There are many different sources for protein. Dairy, soy and egg have dominated the baking industry, but alternative proteins like pea, pulses, potato and grains are also gaining traction. And different formats of these proteins — flours, concentrates and isolates — differ in protein content and functional characteristics. When working with proteins and especially blending them, formulators have a lot of options to weigh.

“Each type of protein will bring specific attributes that can have a critical impact of the product quality,” said Brook Carson, vice-president, product development and marketing, Manildra USA. “Even within protein types you may find a range of functional attributes. For example, with wheat proteins functionality ranges from highly elastic to completely soluble.”

When weighing those options, formulators must work backward. “Typically, the intended finished product and its desired attributes will determine the ingredient blend,” said Jennifer Tesch, chief marketing officer, Healthy Food Ingredients.

First, bakers should consider what purpose the protein is serving. Is it being added for nutritional impact, and, if so, what’s the g per serving goal? Only certain proteins can reach the threshold for claims such as “good” or “excellent source of protein.” Maybe the bakery is reevaluating the formulation to control cost or eliminate an allergen. That would certainly impact which protein sources a baker would consider.

“The best protein source depends on the need the product developer is trying to address,” said Ricardo Rodriguez, marketing manager, confectionery and bakery, Ingredion. “For instance, is the developer using the protein to enhance the nutritional value? Is the protein being used for functional purposes, or is the protein being used to boost nutrition and also serve a functional purpose?”

As far as function goes, not all proteins or their different formats are the same either. Functionality will impact texture, structure, machineability and even shelf life. Much of this is determined by the protein’s water absorption or emulsifying characteristics, and what a baker is looking for is largely dependent on the application. For example, emulsification is not going to be critical to every baked good.

“If you are trying to use whey to replace egg, you’re removing a lot of emulsification from the overall product, so you need to add that emulsification back in,” explained Marissa Stubbs, account manager, bakery, Agropur. “Whereas if you’re just trying to add protein, that looks different. In bars you might be trying to increase plasticity and reduce corn syrup, so there are a lot of different functions proteins can play.”

And again, even within the same source, different protein ingredients might bring different functionalities. Whey protein hydrates differently than milk protein. Some emulsify differently or bind water differently, and some have different taste, structure and texture characteristics.

Even using nuggets and flakes in conjunction with isolates can add a crunch and help with absorption.

“They add texture, but they also help keep that protein together so it doesn’t absorb quite as much water, causing the dough to freeze up,” said David Guilfoyle, group manager of bakery fats and oils, DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences.

Blending proteins can maximize functionality while avoiding some of the limitations these ingredients can have around taste and texture. But in this practice, it’s important to know how each protein will impact the formulation.

“Many proteins used to boost nutrition do not have the needed structure and functionality to yield the desired product quality of bakery item,” Ms. Carson said. “Other protein types can weaken the gluten matrix. Adding wheat protein as a component of the protein blend will support the structure of your product when used alongside any protein source.”

The protein trend is going to persist as consumers look for value-added foods. While baked goods lend themselves to deliver more protein, bakers need to keep an eye out for ways the extra boost could hinder dough development or negatively impact finished product characteristics. Rather than rely on a single-source protein, formulators can mix and match sources and ingredients to get the optimal characteristics, balancing nutritional claims with ideal texture, taste and machineability.

This article is an excerpt from the February 2020 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on protein, click here.