Whole grain mania
Bakers respond to consumers demand for whole grains, but not without incurring some formulation challenges.
Photo courtesy of ADM Milling Co.
Photo courtesy of ADM Milling Co.
Photo courtesy of ConAgra Mills.
Photo courtesy of Great Harvest Franchising Inc.
For years now, consumers have been showered with information about the benefits of healthful eating. And, the message is getting through. Sales of natural products, including whole grains, increased 10 percent in 2008 to $20.4 billion dollars, up 45 percent from 2005, according to Mintel, a market research company.
“When you think of the nutrient density whole grains provide, the trend to incorporate more whole grains into products will continue. People are starting to understand balance, moderation and healthy lifestyle habits are keys to long term success, and I believe whole grains will be viewed as a key component of a healthy diet,” says Nick Weigel, director of technical services, ADM Milling Co., Decatur, Ill.
“Even with the current economic climate, consumers are still interested in their health,” Weigel continues. Health-conscious purchasers are even willing to pay a little extra for products deemed as having added value, according to a survey by Brandweek magazine. However, the cost-value ratio is critical in the purchasing decision and many product developers are looking to maximize their efforts to deliver both value and price, by formulating the products consumers want and need.
“Boomers have seen first hand the consequences of poor food choices,” says Kate Ord, marketing director, Great Harvest Franchising Inc., Dillon, Mont. “This is often the result of caring for a parent suffering from obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease or some form of cancer.”
“No matter what percentage of whole grains you decide to incorporate into your product, there are challenges to baking with whole wheat flour,” Weigel says. “Whole wheat includes all parts of the wheat kernel-bran, germ and endosperm. The bran and germ have weakening effects on the structure of the product. When baking with these flours, higher levels of vital wheat gluten, oxidizing agents, strengthening enzymes or other dough strengtheners should be added to give these doughs sufficient strength.”
Whole grains tend to take on more water than refined white flour, Weigel adds. Presoaking the grains may be necessary. Other possible formula adjustments include determining optimal times and temperatures related to fermentation, mixing, proofing, baking and packaging.
White whole wheat flours deliver the texture of white bread with all the nutritive advantages of whole grain breads. Made from specific types of wheat and specially milled to produce an extra fine granulation similar to a particle size of white flour, these flours can be a 1:1 replacement for refined white flour. White whole wheat flours have fewer off flavors than traditional whole wheat flours, having been bred to reduce the amount of polyphenolics that contribute to the reddish color and bitter flavor, Weigel says.
Aside from traditional wheat or rye flours, gaining increasing interest are ancient, or traditional grains, such as those found in ConAgra's Ancient Grains
Whole grains deliver more protein, fiber, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals than traditional flours. They also add flavor nuances, such as a slight lactic flavor from amaranth, a slight “fava bean flavor” from quinoa, nuttiness from millet, “chocolate or espresso scents” from darkly-baked teff and sweetness from sorghum, Hamzé says. These grains can enhance the flavors of specialty breads. Quinoa, for instance, makes a good pizza dough, compatible with traditional pizza toppings.
When working with these grains, Hamzé and his team experimented with various hydration ratios, combinations with wheat flours and mixing techniques. Each grain brings its own uniqueness to the mix. For instance, sorghum and teff tend to form doughs that are gritty and dark in color. Through his research, Hamzé found the gritty texture bakes out, and the dark color bakes up to make an appetizing loaf, delivering “brown in a different spectrum.”
Amaranth holds moisture well and can be used for pan breads and baguettes, contributing to an expanded shelf life. Quinoa and millet deliver golden brown crusts.
In developing these breads, ratios of 10 percent to 51 percent of the total flour weight were made up of ancient grain flours, depending on the type of product, Hamzé notes. Wheat flours made up the remaining percentages. Pita bread was made with 51 percent millet flour, for example. Usually, these grains were pre-hydrated, forming a pre-ferment, as in a sourdough baking process. The acidity of the pre-ferments helps build strength in the dough. “A more gentle dough development process may be required,” says Hamzé, “and you may have to adjust your hydration with each trial because finely-ground flours, such as ConAgra's Ultragrain, have more particles present. These particles increase water absorption when compared with traditional bread flours.”
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