A systems approach helps get the most out of every ingredient. It also is critical to addressing the greatest challenges when boosting the plant protein content of baked goods, which are managing water, texture and flavor.

Plant proteins, for example, often bring along earthy notes and other off flavors. Even within the same protein source, there can be significant differences in flavor profiles.

“Consumers have little tolerance for these flavor hiccups,” said McKenna Mills, senior technical services specialist for bakery, Cargill.

 “Some options, like our pea protein, have a more neutral flavor profile. The yellow pea seed varieties are specially selected to minimize off-notes and processed without the use of hexanes to bring out the best flavor possible. To further minimize flavor nuances, we may advise bakers to use blends of four or more different proteins so none of them imparts an off flavor.”

ADM focuses on creating customized plant protein systems to assist formulators with achieving their end-product goals. The company’s portfolio includes proteins isolated from varied beans, grains, nuts, pulses and seeds.

“We’re able to bring all of these pieces together in proprietary systems designed to maximize functionality, nutrition, sensory appeal and speed to market,” said Jacquelyn Schuh, global marketing director, protein nutrition solutions at ADM. “Combining different plant proteins helps product developers address consumer interest in better-for-you bakery and snacks with ingredient diversity, great flavor and enhanced nutrition.”

Plant-based proteins pair well with certain flavors in baked goods. Erin Nese, technologist, commercial innovation acceleration, Ingredion, said that chocolate, cinnamon and peanut butter are some of the best suited profiles.

More recent additions to ADM’s plant protein portfolio are hemp powder and hemp hearts, which are dehulled hemp seeds. Both may enhance protein levels in baked goods.

“Not only are hemp hearts and hemp powder appealing to health-conscious consumers, but they are also incredibly versatile ingredients. Both achieve great taste and texture in loaves, cereals and snack bars,” Ms. Schuh said. “They also are an ingredient that can deliver fiber, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.”

Moisture management is paramount when adding proteins to a bakery formulation.

“Over or under absorption of water can impact texture, volume, shelf life and more,” Ms. Mills said. “However, with careful protein selection, it is possible to manage water absorption issues and create high-protein baked products that are nearly indistinguishable from their ‘normal’ counterparts. Using protein blends is often the key, countering high-absorbing (binding) proteins with low-absorption (plasticizing) proteins.”

While conventional baked goods stale due to starch retrogradations, Mike Merkley, senior scientist, bakery applications, Tate & Lyle, pointed out that high protein baked goods can also become firm over time but for different reasons.

“Hardening associated with protein matrices is complex and can include protein self-aggregation, sugar crystallization and water migration,” he explained. “An understanding of these hardening mechanisms and ingredient solutions that can disrupt these pathways have potential to extend shelf life and maintain texture.”

Texturants and bulk sweeteners may assist. With a growing trend toward high protein also being reduced sugar and lower carbohydrate, that toolbox of ingredients gets smaller.

“Allulose and fructose provide bulk and help maintain texture in high-protein systems through their tendency to resist crystallization and add humectancy,” Mr. Merkley said. “Soluble corn fiber is another effective solution for added moisture retention. Soluble corn fibers impart little to no color or flavor and reduce mobility of water.”

Phosphates may also assist with improving volume, texture and hardness. They do this by helping release carbon dioxide, thereby creating airiness in the baked good. These leavening technologies may also help bakers with sodium reduction, adding calcium and achieving a gluten-free label.

“When using plant proteins in formulations, the baked product loses carbon dioxide during the process, which results in a baked product having less volume,” said Amr Shaheed, technical services and application development manager, Innophos. “The product becomes more dense due to the heaviness of the protein. Phosphates provide aeration, leavening and increase the softness of a product.”

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