New Directions in Healthy Baking

Any way you bake it, filling consumer demand for healthy baked goods takes the cake.

By David Feder, RD, Technical Editor

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“The acids’ controlled release occurs during important stages of baking, providing ideal volume and texture while not contributing to the overall sodium content,” says Heidolph.

Additionally, AHD International (www.ahdintl.com ), Atlanta, recently announced bakery applications for LuraLean, a condensed, dietary fiber formula designed to promote weight loss, maintain healthy cholesterol levels already within the normal range and support regularity. It can withstand high temperatures without breaking down or losing efficacy and can be used in products such as nutrition bars, breads, cookies and crackers.

“Because LuraLean expands to 200 times its original size only after it reaches the stomach, just a small amount is required to deliver high fiber content,” says John Alkire, company president. “LuraLean is the perfect ingredient for manufacturers who want to create a broad range of high-fiber foods, without the end product being overly dense or lacking in taste.”

21st-century technology is all well and good, but some opportunities for healthy baking’s future can be drawn from its past. “Due to its flavors and textures, olive oil has been a hallmark of the healthy Mediterranean Diet for over 2,500 years,” and is a fine ingredient for baking, says Dun Gifford, founder and president of Boston-based think-tank Oldways Preservation Trust (www.oldwayspt.org).

“Olive oil adds vibrant flavors and textures to Mediterranean foods and is high in healthy, monounsaturated fats along with antioxidants,” he says. Baking with olive oil instead of butter reduces the amount of cholesterol and saturated fat in formulations. Olive oil produces lighter-tasting breads, brownies, biscotti and cakes. Also, baking formulations often require less olive oil than butter.

Oldways is originator of the popular, 15-year-old Mediterranean Diet effort, and oversees the Whole Grains Council, an international program supporting increased consumption of whole grains.

In one of the most successful efforts to increase whole grain awareness and consumption, the Whole Grains Council (www.wholegrainscouncil.org) developed the Whole Grain Stamp. It’s offered to food processors for use on compliant products as a marketing tool to help consumers quickly spot foods containing at least a half serving (8g) of whole grains. So far, nearly 2,000 products bear the stamp.

 


 

Back to the Future: Ancient Grains
“As whole grain products mature [across multiple] channels, there will be continued pressure to differentiate,” says Mike Veal, vice president of marketing for ConAgra Mills. “The need for variety will cover varying aspects of flavor, texture and nutritive content.”
One way products can look new is … well … to look old. A number of old-fashioned grains are being rediscovered and incorporated into many foods. Most are suitable for grinding into flours. Many can provide a gluten-free claim.
ConAgra released a dual line of such variety. Sustagrain is a line of barley flours with naturally high fiber and protein. Ancient Grains are varying forms and blends of flours from such grains as amaranth, millet, quinoa, sorghum and teff.
Bob’s Red Mill Inc. (www.bobsredmill.com), Milwaukie, Ore., is the ancient grain pioneer, providing hundreds of stone-ground grain flours, legume flours and finished products for more than three decades, with special emphasis on organic and gluten-free.
“Developed with their little brains in mind,” Wonder+ Headstart bread has whole grain and omega-3 DHA.
AHD International, Atlanta, just rolled out its chia flour ingredient in January. “Chia flour offers producers of finished baked goods a gluten-free, omega-3-rich alternative to white flour,” says President John Alkire. “Chia flour allows baked goods manufacturers to target consumers suffering from gluten intolerance or celiac disease, as well as those looking for an enhanced nutritional profile in their favorite comfort foods and baked desserts. Chia flour can be used in a variety of breads and baked snacks, cakes, cookies and brownies. Its high omega-3 and fiber content can also help to maintain healthy blood glucose markers and promote healthy cholesterol levels.”
Beans, peas and lentils (pulses) can be made into flour, and they have “enormous potential as disease-fighting agents and contributors to good health,” according to Peter Watts, director of market innovation for Pulse Canada (www.pulsecanada.com), Winnipeg, Manitoba. “They have been shown to lower cholesterol and help with blood sugar control, satiety and gut health.” They also are naturally high in fiber and protein.

Go Ahead and Go Nuts
The addition of nuts and seeds to baked goods always has been a popular and easy way to boost health in a formulation. While almonds are one of the most popular nuts in healthful baking because of their high protein, fiber, calcium, vitamin E, riboflavin and niacin, recent research shows almond skins contain levels of antioxidant flavonoids similar to many fruits and vegetables, according to Karen Lapsley, director of scientific affairs for the Almond Board of California.
According to Aaron Brown, pastry faculty member at the Culinary Institute of America, using almonds in better-for-you baked goods is a way to incorporate flavor and healthful fats. “In baked goods such as scones, muffins, cookies and quick breads, almond flour has a tenderizing effect, making the end product more delicate and crumbly,” Brown says.
The combination of almond flour and whole-grain flour produces a lighter, more delicate baked good than could be produced with whole grain flour alone. In breads, using almond flour produces an appealing contrast in texture, offering a satisfying “bite” or crunch to the bread.

Note to Marketers

George Eckrich, owner of Dr. Kracker Inc. (www.drkracker.com), Dallas, points out an aspect of healthy baking not usually considered: packaging, that is the “Easy To Handle” factor.

“Consumers expect few difficulties in product handling at all stages of consumption,” he reports, “including buying, carrying, opening, using and disposing — products with a design or package that provides a real benefit.”
Among other examples, he points to flexible, recloseable and pourable packages that do a better job of preserving product. Ecology is part of this, and Eckrich notes today’s consumers actively “look for products that display a promise of respect for nature, animals, the environment in general and help preserve or save the planet for future generations.”
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