CHICAGO — Consumers are increasingly interested in high-protein baked goods, and bakeries are offering more options to meet those demands. But fortifying products with plant proteins comes with challenges. 

At BakingTech 2023, held Feb. 28-March 2 in Chicago, Songwei Wu, staff scientist, Innophos, presented the findings of studies about baked goods infused with pea protein. In her talk, “Solutions for High-Protein Baking,” she cited a Nielsen survey that found more than half of families in the United States (55%) say that high protein is an important consideration when grocery shopping.

“Adding in protein affects the water absorption, which will have a profound effect on the baked consistency and the final product characteristics, for example, texture and volume,” Ms. Wu said. “Improper hydration of gluten will lead to a compact structure affecting the extensibility and elasticity of batter as well as the final product texture.”

The studies looked at how leavening could impact the texture, volume and rheology of muffins fortified with pea protein. The fortified muffins in one study had 8 grams of protein per serving, a 60% increase over unfortified muffins. In another study, fortified muffins had 6 grams of protein per serving, a 100% increase in protein.

“Adding pea protein created a harder and smaller muffin,” Ms. Wu explained. “But by changing the leavening system, we were able to create a softer texture, reducing hardness by 20% while increasing volume. 

The studies used a combination of leavening systems. Systems included fast-acting leaveners and those that provided standard or slower rates of reaction.

“By adjusting the leavening and including more upfront reaction to the leavening, we’re able to create a softer texture,” Ms. Wu said.

David Okapal, executive pastry chef, Crown Bakeries, Brentwood, Tenn., also spoke at the session, explaining how adjusting the leavening in a high-protein product he was working on improved texture and volume.

“By changing the reaction rates, we were able to get a better rise and more cakey texture, which is fantastic and what we were going for,” he said. 

The change also helped decrease an unwanted aftertaste of the product, which was sweetened with erythritol, and improved depanning as the lighter muffin did not stick as much.