Baking for the Future

Less gluten, more whole grains and fiber and cleaner statements are coming out of the oven.

By Mark Anthony, Ph.D., Contributing Editor

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When not engaged in baking the world's largest cookie — a 40,000-lb. confection the size of a basketball court that set a record in 2003 — the folks at the Immaculate Baking Co. (www.immaculatebaking.com), Wakefield, Mass., make a line of all-natural and organic baked goods that include items such as all-natural chocolate chunk cookie dough, cinnamon rolls and cranberry-orange scones.

"We believe our products taste better than the competition and have more of a home-made profile — and this is due to using the best ingredients, just like you would bake at home," says CEO Paul Nardone. "Our products are made with unbleached, unbromated flour, cane sugar, palm fruit oil plus premium inclusions such as our own all-natural chocolate chunks in the cookie dough and real wild blueberries or real cranberries in our scones."

This approach is exactly on track when it comes to the baking trends that became firmly established in the first decade of the 2000s and are certain to continue in this new decade. According to Kantha Shelke, a cereal chemist and principal of Corvus Blue, a Chicago-based food technology consultancy, the future of baking ingredients will be marked by developments in five principle areas: energy saving, satiety, clean label, sugar replacements and fortification.

"Rising fuel costs and bakers' desires to achieve more sustainable operations prompted energy-saving steps at every stage of production," says Shelke. "Intensified monitoring of gas and electrical consumption transferred into ingredients that help bakers make products using less energy. For example, to heighten the flavors associated with sourdough, bread makers are using customized flavor systems to compensate for shorter fermentation and proofing times via fast-acting enzymes and protein-based enhancers."

But this is no energy story – although it may be worth looking into ingredients that can help in that regard. Your hungry customers want to be fed.

Fill 'em up
Satiety, another of those trends, often is achieved via fiber content, usually from whole grains. But most consumers still have the, "Ugh! Tree bark!" reaction because of the toughness and density associated with whole grain formulations. One solution: white whole grain flour. It's from a whole wheat with a lighter color and finer grind.

A popular example is Ultragrain, from ConAgra Mills (www.conagrafoods.com), Omaha, Neb. Ultragrain is a whole-wheat flour with the taste, texture and appearance of white flour. The "whole grain white" category common in grocery stores today is making its way into all aspects of baking. "From baguettes to croissants, Ultragrain has proven that any baked good can have whole grain nutrition while meeting the taste and texture expectations of consumers," says Mike Veal, ConAgra's vice president of marketing.

Similar is WheatSelect, a white spring whole wheat flour from Horizon Milling (www.cargill.com/food/horizonmilling), a joint venture between Cargill and CHS Inc. WheatSelect provides all of whole wheat's nutrition, premium baking performance and the sensory attributes consumers prefer - light color, soft texture and mild flavor. The product performs well in a wide range of baked products, while maintaining great taste and without the bitter off notes of traditional whole wheat.

King Arthur Products"Our 100 percent White Whole Wheat Flour product is nutritionally equivalent to traditional red wheat flour, yet lighter in color and flavor, with a slightly finer grind," says Allison Furbish, a coordinator for King Arthur Flour (www.kingarthurflour.com), Norwich, Vt. The company also offers resistant starch, a form of starch that naturally escapes digestion and acts metabolically like a fiber and the newest player in the satiety arena.

King Arthur resells Hi-maize Natural Fiber (derived from corn), which was developed by National Starch Food Innovation, as well as a high-fiber flour blend made with Hi-maize. Each can increase a product's fiber profile without altering texture or flavor. In fact, when substituted for standard wheat flour at levels up to 25 percent, some baked items even experience a slight increase in volume and fluffiness.

"We've developed a variety of recipes — everything from cookies to pizza to English muffins — using resistant starch products," says Furbish. "Part of the beauty of Hi-maize is that it's nearly ‘invisible' in baked goods, so you can get the added fiber without sacrificing flavor, texture or any of the pleasures associated with delicious baked goods. I see the potential baking uses for resistant starch as nearly endless."

Gluten-free with nongrains
The demand for gluten-free foods is on the rise, with increasing numbers of people being affected by celiac disease, while others are eliminating gluten from their diets through personal choice. Creating quality gluten-free foods is not easy, as glutens have many important properties in the baking process. Finding a suitable replacement has been a challenge for bakers.

One solution, from ConAgra Mills (www.conagramills.com), is its Ancient Grains flours. Made from amaranth, millet, quinoa, sorghum and teff, these flours – in stock and in customizable blends – are naturally gluten-free. They also add some important nutrients (protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants) as well as consumer interest. Sample baked goods also used ConAgra's Ultragrain white whole-wheat flour, which combines the nutritional benefits of whole grains with the mainstream appeal of refined flours.

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