“There is a desire for ingredients that are recognizable and provide multiple benefits, such as high-quality flavor and nutrients,” said John Stephanian, director of culinary development, Archer Daniels Midland Co.
This shifting preference has led formulators to use flours derived from plants. These include fruits, legumes, nuts and even coffee beans that appeal to health-conscious consumers.
“In baking and snack applications, understanding where and how to leverage variety flours is important, and formulation adjustments vary by product and goals,” Stephanian said.
Oftentimes these flours require some experimenting, especially since many do not contain gluten. This will impact volume and crumb structure in finished baked applications. Knowing all the effects of working these new and different flours into formulations is key to developing a successful product.
“Bean flour helps deliver the nutrition consumers require with outstanding flavor,” Stephanian said. “Our bean ingredients are non-GMO, gluten-free, high in plant-based protein and fiber and can provide some starch functionality.”
The flour is simply whole, cooked beans that have been dehydrated and milled to specification. This includes grit, meal and powder forms.
“The meal format was originally developed for use in single-screw extrusion applications,” said Janice Rueda, director, research and business development, ADM. “There is growing interest in its use in bakery, quick-prep soups and hot cereals, too, anywhere a hint of texture is desired in the final product.”
One variety features high levels of RS2-type resistant starch, a prebiotic dietary fiber shown to provide a broad range of health benefits, dependent upon the amount consumed daily. It works best in cold-pressed nutritional bars, as the ingredient loses the resistant starch when cooked.
“Resistant starch is defined as starch that resists digestion, reaching the large intestine,” said Rhonda Witwer, vice-president of marketing and business development for IAG. “Within the large intestine, it is consumed or fermented by the resident bacteria, producing short-chain fatty acids and other biochemical compounds. When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a qualified health claim stating that RS2 resistant starch may reduce the risk of diabetes in December 2016, interest really shot up.”
Other green banana flours function like hydrocolloids. The company has an offering that resembles native cook-up starch with viscosifying properties. Another option is pre-gelatinized starch that thickens in cold water. Both provide bulk and can replace sugar in baked foods, especially bars. Other applications include bread, cookies, muffins, cakes and other types of snacks.
When used as a wheat flour alternative, bakers are advised to use about 25% less green banana flour as a replacement. The flour is beige color with a bland, earthy flavor that blends well with other ingredients, especially in baked foods. All green banana flours contain potassium, magnesium and manganese. These gluten-free ingredients are declared as “green banana flour” or “banana flour.”
||| Next page: Coffee and nut flours |||
Unlike coffee beans, coffee flour has a taste reminiscent of dark, rich, roasted fruits. Due to its fibrous composition, coffee flour requires extra moisture for hydration. Applications include bread, cookies, muffins, brownies and more. Coffee flour comes in fine and coarse grinds. The fine grind is best suited for baking and can be paired with any flour, with the best results occurring at a 10% to 25% substitution.
“We recommend using it at 10% to 15% initially in recipes and then increasing addition as you become familiar with its unique properties and behavior with other ingredients,” said Jason Wilson, executive chef at Coffee Flour. “We also recommend sifting the flours together, because adding them separately may result in uneven hydration absorption.”
In yeasted baked foods, Wilson also recommended using pans or tins that have walls. This provides a tactile surface to optimize rise during baking. Coffee flour items rise less than typical yeasted items.
An added perk is coffee flour’s high concentration of antioxidants, which naturally extends its shelf life as well as that of the finished product.
“Bakers need to be aware that coffee flour is dark by nature; therefore, baked goods will appear darker while baking,” Wilson said. “Avoid the temptation to remove from the oven early. Trust the recipe’s cooking time.”
A range of nut flours are finding their way into baked snack foods and cookies. Nut flours tend to be high in fat, fiber and protein. Almond and hazelnut are the most common, but others are available. Nut flours are gluten-free, so other ingredients are required to bind moisture to yield strong and elastic dough. In addition to being nutrient dense, nut flours contribute flavor and texture to baked foods. Because of their high oil content, they do tend to go rancid quickly.
Blue Diamond Almonds Global Ingredients Division markets a line of gluten-free almond flours designed to replace traditional flours in many baked foods. Because almonds have a sweet flavor, sugar may be reduced by about 25%, and fat can often be reduced by approximately 25%.
There are three almond flour granulations. Extra-fine natural is as versatile as blanched flour with a natural light tan color. Extra-fine blanched has a powder-like consistency for delicate cookies, breads and cakes. Fine blanched gives nutritious texture to everyday baking. It toasts to a rich golden color.
Going forward, variety flours will likely have a greater presence in the formulation of baked foods. Inclusion may satisfy consumers’ cravings for adventure or for health and wellness benefits.