Kirk O'Donnell demonstrated healthy baking modifications at IBIE.

LAS VEGAS — Cookies and bread often suffer from negative health perceptions, but bakers may take a number of steps to improve the nutritional profile of these products, said Kirk O’Donnell, principal at Bakers Growth L.L.C., Manhattan, Kas.

Mr. O’Donnell shared ideas for healthier baking modifications during a demonstration at the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE), held Oct. 8-11 in Las Vegas.

A white bread recipe may be modified to include whole grains, less salt and honey instead of sugar. The addition of defatted soy flour increases protein content. Mr. O’Donnell demonstrated a sponge-dough method, which results in a more desirable texture and taste and requires fewer additives, he said.

These tweaks transform standard bread into a healthier loaf, but they also present several challenges. For example, dough with less salt is weaker and may collapse. Factors such as temperature control and proofing time become more critical with such changes.

“We have to be better bakers because we have less crutches to lean on,” Mr. O’Donnell said.

Sugar cookies made with stevia
Standard sugar cookies may be made healthier by using half soft whole wheat flour, stevia and a smaller amount of vegetable oil with an emulsifier.

Standard sugar cookies may be made healthier by replacing half of the white flour with soft whole wheat flour, swapping out the sugar for stevia and maltodextrin, and removing the shortening in favor of a smaller amount of vegetable oil with an emulsifier. Defatted soy flour also may be added to cookies to increase the protein content.

A challenge of using oil instead of shortening presented itself during the demonstration. Mr. O’Donnell admittedly over-mixed the dough, creating a bowl of crumbs resembling clumps of sand. As he pressed the dough into balls, oil extruded onto his hands.

The lesson? When making healthy modifications, don’t try everything at once, and be mindful of additional challenges in the process, Mr. O’Donnell said. As a result, bakers may overcome consumer criticism by taking “a step or two toward what they’re interested in,” he said.