While protein enrichment may be all the buzz these days, there are other dairy ingredients that bakers have been using forever. Think butter cookies, cheesecake and cream puffs. Dairy ingredients are the star of all these baked goods. They also can play behind the scenes and assist with structure, moisture retention and even sodium reduction, all while keeping labels clean.

“Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, cream, butter and sour cream have a long history of providing functional, nutritional and organoleptic properties to baked products,” said Kimberlee Burrington, director, training, education and technical development at the American Dairy Products Institute.

While butter may bring flavor to a formulation, it provides functionality as well.

“When creating pastries, laminating the dough can be a technically challenging task for bakers,” said Louise Paulsen, technical engagement manager, dairy foods at NZMP (Ingredients by Fonterra). “Butter sheets are superior in terms of performance for lamination. First, they are ‘lamination ready,’ perfectly shaped and ready to take from pack and placed on the dough.”

There’s no need to flatten or pound the butter sheets down to the right thickness. They are also standardized to a higher melting point and are therefore consistent performers.

“They provide amazing honeycomb-like structure in croissants,” Ms. Paulsen said. “Another ease-of-use dairy ingredient is a cream cheese with a softer texture than traditional cream cheese. It reduces time needed for mixing and blending.”

Most dairy products are available in a dry format for ease of use and economics. Sometimes they are used in conjunction with the fresh, whole dairy product to deliver on flavor without negatively impacting product quality.

“The benefits of using dry dairy ingredients in bakery products can be achieved at levels of 2% to 5% addition,” Ms. Burrington said.

In yeast-fermented products such as bread, bagels and buns, nonfat dry milk can moisten the finished product and provide crust color. Whey protein options can provide a glaze or a wash.

“They provide color and shine and can be used instead of egg or egg white washes,” said Sheelagh Hewitt, principal research scientist at the Fonterra Research and Development Centre. “Sodium caseinate has been used in donuts to improve texture and decrease fat uptake on frying.”

The variety of dairy ingredients explains the breadth of functions bakers can employ from this class of ingredients: water-binding, browning, foaming, emulsification, flavor enhancement and texture shortening.

“Bakers may find that breads made with dairy ingredients exhibit improved flavor, softness, tenderness and browning properties when compared with standard breads,” said Daniel Marciani, research manager, bakery, at Glanbia Nutritionals. “Breads can even see a reduction in the need for sugar and shortening.”

Cakes and quick breads tend to see similar improvements, as well as an increase in volume. This is influenced by the proteins, which foam and emulsify, and thereby improve structure and texture.

 “Whey proteins have many similar functional attributes to eggs, such as binding, emulsification and aeration,” said Grace Harris, director of applications and business development, Hilmar Ingredients. “In many cases, whey proteins can also improve nutritional profiles by lowering when replacing egg yolks.”

It can even serve as an egg replacer in the trickiest of applications.

“The foaming and heat set properties of whey protein isolate enable its use as an egg white replacer in protein-sugar, no-fat systems, such as meringues and macarons,” said Sheelagh Hewitt, principal research scientist at the Fonterra Research and Development Centre.

[Related reading: Exploring the world of dairy]

The water-binding capabilities of dairy proteins can even contribute to longer shelf life, Ms. Harris said, by preventing baked goods from drying out.

When whey and milk are processed into concentrated protein ingredients, the remaining components are referred to as permeate. This byproduct is being embraced by bakers for its enhanced functionality and organoleptic properties. The main component of permeate is lactose, a reducing sugar that assists with enhanced surface browning in many baked goods. It does so by entering into browning reactions with amino acids (Maillard browning). It also caramelizes readily under the influence of oven heat.

Though a sugar, lactose is not very sweet. In fact, it has a sweetening power of only 16 compared to 100 for sucrose in a 1% aqueous solution. Lactose is also less soluble than either glucose or sucrose and crystallizes more readily than either of these sugars. It is unfermentable by yeast and thus survives the dough fermentation unchanged and undiminished.

Bakers have long added small amounts of lactose to doughs and batters, either directly or indirectly through the addition of dairy ingredients. Now permeate is another one of those indirect options.

Another use for permeate is in sodium reduction. The minerals in permeate have been shown to provide a salty perception, while only contributing a minute amount of sodium. In some applications, it is possible to not add any salt to the application and still have a tasty product.

Whey permeate may provide a cost savings when it substitutes for more expensive ingredients. Research shows that a significant amount of permeate (5% to 8%) can be used in muffins, scones or cookies, resulting in products of similar or superior quality to those formulated using nonfat dry milk. Cookies containing permeate tend to be crispier, with a shorter texture as well as more browning and spread. Other products, such as pie crust, would employ a similar strategy and result in similar benefits.

“Milk permeate is being used in waffles, cookies and cakes,” said Pratishtha Verma, research and development scientist at Idaho Milk Products. “In cakes, milk permeate provides a more moist and softer cake texture.”

When bakers want to boost the dairy flavor in products, they will often include fermented or enzyme-
modified dairy concentrates, which are made from real dairy foods. Enzyme-modified cheese is often used to boost cheese flavor in crackers and other baked snacks. These ingredients are concentrated cheese flavors formed by the enzyme-catalyzed hydrolysis of cheese curd. The result is a viscous slurry that has as much as 10 times the flavor of the cheese from which it was made.

Such hydrolysis, coupled with fermentation, makes it possible to produce similar emulsions from other whole dairy foods, including butter, cream and yogurt. They provide the option to reduce or replace dairy commodities for cost savings while increasing overall flavor impact and consumer-perceived product quality. They have low usage levels and allow for claims such as “made with real cheese.” 

Bakers have a bevy of dairy ingredients at their disposal that can provide flavor and function with a clean label. All bakers have to do is take a look around and find the right format for their applications.

This article is an excerpt from the November 2021 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Dairy, click here.