Whole Grains
Adding whole grains to baked foods requires raw material and formulation adjustments to ensure good taste.
Consumers recognize the benefits of whole grain products. Only protein and fiber stand ahead of whole grains as the dietary components consumers are trying to consume on a regular basis, according to the International Food Information Council’s 2016 Food and Health Survey. Yet despite the positive perception, only a small percentage of the U.S. population consumes the daily recommended amount of whole grains.

The challenge is to bring more consumers more in line with the daily recommended amounts of whole grains they should consume. Taste is a barrier. Brian Strouts, vice-president of baking and food technical services at AIB International, Manhattan, Kansas, U.S., addressed the issue of flavor during a presentation this past October during the International Baking Exposition, held in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.

“What’s fairly common in whole grain or multigrain is that you have to balance out what becomes a bitter or tannic flavor that comes with many of those whole grains,” he said.

Balancing out that bitterness may call for more sugar or a longer fermentation time. White wheat has a lesser impact on taste and color than red wheat, Strouts added.

Harold Ward, technical services representative for the Bay State Milling Co., Quincy, Massachusetts, U.S., said wheat varieties play a role in whole grain flavor.

“In general, red wheat has a stronger, grainier flavor than white wheat, while white wheat tends to have a milder, sweeter flavor than red wheat,” he said. “Those are generalizations though as some red wheat can be milder flavored than others, while some white wheats can be stronger flavored than other white wheats.

“With wheat in mind, in my experience, sprouted wheat tends to have a sweeter flavor than its un-sprouted counterpart.  With regard to alternative grains, spelt tends to have a mild, slightly sweet flavor while teff has been described as having a mild molasses-like flavor.”

He added that wheat breeders are working on varieties that exhibit improved performance in baking applications as well as sweeter, less bitter flavor characteristics.

“Some milling companies have programs in place for developing or seeking out and evaluating wheat varieties for those specific characteristics, with Bay State Milling’s 5th Generation Seed, L.L.C. being a great example,” Ward said.

Introduced this past February, 5th Generation Seed, Yuma, Arizona, U.S., is a business that focuses on the development of novel varieties of grains such as wheat, barley and spelt with beneficial customer and consumer-centric output traits like baking performance, nutrition, color and flavor for differentiated grain-based foods.

“By leveraging our new grain varieties and working with plant breeders and seed farmers, we now have the tools available to solve real problems that our customers are dealing with, such as insufficient or inconsistent stability of wheat flours, or consumer dislike of healthful whole grain foods,” said Michael Pate, vice-president of research and development for Bay State Milling, when the new business was introduced.

Researchers at the Flavor Research and Education Center at The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, U.S., are focused on addressing flavor issues in mass produced food and beverage products and one vein of the centers research has touched on is whole grains.

“We know that eating whole grains is healthy, but only 10% to 12% of the population eats the recommended amount,” said Devin Peterson, director of the center and professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology, at the university. “Someone could go to an artisan bakery and buy a loaf of whole grain bread that’s likely to be more acceptable, but the general population doesn’t do that, and whole grain foods are less liked overall.

“We want to provide food solutions that have a population-wide impact. Flavor is a primary driver of food choice. So to increase the consumption of healthier foods, we need to make those foods taste good.”

An example of the center’s findings is its investigation of compounds that form when whole grains are used in processed foods.

“When we investigated the bitter compounds that your tongue responds to, we found they originated from the whole wheat flour when water was added to make dough,” Peterson said. “When water is added, enzymes in the flour generate these compounds, and they do that within about five minutes.”

With this information, companies may choose flour made from wheat that doesn’t have as many of the enzymes that promote bitterness and encourage the breeding of new wheat lines to meet flavor standards.

“Nature can do more of the heavy lifting for us, if we understand how,” Peterson said.

The impact on processing


Wheat breeders are cultivating varieties that exhibit improved performance in baking applications as well as sweeter, less flavor characteristics.  

Bakers must decide how much whole grain to include in a formulation. Less than 25% will have minor impacts on fermentation time, loaf volume and cell structure, but the products will offer fewer nutritional benefits and may not be noticeable to consumers.

“You start to get to 50% replacement of your white flour with some of these whole grains, and you’re going to have to start adjusting process,” Strouts said in his presentation at the IBIE. “You may need to adjust mixing time, you need to rehydrate, you need to move your absorption up significantly, but it’s going to be more noticeable to your consumers, so that becomes the tradeoff.

“If you go to 100%, obviously you’re going to see the most impact on process, but it may give the best presentation to your consumer.”

Ward said there are some things formulators should keep in mind when formulating whole grain products.

“There are quite a number of ingredients that can be used to add or enhance flavor,” he said. “Some of those also have an impact outside of the flavor realm. Salt enhances flavor. It also strengthens the gluten matrix in wheat based dough and it has a retarding effect on yeast activity. Cinnamon also retards yeast activity as will sugar at higher levels. Garlic and to a lesser extent onions have a negative impact on the gluten matrix in a dough system.

“With regard to flavor systems, in my experience, more isn’t always better. I tend to err on the side of just enough to pick up on the flavor rather than getting hit over the head with it. Those are just a few things to keep in mind. I encourage anyone developing a formula to learn all that he or she can around the ingredients being considered as it may make life less complicated down the road.”

Sweeteners also may be used to manage flavor and flavor development, but, like other ingredients, different sweeteners may have a difference effects on finished products.

“Typically, sucrose gives you what I would describe as a clean sweetness without an associated flavor, while something like honey will provide sweetness, but contribute specific flavor notes as well,” Ward said. “Those flavor notes can vary with the source of the honey. Another example would be fruit juices or concentrates. These certainly provide sweetness although at a lower level than sucrose, but there is the fruity flavor that accompanies them.”

Sprouting grains is another option, which results in a sweeter, milder flavor and enhances the enzymatic activity of the wheat, improving shelf stability.

“There are both wet and dry products out there that have been sprouted and you can use those into your system,” Strouts said.

Bakers may choose from a wide range of grains, including Kamut, farro, spelt, triticale, rye, oats. Gluten-free options include corn, rice, millet, sorghum, amaranth, quinoa, teff and buckwheat. Used as a topping, whole grains of larger particle size offer visual appeal and artisanal quality to bread.

“If you want to make something whole grain or multigrain, there are a number of ways to include these different products that don’t have to just be in the dough,” Strouts said. “Going with something larger as a topical helps to meet that demand, helps to add that product to it, and it really helps to give it the visual that your customers may be looking for.”