Whole grains are the darlings of the bread aisle, but consumers are looking beyond the usual suspects to baked goods that pack even more of a nutritious punch. At the same time, manufacturers are discovering that ingredients traditionally considered “waste” can provide unique functional characteristics and additional nutrients to baked goods.
Sticking their scoops into what used to be waste bins, formulators are finding a host of ingredients with attractive properties—and low costs—to incorporate into baked products. But in their efforts to differentiate and deliver good-for-you bread, manufacturers can’t forget that healthfulness, fiber and functionality should play second fiddle to one very important factor: “It still all comes down to taste—any successful new product must deliver on taste,” says Janice Anderson, vice president of marketing for Flowers Foods, a Thomasville, Ga.-based packaged baked goods manufacturer.
Three prime examples of onetime waste ingredients now put to use in finished goods come from processors of fruits, nuts and grains.
Former food waste turned functional baking ingredients
Ocean Spray, a Middleborough, Mass.-based juice company, discovered baking-specific functionality in leftover cranberry skins, the byproduct of cranberry juice. Several years ago, the company formed the Ocean Spray Ingredient Technology Group to research, promote and manufacture functional ingredients from berry parts that don’t end up as juice.
“Manufacturers and bakers can face challenges when incorporating fruit into bakery applications,” says Kristen Girard, principal scientist at Ocean Spray. “Some fruits, such as strawberries and raspberries, are hard to bake with because they can’t withstand processing rigors in their raw states.”
Conversely, cranberries’ tough skins can withstand processing and protect their contents. Recognizing this potential, Ocean Spray’s ITG developed BerryFusions Fruits, an ingredient that uses cranberry skins to encapsulate difficult-to-bake fruits like peaches. The result: a soft fruit piece that maintains its structure, even in bagel dough. Plus, the ingredient has a two-year shelf life.
Another traditional waste product, almond bran, has been reborn as a functional ingredient. Nuts are high in antioxidants and micronutrients, and almonds in particular possess myriad healthful properties. The nuts are often blanched to remove the brown skin or hull (the germ) and make them more palatable. Until recently, some hulls were converted into animal feed, but the rest became pure waste.
While almond nutmeat primarily consists of fat, protein and carbohydrates, all of the secondary metabolites, phytonutrients and compounds, which almond trees generate for protective reasons, reside in the skin. Almond bran offers a means of adding these phytonutrients to baked products without boosting fat or carbohydrates.
“Almond bran was sitting there looking for somebody to do something with it,” says Robert Miltner, vice president of Nut-trition, a Hughson, Calif.-based company that recovers functional ingredients from nut processing. “The trick was to make it a food-grade product, so we tried to determine how best to dry the bran and maintain active materials. If you look at what’s good about almonds and know something about plant composition and how plants protect themselves, it becomes apparent.”
The bran is a whole, dry piece of almond skin that can be ground to manufacturers’ specifications, depending on how much of the skin is desired in the finished product. With health-oriented, whole-grain products, consumers may want to see evidence of ingredients, whereas a fine grain may be more suitable for products not marketed specifically for their health benefits. The dry bran flour mixes easily, and as an insoluble fiber, it isn’t hygroscopic (able to retain moisture). It contains a small amount of oil, but when kept cool, it boasts a shelf life of up to one year.
Almond bran has a light brown color, and lends a nutty, toasty flavor to baked products. Nut-trition has shown that breads can still hold together with almond bran making up to 10 percent of their weight, although a range of 3 percent to 5 percent is more common.
Rich in antioxidants, vitamin E, magnesium, B vitamins, polysaccharides and polyphenols, rice bran is another functional ingredient with newfound potential. Once it’s separated from the kernel, rice bran rots quickly, and given the amount of rice produced per year—60 million to 70 million metric tons—that amounts to a lot of wasted nutrients. But in 2008, NutraCea, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based rice-bran processor and distributor, found a way to stabilize rice bran, extending its shelf life to one year.
NutraCea’s RiBalance rice bran can be used in breads, pastries, pastas and tortillas. It offers fiber and micronutrients, and has a lightly toasted flavor.
How chia measures up
Chia, an omega 3–rich ancient seed, has graduated beyond providing the green fringe atop the eponymous pets. In a bread bakeoff, chia outshines the following contenders.
Flaxseed. Can make bread hard, while chia is soft and easy to chew; flax has a strong taste and smell versus chia’s mild, nutty flavor.
Wheat bran and oatmeal. All have high fiber content, but chia packs additional nutrients such as protein and omega-3s.
Soy flour. Similar protein content, but chia boasts more omega-3s and fiber.
Sesame, sunflower and poppy seeds. All have a similar texture, taste and smell, but chia contains more essential fatty acids, protein and fiber.