Addressing pain points in producing protein-rich products with instrumentation

Homemade fresh wheat bread with whole grains

By Arnaud Dubat, Product and Applications Director of CHOPIN Technologies, a brand of products from KPM analysis

Protein is still a nutrient of choice for consumers. The desire to follow healthier eating habits has prompted food processors to include additional and unique proteins in a variety of categories, including snacks and baked goods. An increase in non-traditional protein ingredients and flours that can include legumes, hemp, and even insect powders, presents both opportunities and challenges for commercial bakeries and snack food processors. Appropriate instrumentation can help answer these pressing questions:

  • How can I incorporate additional/new proteins into the formulation while maintaining desired product characteristics such as texture, volume and overall consistency?
  • What impact will these new protein varieties have on processing?

Consumers see protein as a desirable macronutrient

Consumer trends and eating habits are driving the development and introduction of protein-enriched foods, including baked goods and snacks. According to 2022 International Food and Information Council (IFIC) Food and Health SurveyProtein is the top nutrient of choice sought by consumers of all ages, with 59% of adults in the United States consciously trying to include more protein in their diet.

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But not just any type of protein will do. Consumers are increasingly turning to plant-based proteins for a variety of reasons, including sustainability and a better product profile for you. To cite just one example of the result of this trend, pea protein sales are soaring, with a Projected global CAGR of 23.6% from 2018 to 2025.

Along with their benefits, however, new protein ingredients also pose challenges for food manufacturers trying to integrate them into product development, especially for baked goods.

Introducing additional/new proteins into a baked product recipe can influence end product characteristics such as texture, volume and overall consistency that consumers expect from a brand.

Protein Incorporation Poses Challenges

The primary goal of any baker when creating a protein-enriched product is to stay as close to the look, taste, and texture of the original as possible. One of the challenges to achieving this goal, among many others related to protein enrichment, is hydration. The amount or percentage of protein in a powder or flour has an impact on water absorption.

Plant proteins for baking can include single flours, concentrates or isolates, with protein content ranging from 10-30% on a dry basis for flours and up to 85% for isolate.

The higher the protein concentration, the greater the water absorption. Depending on the application, if the flour does not absorb enough liquid or water, it can create a dry, crumbly texture in the finished product. On the other hand, if too much water is added to compensate, the dough can become sticky, causing machinability problems.

Proteins also have an impact on the extensibility and elasticity of the dough as well as on the volume, structure and palatability of the final product. Depending on the source, alternative proteins can have taste and texture issues. The bottom line is that the more protein of any type added to a formulation, the more it can affect the processing and characteristics of the final product. The goal is to find the right balance.

Formulators are turning to blends or hybrid blends

What we are seeing on the market right now are many mixes and blends that include whey and legumes. Hemp flour is all the rage and, of course, various companies are experimenting with insect powder.

When creating a mix or mix, proper testing can help the baker determine appropriate levels to replace wheat flour with an alternative. A study in Applied Science compared breads incorporating pea protein concentrate and soy protein concentrate to a standard control bread made strictly with wheat flour. The study replaced wheat flour with 5%, 10% and 15%, concluding that a minimum incorporation of 10% of the alternative flour allowed for a “high protein” claim in the finished product.

The higher the level of protein concentrate added, the stronger the color intensity of the crumb and crust. Additionally, a striking contrast was observed in bread volume, porosity, and elasticity in the protein-concentrated breads compared to the control.

Overall, the study concluded that bakers striving for a nutrition claim might find it easier to replace wheat with high-protein alternative flours. Compared to alternative low protein flours, higher protein flours may be included in a lower percentage of the overall formula. This can help mitigate gluten loss on dough rheology and final product texture, appearance and acceptance.

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Protein is linked to gluten levels

Gluten is the dividing line between what is considered functional flour and what is not. For this reason, it contributes to wheat’s reputation as the most versatile of flours used for baking.

Wheat flour protein levels correlate with gluten content. Durum wheat contains a higher level of protein and gluten than soft wheat. Typically, baked goods such as bread, bagels, and even pretzels rely on gluten and a higher protein level (12-14%) for structure compared to pastries made with pastry flour. (8-9% protein) and biscuits or cakes (5-14%). 8% protein).

Gluten is what makes a dough a dough, so it is stretchy and holds gas to form a proper shape and texture, among other properties.

When combining alternative protein flours with wheat flour, the protein level and therefore the gluten content of the selected wheat flour should be taken into consideration for proper dough development.

Protein is only part of the total equation

The properties of gluten help illustrate that an initial analysis of flour provides only a fraction of the information that a full analysis could provide to help guide the baking process.

Dough is a complex system with several interacting components. Heating a protein changes its structure and its interaction with other ingredients. The overall behavior of the dough and its final result are related to the interactions between the flours, the starches and the other ingredients included in the formulation, as well as the mixing times, resting time, time and temperatures. An objective analytical tool can quantify dough behaviors and rheological properties.

The useful information for the baker resulting from the analytical tests must answer questions such as:

  • How will this material behave in a paste?
  • What will happen during proofing and baking?
  • How much water should I add for a good consistency of the dough?
  • Will this ingredient and corresponding form adjustments impact mixing time?
  • If another protein is mixed into a mix with wheat flour, what protein content should the wheat flour contain?

For example, a series of analytical tests performed on two varieties of cricket protein powder mixed with wheat flour answered many of these questions. The tests identified the optimal amounts of cricket flour to incorporate and measured the impact of these protein powders on the entire production process, from the formation of the dough to the final bread.

Tests have shown that it is possible to replace traditional wheat flour with up to 5% cricket protein powder. Adding larger amounts had a big impact on scalability. Poor dough expansion and poor gas retention resulted in lower loaf volume and fewer air cells. It also caused faster staling.

There are many varieties of insect powder available on the market, and each may behave in a different way, requiring independent analysis of each type.

Analytical tools paint a clearer picture of pulp quality

A pulp characterizer provides a universal and complete analysis of the behavior of the dough during kneading, during the heating and cooling cycle and at different kneading speeds.

Universal means the Dough Characterizer can analyze the behavior of a wide range of flour types, such as white flour, whole grain, rice, corn, sorghum, soybeans, flax, amaranth, potato, buckwheat, quinoa, millet, teff, etc.

He is complete because it assesses six criteria of pulp quality throughout the pulp production cycle:

  • water absorption
  • Effects of the mixture (development and stability)
  • Heat resistance of gluten
  • Maximum viscosity
  • Amylase activity
  • Starch retrogradation

The analytical process is also versatile, offering bakers several test protocols to better characterize dough behaviors using a small sample of just 50g of the selected flour or a 75g dough sample.

In one case, a baker had problems with high water absorption and sticky dough. After investigation with an analysis tool, the baker learned that this situation was due to too much damaged starch and a low balance with proteins. The baker was able to correct this problem by setting new guidelines for the miller (flour supplier) while adjusting the production process based on a deeper understanding of dough behavior.

Bakers can use a universal dough analyzer like the Mixolab 2 from CHOPIN Technologies shown here to assess the quality and baking performance of flours, including high protein formulations.

Validation of the cooking process

Instrumental analysis offers bakers faster validation of an ingredient or processing parameter. This eliminates the rigorous, time-consuming and costly process of multiple production tests. Bakers can move quickly from testing to production.

Additionally, it offers a more comprehensive test model compared to test methods that simply analyze protein content without examining characteristics affecting dough formation and staling.

By seeing a complete picture, bakers can adjust their formulas for desired dough behavior and better machinability. In addition, the analysis dramatically speeds up the reformulation and testing of new products. Companies can introduce new products at a lower cost and with a better return on investment.

Arnaud Dubat is Product & Applications Director for the CHOPIN product range of KPM analysis. He holds a master’s degree in science and technology in the food industry as well as a master’s degree in strategic marketing. He is based in Paris, France.

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