Baking manufacturers today are looking to formulate products with whole grains to not only to offer healthier types of carbohydrates but also increase fiber. The switch from using refined flours to unrefined flours in baked goods, however, is not easy. That is where whey proteins can help.

With functionality advantages such as having a clean, neutral taste and water-binding properties that add to texture and help slow the rate at which a product becomes stale--as well as their protein and other nutritional contributions--whey proteins stand out as a great way to help bakery manufacturers meet the considerable challenges of working with whole grains.

The interest in these products is clear. The new federal dietary guidelines, issued in spring 2005, call for consumption of more whole-grain products at the rate of 3oz per day in place of refined grains. Both manufacturers and consumers already were heading in that direction, driven by interest in better health. According to a survey conducted by Prepared Foods magazine (“Retro Reductions,” February 2005), whole grains and dietary fiber ranked high on the list of select ingredients for functional foods, with food manufacturer ratings of 66.4% and 76.8%, respectively; consumer ratings ranked 67.8% and 76.4%, respectively.

How Whey Protein Addresses Whole-grain Challenges

Whole grain is a grain milled in its entirety without the husk but not refined. While this is a simple definition and the idea of switching from refined flour to whole grain seems straightforward, there is nothing simple about it. A key challenge is water management control. Understanding and controlling how the components of the whole grain will interact with water is critical to achieving desirable functionality and minimizing staling. Whey protein can help address these challenges.

Whole grains have a wide variability in the amount and type of fiber they contain. For example, whole oat flour typically has only 14% total dietary fiber and whole wheat flour 12%. Whole brown rice flour has only 5%. Even at these low levels, the fiber content of whole grain flours will significantly affect performance.

Flours made from flaxseed, oat, barley and some other grains are high in soluble fiber and may become gummy during processing. This will limit their application levels in some types of products. Whole wheat and corn flours, however, contain mostly insoluble fiber. Some bakery formulators control gumminess by combining flours from different sources to maintain soluble fiber at manageable levels.

Since denatured whey proteins exhibit good water-binding properties, they can be used in whole-grain bakery goods to control water management and prevent accelerated staling. Gumminess problems associated with the use of high levels of soluble fiber in some types of whole grains can be resolved with the addition of whey proteins.

Soluble fibers are by no means undesirable in bakery products. They actually serve a useful role because they bind moisture, inhibiting staling and extending shelflife. On the flip side, high levels of insoluble fibers are not necessarily desirable. Insoluble fibers tend to absorb moisture slowly and, if not properly hydrated in processing, can cause products to dry and stale prematurely. Dietary fibers can pull water away from other ingredients (e.g., gums and wheat gluten), interfering with their functionality.

Another potential challenge that whey proteins can address is the decreased concentrations of gluten in whole-grain flours. Whole-grain wheat flour has a lower gluten content than refined wheat flour. Reducing gluten can have a negative impact on loaf volume and textural integrity. Compensating for the deficiency of gluten in whole-grain flour is a critical key to obtaining desired functionality and flavor. Whey ingredients, which contain proteins that mimic the structure and gas-entrapping properties of gluten, can be used to compensate for reduced gluten levels in whole-grain bakery products.

The Benefits of Whey Ingredients

Whey proteins offer additional functional advantages in taste, mouthfeel and fat replacement in whole-grain bakery products. Using whey protein concentrates (WPCs) in formulations can enhance the flavor of whole-grain breads and bakery products. Unlike some other types of proteins, whey proteins have a clean neutral flavor, allowing them to be used in bakery applications without negatively affecting the flavor of other ingredients.

Formation of desirable Maillard flavor chemicals in browning is enhanced with whey ingredients, which contain free amino acids and reducing sugars. Whey ingredients also support the appearance of a golden brown crust.

WPCs can improve the mouthfeel of whole-grain bakery products. The water-binding attributes contribute to an improved texture and a fine even crumb, often without the need for dough conditioners.

Whey proteins are amphophilic and, therefore, are natural emulsifiers. WPCs aid in the dispersion of shortening, which can reduce shortening levels in some formulations. WPCs work well in fat-reduced or fat-free bakery foods because they have the ability to mimic the functional properties of hydrogenated oils and fats--without contributing high levels of fat. This is an advantage regarding consumers' growing desire to reduce trans fats in their diets, and in light of the trans fat labeling rules that take effect in January 2006.

Nutritional Benefits

Food formulators, in general, look to whey ingredients for use in “all-natural” products and because they provide “clean labels” that leverage the healthy halo of dairy. Whey ingredients also can boost levels of protein, calcium, potassium and other minerals in whole-grain products.

As bakers seek to add protein to their whole-grain products, whey protein can be used to replace up to 25% of the carbs. In addition, WPC34, WPC50 and WPC80 (which, respectively, have a protein content of 34%, 50% and 80%) have been used to successfully replace whole egg in some formulations. WPC provides the functional properties of whole eggs to baked goods without the handling issues sometimes associated with fresh eggs.

Whey proteins are high-quality proteins with a high biological value compared to other proteins (104 for whey protein concentrate vs. 100 for whole egg, 74 for soy protein and 54 for wheat). They contain high levels of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), such as isoleucine, leucine and valine, which are lower in plant-based proteins sometimes used in bakery products.

“Whey protein provides essential amino acids, such as leucine, to help stimulate muscle protein synthesis after resistance exercise,” says Kimberlee (KJ) Burrington, dairy ingredient applications coordinator at the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison. “The metabolism of BCAA and other essential amino acids makes them valuable components of high-quality protein, such as whey, for repairing and building muscle after strenuous exercise. This ability to repair and maintain muscle in conjunction with exercise has long been recognized by body builders and weight lifters.”

Bakery Applications with Whey Ingredients

What type of whey ingredients should be used in whole-grain bakery products? “The specific whey ingredients that are added depend on what type of functional benefits you want,” says Burrington. “For example, in one approach, you may want to take advantage of the functional benefits of lactose, as well as some functionality from the proteins. Selecting a WPC34, which contains 34% protein and 50% lactose, would be a good choice to enhance browning and browning flavor notes because of elevated levels of lactose compared to WPC50 and WPC80.”

“In other bakery applications, your goal may be protein fortification--to boost protein levels for nutritional reasons,” says Burrington. “WPC80 or WPI would be the ingredients of choice in this case.”

“Whey proteins can strengthen bread structure, but adding too much could increase toughness,” says Burrington. “A 3% to 5% percent addition of a WPC80 is a good recommended range.”

“Another approach is fat replacement,” says Burrington. “Whey can be used for fat replacement in muffins and sweet cakes. You can use whey ingredients to replace 25%-50% of the fat in typical formulations. For this application, use WPC34 or WPC80.”

Burrington points out that whey can be a good source of phospholipids, a class of chemicals that are excellent emulsifying agents. Modified whey or reduced-lactose concentrated whey can be used when improved emulsification properties are desired. They have relatively high levels of phospholipids, work well for fat replacement and can also work well for up to 50% replacement of eggs in such applications as cakes, cookies and muffins.

Carolyn Podgurski, dairy ingredients applications specialist at the Dairy Products Technology Center at California Polytechnic University, and co-researchers have formulated whole-grain, protein-enhanced apple-cranberry muffins featuring WPC80 and other key dairy ingredients.

The goal for this formulation was to achieve enough protein fortification to qualify for the “excellent source of protein” label claim, according to Podgurski. The formulation for the whole-grain muffins (please see formula in this article) included WPC80 for protein fortification and functional benefits, and butter for flavor enhancement and improved tenderness. Some non-fat dry milk also was incorporated so the lactose could be used to improve browning characteristics.

“The clean, neutral flavor of the WPC80 and the addition of butter helped us achieve desirable flavor for the product,” says Podgurski.

For many reasons, whey is an ideal ingredient for whole-grain baked goods. Whey proteins provide protein fortification and can be used to reduce carbs and fat. They offer multiple functionalities, enhancing flavor, aroma, mouthfeel, texture, moisture retention, emulsification and shelflife.

Whole-grain, Protein-enhanced Apple-cranberry Muffin Ingredient

Usage Level (%)
Water 36.30
Whole wheat flour 14.50
Sugar 12.50
Flour, Oat 7.50
80% Whey Protein Concentrate 6.90
Butter 6.30
Flour, barley 6.20
Cranberries, dried 3.00
Apples, dried 3.00
Baking powder 1.40
Non-fat dry milk 1.10
Flavor, natural 0.60
Cinnamon 0.30
Salt 0.20
Calcium propritionate 0.20
Total 100.00

1. Mix together dry ingredients. Set aside.
2. Melt butter. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients.
3. Mix batter until just moistened. Do not over-mix.
4. Bake at 375°F for 15-20 minutes.One 55g serving size contains a total of 3.5g of fat, 15mg of cholesterol 2g of dietary fiber, 9g of sugar, with 8% of the RDA of calcium, 4% of iron and 2% of vitamin A.

Source: Dairy Products Technology Center at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, Calif.

Sidebar: Cheese Adds Pizzazz to Bakery Products

Whey protein is just one of the dairy ingredients that can enhance consumer appeal for whole-grain bakery goods. Adding cheese to whole-grain bakery products adds more than the savory cheese flavor that consumers crave. Cheese also enhances color, texture, mouthfeel and nutritional profiles. Cheeses are naturally low in trans fat and are a “good” to “excellent” source of calcium and protein.

Cheese is an incredibly flexible ingredient and can be added in various forms--each with unique advantages for specific applications. Natural cheese comes in numerous varieties offering a spectrum of flavors, including cheddar, Monterey Jack and cheese blends for bolder tastes (e.g., blends of cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan and romano). Processed cheeses also are readily available and offer opportunities for providing unique flavor profiles to whole-grain bakery products. Cheese powders, which work well when blended into doughs, are among the easiest cheese ingredients to work with in processing and offer advantages with inventory control.

Here are a few examples of how and why cheese is being used in whole-grain and other types of bakery goods:

n Biscuits, cookies and crackers: Cheese ingredients contribute to the texture, color development and grain and crumb structure of the final product. Cheeses can be incorporated into doughs and often are used in the formulation of fillings in biscuits and cracker sandwiches. (Examples: raspberry cheesecake bar cookies; two-cheddar scones; and cheddar cheese biscuits.)

n Breads: Cheeses are used in bread formulations to add value, consumer appeal and flavor. Cheese is popular in pocket breads and pizza dough; cheese powders can disperse easily in bread mixes. Specialty no-melt cheeses retain their integrity during the baking process. (Examples: cheesy pear nut bread; savory bread pudding; and croutons.)

n Cakes and desserts: Cheeses enhance the value, consumer appeal and shelflife of premium cakes and desserts. Low-fat versions of cheeses can be used to formulate healthy, low-calorie desserts with superb flavor profiles. (Examples: cheesecakes; sweet cheese cobbler; and pear walnut and cheddar custard pie.)

Sidebar: Practical Tips when Using Whey Ingredientsin Whole-grain Formulations

1. Use a whey-based product that has high protein levels and significantly denatured protein to optimize loaf volume.

2. Start with whey powder usage levels of 2%-3% to maximize functionality benefits.

3. Water amounts in formulas may need to be adjusted. Water absorption characteristics will change when whey is substituted for flour; water absorption increases as protein denaturation levels increase.

4. If the whey ingredient is high in lactose, changes in processing or other ingredients may be required to maintain yeast growth and carbon dioxide production.

5. Since whey products often contain elevated levels of amino acids and reducing sugars, Maillard browning and carmelization reactions may intensify, resulting in quicker browning of crust.

6. Pay attention to the amount of calcium in dough formulations. In bread baking tests using WPC34, WPC50 and WPC80, WPC34 produced the softest bread because it contained the least amount of calcium. The amount of calcium plays a role in the rate of firming of bread.

7. When using WPC in product formulations, it is important to optimize mixing times, order of ingredient addition, levels of ingredients, etc.

Source: Whey Products in Baked Goods, U.S. Dairy Export Council[tm], Applications Monograph, 1999.