Alternative flours take another step into the mainstream

by Donna Berry
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Bean flours can provide bakery and snack products with health benefits. 

Today’s consumers want foods that they can feel good about eating, which has led to more exploration and experimentation in the baking and snack industries.

“There is a desire for ingredients that are recognizable and provide multiple benefits, such as high-quality flavor and nutrients,” said John Stephanian, director of culinary development, Archer Daniels Midland Co. 

This shifting preference has led formulators to use flours derived from plants. These include fruits, legumes, nuts and even coffee beans that appeal to health-conscious consumers. 

“In baking and snack applications, understanding where and how to leverage variety flours is important, and formulation adjustments vary by product and goals,” Mr. Stephanian said.  

Oftentimes these flours require some experimenting, especially since many do not contain gluten. This will impact volume and crumb structure in finished baked applications. Knowing all the effects of working these new and different flours into formulations is key to developing a successful product.

“Bean flour helps deliver the nutrition consumers require with outstanding flavor,” Mr. Stephanian said. “Our bean ingredients are non-G.M.O., gluten-free, high in plant-based protein and fiber and can provide some starch functionality.”

The flour is simply whole, cooked beans that have been dehydrated and milled to specification. This includes grit, meal and powder forms.

“The meal format was originally developed for use in single-screw extrusion applications,” said Janice Rueda, director, research and business development, ADM. “There is growing interest in its use in bakery, quick-prep soups and hot cereals, too, anywhere a hint of texture is desired in the final product.”
Some green banana flours function like hydrocolloids.

An emerging industrial variety flour comes from start-up ingredient technology company International Agriculture Group (IAG). The company’s new green banana flours offer various functional and nutritional benefits.

One variety features high levels of RS2-type resistant starch, a prebiotic dietary fiber shown to provide a broad range of health benefits, dependent upon the amount consumed daily. It works best in cold-pressed nutritional bars, as the ingredient loses the resistant starch when cooked.

“Resistant starch is defined as starch that resists digestion, reaching the large intestine,” said Rhonda Witwer, vice-president of marketing and business development for IAG. “Within the large intestine, it is consumed or fermented by the resident bacteria, producing short-chain fatty acids and other biochemical compounds. When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a qualified health claim stating that RS2 resistant starch may reduce the risk of diabetes in December 2016, interest really shot up.”

Other green banana flours function like hydrocolloids. The company has an offering that resembles native cook-up starch with viscosifying properties. Another option is pre-gelatinized starch that thickens in cold water. Both provide bulk and can replace sugar in baked foods, especially bars. Other applications include bread, cookies, muffins, cakes and other types of snacks.

When used as a wheat flour alternative, bakers are advised to use about 25% less green banana flour as a replacement. The flour is beige color with a bland, earthy flavor that blends well with other ingredients, especially in baked foods. All green banana flours contain potassium, magnesium and manganese. These gluten-free ingredients are declared as “green banana flour” or “banana flour.”

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