in the area of product function; enhancing flavor, crumb texture and appearance. But it also is increasingly used to replace other products, such as some fats, where it can mimic their properties while reducing calories. Steve Ham, director of marketing, MGP, notes that the company has seen an increase in requests for wheat protein alternatives to expensive dairy and egg protein products.
“Basically, most inquiries are on the functional side,” he says. “Bakers are looking to add the performance of protein to their products. Our Arise 5000 isolate line does that. It helps dough to process faster and adds processing tolerance. It is extremely valuable when used in the par-bake/frozen dough area. It enhances cell structure properties to increase freezer life so products maintain structure and moisture qualities going through the freeze-thaw cycle.”
Brook Carson, technical product manager, ADM Milling, says, “Our Prolite Wheat Protein Isolates have been found to greatly improve the quality of microwavable products. The molecular weight and structure of the protein are such that it distributes the heat more evenly, yielding a more even texture and better product.”
Because wheat protein isolates are high in glutamine peptides, the essential amino acids that help the body recover from physical exertion, they are ideal as protein source additives for bar foods, whether high protein snack, meal replacement or diet oriented.
Soy protein in general has been used in baked products for years and is valued for its functionality and reasonable price. It provides a source of high quality protein that also has great functionality, including gelling, viscosity, texturizing and extending shelf life. In addition, soy flour can reduce the fat uptake in fried foods, such as donuts, helping to create a more healthful product and decreasing overall production costs. In other bakery systems, soy flour can enhance overall economics by replacing a percentage of egg in some formulations.
Kroger has found a use for soy protein as a functional ingredient and uses it in almost all bread, buns and rolls. “It’s a special formulation I discovered,” Payne says. “It’s highly proprietary. Suffice it to say, it works great, and other methods to do the same thing might cost us 10 times as much to get the same results.”
Spectrum Foods, Nexcel Natural Ingredients division, Springfield, Ill., has developed a method for producing soy products without the typical soy flavor. “Our Nexsoy® soy flour and soy grit products are produced without using the chemical solvents (hexane) used by the large soy protein manufacturers. The result is an all-natural, very neutral-tasting soy protein that can be used in higher application rates without
changing flavor profiles or require masking agents. We mostly offer non-GMO and organic versions of our proteins for those engaged in the growing natural foods segment,” says Rob Kirby, president.
Cargill Texturizing Solutions, Minneapolis, created a unique soy protein product: Prosante flavored bits, manufactured in a variety of sweet and savory flavors ranging from blueberry to pepperoni.
“Any flavor can be custom created to meet customers’ needs,” says Ann Stark, bakery, cereal and snack specialist at Cargill. “We even offer them in a kosher version. Incorporating flavoring bits into dough systems adds significant amounts of soy protein for nutritional value.”
Cargill’s textured soy bits can replace rice crisps in cereal bars to create a delicious protein source with a crunchy texture. Cargill says Prosante bacon flavored soy bits have a more healthful nutritional profile than real bacon and are now being incorporated into crackers. These shelf-stable bits also are useful as a topping or as an inclusion in bagels and variety breads
The Solae Co., St. Louis, also offers soy nuggets or protein crisps and a range of soy products with varying levels of protein, including isolates and textured products, as well as protein products that offer other inclusions, such as fiber. “Soy proteins can offer enhanced moisture retention, extended shelf life, a good nutritional profile and significant economic benefits versus frequently used NFMD [nonfat dry milk proteins] in the baking industry,” says Kristin Ebert, North American marketing director for Solae.
The trend towards lower glycemic, whole grain bakery items lends itself well to whey proteins. According to Lois Baker, application center manager, Davisco Foods International, Eden Prairie, Minn., the addition of whey proteins to bakery products can help lower the overall glycemic impact. “Whey proteins are clean-
flavored, complete, high-quality proteins. They provide all of the essential amino acids required by humans, and are an excellent source of branched chain amino acids,” she says.
Whey proteins, whether isolate or concentrate, also contribute to texture and crumb structure of baked products. In some applications they can be used as a partial or total replacement of egg solids. Lower protein ingredients, such as sweet dairy whey and lactose are sources of dairy solids that can enhance browning in baked products owing to their lactose content. Research has shown that certain whey protein peptides also have many healthful functions.
“Davisco’s BiPRO whey protein isolate binds water very well so bakers tend to use it for that,” Baker says.
“It also has some egg-replacement attributes, therefore bakers can use this to replace eggs in cakes, muffins and cookies.”
Like the other protein ingredients, whey isolates are popular for nutritional bars. Aside from adding a complete protein source to the products, the clean flavor enhances other flavors in the products; fruit, nuts or spices.
Compared to the power bar of the past, flavor and texture are important. Where bars used to be very dense and chewy, modern bars offer layers, crunch, fruit fillings and a lot of flavor to make them much more appealing to a broader consumer market.
“We’re seeing more interest from the mainstream cereal bar and snack bar type producers,” says Kimberlee Burrington, food scientist for the Center for Dairy Research at the University of Wisconsin’s Madison campus. Whey crisps are a new type of protein product that many bakers might not yet be familiar with but have a lot of uses in baked goods and snacks,” she adds.
Eggs are a protein source that has been a part of baking for eons. Although not currently as prevalent in breads and rolls as in the past, they are still a staple ingredient in most muffins, cakes and pastries. While typically used for binding and whipping properties, the pure protein value of eggs can’t be ignored.
Dr. Glen Froning, professor emeritus, University of Nebraska at Lincoln and nutrition consultant to the American Egg Board, says a “super egg” is in the works. “One current project is fortifying egg products with omega-3 and lutein to improve their nutritional properties,” he says. “We do it through shell eggs, but we haven’t done fortification of liquid egg products. That’s one area we are excited about for the future.”
Another new egg product on the market, not developed specifically for baking, but Froning says may prove beneficial to bakers, is an enzyme modified egg yolk that offers superior emulsifying properties.
“An enzyme called phospholipase is used,” Froning says. “It gives the egg much higher emulsifying capability. It converts the lecithin to a substance with better functional properties.”
Even without all the enhancements, eggs have such multi-faceted properties that some of their function and protein are almost impossible to replace.
Eggs are the main ingredient for the cakes Kroger produces. “In our cake bakery we are running such large volumes we buy eggs in 2,000 pound containers of both refrigerated whole eggs and an equal amount of refrigerated egg whites,” Payne says.
Bakers have much to look forward to in regard to protein. In the meantime, there is also a wide selection that suits every current baking need, either alone or combined.