Plant proteins such as pulses can be sustainably sourced, offering another dynamic benefit.

Protein’s momentum as a power food will carry into 2018 with new forms and applications making this satiety-inducing, refueling, muscle-building macronutrient more appealing and accessible to mainstream consumers. With many people heeding nutritional advice to increase their intake of plant-based foods, bakers are exploring the use of varied plant proteins in all types of bakery products and grain-based snack foods.

Dairy protein is commonly used in bakery applications because of its high functionality, impressive nutritional profile and clean flavor. However, food allergies, hormone and antibiotic usage in animal-growing conditions, and sustainability have raised critical concerns. That makes plant-based proteins ideal options.

Berkeley, Calif.-based PowerBar’s Plant Protein Bars, for example, are made with nuts, seeds, pea protein and rice protein. Each bar contains 10 to 11 grams of protein and 7 to 8 grams of fiber, depending on variety.
Our Little Rebellion Protein Crisps contain 10 grams of protein.

BFY Foods, Liberty, N.Y., now offers non-G.M.O. and gluten-free plant-protein popped snacks named Our Little Rebellion Protein Crisps. One serving provides 10 grams of protein from cassava and soy.

“With so many options to choose from for protein fortification, it is important for bakers to understand the benefits and challenges of working with the different proteins,” said Supaporn Naknukool, protein scientist, Parabel USA, Inc.

Bursting with benefits
The International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2017 Annual Food and Health Survey showed that nearly three-fourths (73%) of shoppers view plant proteins as healthy, compared with only 38% for animal protein. And while less than 2% of shoppers view plant protein as unhealthy, 10% characterize protein from animal sources as just that.

This mindset is fueling more innovation with plant proteins, along with the other beneficial nutrients that many ingredients provide, such as fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

However, one of the challenges that bakers face when working with plant proteins is masking their often beany, grainy or green flavor profile. To address this, product developers may find that blends work best. Further, blending multiple protein sources helps manage costs and overall product integrity in products where the protein is packed in to make a content claim. When the blend is all sourced from plants, depending on other ingredients in the product, a vegan claim may also be possible.

“With packaged food innovation focused on clean label, claims such as vegan and non-G.M.O. have become all-star package callouts, upping the ante on organic and all-natural,” said David Sprinkle, research director, Packaged Facts. “Vegan is a positive cue even among those who are merely friends of vegetarians or vegans, as has also been the case with gluten-free.”

Plant proteins can be added to baked goods and snacks in various ways such as using flakes for toppings, inclusions in crackers and flours for breads.

Bill Gilbert, certified master baker, principal food technologist, Cargill, said that as consumers seek better-for-you products, bakery is a great space for added protein.

“Muffins, bars and bread are all applications well-suited for added protein,” he said. “Plant-based proteins like pea and soy are being used to replace higher-priced dairy proteins while maintaining quality in the finished product.”

Baked foods and many snack foods are great vehicles for plant protein fortification because they often are already plant-based and lend themselves well to vegetarian or vegan diets, said Michelle Kibitlewski, senior food technologist, Healthy Food Ingredients (HFI).

When formulating with plant proteins, bakers must consider their impact on texture and machineability.

“Plant proteins vary in solubility, water-holding capacity and hydration rates, which will change mixing times and the viscoelastic properties of the dough,” said Peggy Dantuma, director of technical sales, bakery, Kerry Ingredients. “Moisture that would typically be available for proper gluten formation will be partially used by the proteins and may need to be adjusted to compensate so the dough can still be processed properly.”

Protein particulates also may interfere with the gluten network and result in a poor gluten structure and decreased volume and dry product, Ms. Dantuma added. Enzymes can be used to optimize gluten formation and give a product the desired structure and eating quality.

Pea and soy proteins are used to replace higher-priced dairy proteins in products like bread, bars and muffins.

When to use wheat
If eliminating gluten is not part of a baker’s plant protein enhancing objective, then including wheat protein in a blend should be considered.

“Wheat protein may help create an optimized finished product,” said Brook Carson, vice-president of product development and marketing, Manildra Group USA. “Wheat proteins are available with a range of functionalities, so you can really dial in on the texture and finished product attributes.”

For example, wheat proteins may improve the process by optimizing dough rheology, both when the wheat protein is used alone or with other proteins, Ms. Carson added. Unlike other plant proteins, wheat proteins contain gluten. Thus, not only do they boost protein content, but they also contribute to the gluten network that produces desirable texture and rise in many baked foods.

“There are many commercial examples of using wheat proteins along with other protein types to boost content and optimize the potential for a protein claim,” Ms. Carson said. “If a non-wheat plant protein is used as the primary protein source, I would recommend adding wheat protein as a method to improve processing, rheology, taste and texture.”

Wheat protein isolate, for example, provides a distinctive balance of elasticity and extensibility, making it beneficial in a wide range of applications. The relaxed gluten matrix makes it strong enough for dough systems, yet delicate enough for cakes and cookies.

“When stress is added to dough systems in the form of whole grains, seeds or other ingredients, wheat protein isolate can be added to maintain a balanced, machinable dough,” Ms. Carson said. “When a dough requires better tolerance or strength with little shrink-back, wheat protein can be used to provide the necessary extensibility. Appropriate dough properties can improve the bakery product from process to package.”