Plant-based is a descriptor being used across the supermarket without any regulation. Some may think it’s suggestive of vegetarian or vegan, but that’s all it is: a suggestion. Grain-based baked goods have always been plant-based. It’s the concept of plant-based protein that has sparked the curiosity of bakers, as these ingredients are often designed to replace traditional animal-based proteins, namely eggs, as well as whey and casein from milk, for various reasons, including achieving a vegan claim, lowering cost and better managing unpredictable markets.

Sometimes protein is added to enhance the quality of flour, while other times it’s to improve processing. Bakers may simply want to boost total protein content for consumer appeal. These are just some of the reasons why a baker may add plant protein to a formulation, and there are a growing number of options in the marketplace.

“When evaluating plant proteins, it is important to consider the protein concentration,” said Jim Mitchell, director of product engineering, Ciranda. “In most bakery applications, an isolated or highly concentrated protein source with 80% to 90% protein is not needed.”

Lower concentrated proteins and protein flours may deliver enough functionality. They will also increase protein content when compared to traditional baking flours.

“Finding the best plant protein for baked goods relies on choosing the right protein for the application versus choosing the right baked good for the protein,” said Erin Nese, technologist, commercial innovation acceleration, Ingredion.

Sometimes plant proteins can assist in managing the inconsistency that can come with flour quality.

“Occasionally bakeries have to contend with variabilities in the quality of raw material flour,” said Tanya Jeradechachai, vice president of ingredient solutions research and development, MGP Ingredients. “In cases where the flour is of marginal quality, an elastic wheat protein isolate can remedy the problem.”

It makes sense to put wheat proteins back into wheat. Wheat proteins can be used to overcome other quality issues, too.

“In yeast-leavened bread, for example, these unique functional properties allow wheat protein isolate to reduce dough mixing time, support gas cells in dough, yield a satisfactory loaf volume and provide a soft spongy crumb texture with excellent mouthfeel,” Ms. Jeradechachai said. “High-protein breads with high levels of added vital wheat gluten produce very strong doughs that require the addition of wheat protein isolate to increase extensibility.”

There are high-protein baked goods, and then there are keto-friendly high-protein products. The keto diet is about 70% fat, 20% protein, and 5% each simple carbohydrates and non-starchy vegetables, which means keto-friendly baked goods are also low in carbohydrates.

“Wheat-based keto bakery applications require a large amount of wheat proteins,” Ms. Jeradechachai said. “Wheat protein isolate is often used in combination with vital wheat gluten to provide extensibility properties and help with dough handling.”

This article is an excerpt from the October 2021 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Plant-Based Protein, click here.