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Working with whole grains

April 12th, 2013

bread-trends-lantmannen-unibakeQuiet production days are ideal for testing products that could attract a new or different customer base, such as whole grain breads. Although the formulas take some tweaking to get right, adding a few whole grain breads to your product line can appeal to health-conscious consumers and fetch a premium price.

Whole grains contain all three edible parts of the kernel (bran, germ and endosperm). They can be eaten whole, cracked, split or ground, milled into flour and used in baked products. The whole grain may be used intact or recombined, as long as all components are present in their natural proportions, according to the Whole Grains Council. On the other hand, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not consider products to be whole grain if the recombining is done at a bakery (i.e., a bread using refined flour, wheat bran and germ would not be considered whole grain by the FDA).

The ingredients most often misidentified as whole grain are soybeans, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, flax, arrowroot and pearled barley. Among commonly available whole grains are wheat, ancient wheat, rye, rice, triticale, whole-grain corn, barley, popcorn, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, bulgur, durum, spelt and millet.

Whole grains pose a unique set of obstacles in baking. “Baking with whole grains is a challenge,” says Aaron Clanton, baking curriculum manager at AIB International, Manhattan, Kan. “The thing to keep in mind with all whole grains is that when you add any of them beyond basic wheat, they have a tendency to weaken structures to the point where you get a lower volume.”

Hydration can be especially tricky if the bread formula incorporates big pieces or chunks of the kernels or the seeds themselves.

“If you put the grain pieces or chunks in a bread dough without presoaking the grains, they will absorb water from it throughout the whole time you’re processing and the dough’s characteristics will change,” Clanton says. “The dough becomes bucky, which is an old-school way of saying it gets more elastic with a tighter feel. Pan breads, for instance, will resist shaping.”

Presoaking the grains can help remedy the leaching of water during production. The soaked grains can then simply be added to the final dough without much adjustment to absorption levels. The only downside to presoaking is the final product might lose the crunchy texture characteristic to whole grains.

Whole grains also will impart interesting flavors if they’re added to the preferment, but because they have a tendency to weaken structures, it’s harder to achieve the proper dough characteristics and volume normally accomplished with preferments. Bakers can get around this by using a higher protein flour or bumping up the yeast for more lift. However, the best way to find the right balance is through trial and error, Clanton adds.

“I would say regarding soaking, if people want to try it, just take a portion of the overall dough water to soak the grains as a starting point. They’ll find they can add more water. With a cracked wheat, for example, we do a one-to-one ratio of soaking–so for 10 lbs. cracked wheat, we use 10 lbs. water,” he says.

Once baked, it’s important to remember that whole grain bread ingredients have a shorter shelf life than breads made with refined flour because the oils in the grains go rancid, Clanton notes.

Varying flavor, nutritional profiles
No two whole grains are alike, which is why it’s so important to test the formulas. Clanton notes a few of the flavor characteristics that separate whole grain varieties.

“Quinoa is interesting. It tends to give a nutty flavor to products, while teff is described as having a molasses-sweet flavor. Amaranth has a distinctly earthy flavor to it, which is really popular down in Mexico,” he says. “If you want a milder flavor that’s closer to wheat, barley, rice or oats work well.”

Whole grains also vary in their nutritional profiles, he adds. “If you just look at fiber, wheat is anywhere between 10 and 12 percent fiber, whereas brown rice is only 4 percent. There are a few barleys in the 17 percent fiber range, but you have to be careful with barley because of how it’s processed. There’s quite a range. There are other nutrient and flavor differences–they’re all a little different. That’s where mixing and matching can create interesting flavor profiles and boost the nutrient content.”

Source: Modern Baking

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