Protein bars
Whey protein inclusion in bars may result in chewy textures and extended shelf life.

Shopping for protein

There are many varied dairy protein ingredients available to bakers. One such ingredient is hydrolyzed whey. This type of whey protein has been carefully processed to isolate the protein, resulting in an ingredient that is 90 to 95% whey protein. The process exposes the proteins to enzymes that free the amino acids, breaking them down so the body can process them quicker and more efficiently. This renders the protein easier for the body to absorb, which makes hydrolyzed whey a frequent addition to post-exercise recovery bars and snack foods.

A recent example is The Bar from sports nutrition company Progenex. With 14 grams of protein, 18 grams of net carbs and 12 grams of fat, The Bar satiates and provides a well-balanced snack between meals. It contains a proprietary hydrolyzed whey protein and trace mineral complex combined with conjugated linoleic acid. The company explains that the hydrolyzed whey is, in essence, pre-digested protein that goes directly to work repairing and rebuilding muscles since it doesn’t require the body to break it down first.

Other specialty ingredients include milk protein concentrate (M.P.C.) and milk protein isolate (M.P.I.). Both are concentrated milk products, with the former containing 40 to 90% milk protein and the latter containing 90% or more protein. Both contain casein, whey proteins and bioactive proteins in the same ratio found in milk. As the protein content increases, the lactose levels decrease. The M.P.I. contains very little fat (typically less than 3%), carbohydrates or lactose and has a very high amino acid composition, making it ideal for meal replacement bars.

Milk Specialties has a new blend of whey and M.P.I. designed to provide a soft texture, optimal sensory experience and extended shelf life in high-protein and nutrition bars. This soy-free line provides pliability and can significantly reduce browning and hardening over shelf life.

The company also offers high-protein extruded inclusions for bars. Inclusions have long been a means to deliver flavor to baked goods, but they usually are void of nutrition. These flavorful protein-packed inclusions — including chocolate chip and graham crackers — can be used in different bar types, from dessert quality bars to meal replacement.

Micellar casein (M.C.) and microfiltered milk protein are concentrated milk ingredients obtained by microfiltration. They range in composition based on the amount of milk-derived whey protein removed. Concentration and diafiltration can increase the total protein and decrease the amount of lactose in the final ingredient. Unlike M.P.C. and M.P.I., the microfiltration process alters the casein-to-whey-protein ratio compared to that found in milk.

The trend in satiety-inducing foods is growing the M.C. market, according to research firm Future Market Insights. In its recent report, analysts identified an opportunity to use M.C. for protein enrichment of fillings and custards in better-for-you baked goods.

Some of the more familiar dairy protein ingredients are based on whey. Whey protein concentrate (W.P.C.) and whey protein isolate (W.P.I.) are concentrated whey powders. The former contains less than 90% whey protein, while the latter contains 90% or more whey protein. The rest of the powder is fat, lactose and minerals. Whey permeate (W.P.) is a by-product of W.P.C. production formed after ultrafiltration of whey to extract protein and fat. It is characterized by a clean, slightly salty taste and uniform particle size and consists of lactose, water, vitamins and minerals.

Earlier this year, Whey 2 Be! introduced a line of namesake protein-packed premium cookies made with W.P.C., M.P.C. and N.D.M. Each Whey 2 Be! cookie delivers 20 grams of protein.

Another company that believes protein-packed baked goods can be indulgent is Optimum Nutrition. The company now offers Cake Bites. These frosted, whipped protein snack cakes come in three flavors: birthday cake, chocolate-dipped cherry and red velvet. They are made with the company’s proprietary blend of M.P.C., M.P.I. and W.P.C. Additional protein comes from the yogurt-based coating. One serving consists of three snack cakes in a pack and contains 20 grams of protein and 250 calories or less.

“Our Cake Bites are a treat that feels like a ‘cheat’ but delivers a high-protein option with only 4 to 5 grams of sugar,” said Stuart Heflin, director of North American marketing for Optimum Nutrition, noting that those on strict fitness and nutrition programs often crave sweet, satisfying snacks and desserts.

The U.S. Dairy Export Council (U.S.D.E.C.) also developed several recipes for a variety of baked goods, including a recipe for high-protein soft pretzels using W.P.C. A reduced sodium version is possible when W.P. is used to replace the salt in the dough. Another innovation is protein-packed breakfast bites. These on-the-go cheese-filled baked dough balls contain 70% more protein than similar products in the market. The dough contains three sources of protein: M.P., N.D.M. and W.P.C. Additional protein comes from the cheese filling. The dough also is made with W.P. to keep 
sodium content to a minimum.

Other protein-enriched baked goods that U.S.D.E.C. has prototype recipes for include brownies, tortillas, cinnamon rolls, pizza dough and all types of artisan breads.

“It is always a challenge to add protein to a food category that typically doesn’t have a lot protein,” said Kimberlee Burrington, dairy ingredient applications coordinator for Center for Dairy Research, University of Wisconsin. “For instance, cookies are really just fat and sugar held together with some flour. But it can be done. There are many dairy protein options, and they behave differently in each application.”

While most dairy ingredient suppliers offer basic whey ingredients, many also offer specialty varieties. For example, Arla Foods Inc. has a new whey protein solution that ensures protein bars retain a soft chewy texture for 12 months or more in ambient storage conditions.

Agropur uses ion-exchange technology to manufacture a proprietary W.P.I. with a leucine content of 13.1%.

“Leucine is the amino acid associated with promoting muscle health, making this ingredient attractive for sports nutrition products such as protein bars and muffins,” Ms. Rippe said.

Using that same ion-exchange technology, the company also offers hydrolyzed whey. When used together in a nutrient-dense trail mix bar, the snack provides both rapidly and slowly digested proteins for sustained energy. The bar is also able to maintain a desirable soft yet crunchy texture.

“Combining a faster-digesting protein such as whey protein with a slower-release protein such as casein provides a sustained anabolic effect, in which amino acids are not only spiked rapidly in the blood stream but also are sustained,” said Aaron Martin, R.&D. nutrition innovation manager for Agropur. “This means more amino acids are taken up by the muscle, leading to greater protein synthesis for longer periods. This can result in greater strength and muscle gains.”

With all the many varied dairy ingredients available to bakers, it’s possible to include dairy’s healthful nutritional halo and functional properties in almost every application.