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Plant baked protein: A bright future for hemp seed

hemp cookies

Protein has a substantial role in baking. Beyond the Nutrition Facts, protein plays a big part in conditioning dough by providing structure, retaining moisture, adding texture, and so on. But as plant-based ingredients take the place of traditional animal proteins, the formulation expectations also change. For formulators that solve these challenges, the market opportunity is undeniable, as grocery sales of plant-based foods that directly replace animal products grew to over $7 billion in the past year (SPINS retail sales data, April 6, 2021). The astonishing 27% growth is a testament to the innovation and R&D in this space. Yet new ingredients must emerge in this growing category for plant proteins to sustain this trend in supporting more diverse product applications. And of the emerging ingredients, hemp heart protein may be the most exciting of them all.Understanding the recipe for success

Let's appreciate the chemistry of baking for a moment. Proteins perform along with starches, fats, sugars, and leavening agents in a delicate balance that can make baking a success... or not. Plant protein will undoubtedly influence the end product's texture, taste, and appearance differently from animal proteins such as casein, whey, and eggs. So whether a baked good is a bar, pancake, extruded snack, or tortilla, it is important to recognize that plant-based ingredients have some notable hurdles to overcome.

According to The Science Behind Common Baking Ingredients, the best-baked goods depend on the precise combination of flour, liquid, leavening agents, fats, sugars, and flavors. Each ingredient provides its own important function (Larsen, Linda. The Science Behind Common Baking Ingredients. November 2019).
Flour Provides the Recipe Foundation. Fat Holds it All Together. Sugar Is Sweet and Helps Tenderize. Eggs Add Texture. Liquids Add Leavening and Tenderness. Salt Adds Flavor and Weight. Leavening Agents Baking Soda and Baking Powder.

But how do these functions change with the nuances of keto-driven, plant-based diets? Ozan Kahraman, R&D Food Process Engineer with Applied Food Sciences (AFS), explains.

"Casein, whey, and egg proteins are exceptional at enhancing viscosity and stabilization in various food matrixes," remarks Ozan. "Therefore, some of the most formidable challenges food manufacturers face when replacing egg and dairy-based proteins with plant-based ingredients include the loss of these structural properties, which are crucial for baking applications. In addition, the foaming capabilities of proteins also carry high importance for bakery products. But perhaps the most common problems that food manufacturers and formulators face using plant proteins are off-flavors, unsatisfactory pigment, and undesirable mouthfeel in finished products."

Many plant protein ingredients take a common approach to isolate only the protein, removing much of the other functional compounds to mitigate these undesired sensory characteristics. Unfortunately, while it may help with flavor and texture, isolating protein nullifies much of the attraction of being "plant-based" in the first place. Nutritional attributes like fiber, antioxidants, and fatty acids are not only good for our health, but they also can serve as critical functional benefits in baking. Fortunately, ingredient technologies are advancing at a rapid pace, and new ingredient options are available today that solve these historic challenges. Hemp seed is one of the most promising emerging ingredients in this space.

New ingredients: hemp heart protein - the best baking protein comes from the heart

Hemp seeds are a nutritional powerhouse. Unique to hemp seeds is the fatty acid profile combined with high-quality, digestible edestin and albumin protein. Unlike many protein isolates, hemp seeds net a concentrated protein that includes a good amount of dietary fibers (more than 8%) and a large spectrum of valuable fatty acids with a beneficial balance ratio between omega-6 and omega-3. They are especially rich in arginine (14.5%) and glutamic acid (17.9%). Hemp seeds also contain all nine essential amino acids, antioxidants, and mineral content. Not only is the nutritional profile prominent, but the functional properties of hemp seed, such as foaming, emulsifying, and gelling, make hemp protein a fantastic ingredient that can support a diverse range of baking applications.

Sensory characteristics have been the main impediment to hemp seed's adoption in the market thus far. But by removing the outer shell of the hemp seed – which contains a majority of the bitter, green tannins, and only processing the white inner 'hemp heart' or dehulled-center of the hemp seed, it makes a world of difference on the sensory experience. For this, ingredient manufacturers Applied Food Sciences and Victory Hemp Foods became partners to accelerate years of research in hemp grain and extraction technology. The end result is two proprietary ingredients from hemp hearts:
V-70™ hemp heart protein a clean 70% plant protein with near-white color and a neutral flavor, and V-ONE™ hemp heart oil a cleaner, lighter omega-3 hemp heart oil that is flavorfully delicate and refined.

With V-70™, food manufacturers can benefit from the nutrition of hemp protein in a clean presentation that is white in color, neutral in flavor, and has a perfectly smooth texture for baking applications.

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