Bakers Journal

Final Proof: Pulse on Pulses

February 17, 2021
By Jane Dummer

Advances in baking with pulses, an affordable and sustainable plant protein

Awareness and curiosity surrounding pulses has increased since the International Year of Pulses, from baked goods to blended burgers. Photo credit: © Elena Schweitzer / Adobe Stock

We know consumers are scanning the nutritional content of their foods, and that includes bakery products. Pulses check many boxes when it comes to nutrition including protein, fibre, and micronutrients. People are looking for the inclusion of healthy ingredients and pulses fit that category. Also, there is a continued need for free-from products in the baking sector including gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, and egg-free. Pulses and pulse ingredients tick the box as functional ‘replacer’ ingredients to meet this consumer demand. It has been five years since the International Year of Pulses (IYP). As part of the worldwide marking campaign, consumers were urged to eat more beans, lentils, chickpeas, and peas. As a result, companies were challenged to include more pulses in their products.  Let’s dive into how baking applications and opportunities with pulses have evolved since the IYP. 

Mark Pickard, President, InfraReady Products Ltd located in Saskatoon explains, “An innovative application, that has been demonstrated by research since IYP, is the heat treatment of pulses prior to milling. It offers greater opportunities for incorporating pulse flours in all foods. For example, infra-red treatment, and specific tempering conditions, as applied by InfraReady, have shown functional improvements of yellow pea flour, particularly the reduction of undesirable flavours and aroma associated with the use of pea flour in bread. Product development is driven by consumer interest. Awareness and acceptance [of pulses] has increased since IYP, not only in baking but in other food products, ranging from breakfast cereals to blended burgers. Plant protein, inherent in pulses, is a rising tide. In addition, the market is becoming aware of products made with fava beans and lupins, which offer a high protein, without costly fractionation.”

As we become more familiar with fava beans, it is still a new ingredient for many, including the baking sector. Hailey Jefferies, Co-founder of Prairie Fava located in Glenboro, Manitoba agrees, “Fava is a new ingredient with lots of exciting innovative functionality work being done in various applications including bakery products. Fava flour has excellent emulsifying properties and emulsion stability, which allows it to hold onto water and fat during the baking process, providing moistness. Recently, Prairie Fava completed functionally work on a plant-based pizza crust using fava flour. The pizza crust has an excellent nutritional profile (high in protein and fibre), superior clean taste and is free from gluten, eggs, dairy and gums. We’re excited to collaborate with Protein Industries Canada (PIC) and Roquette, which will involve extensive functionality work across a number of categories including bakery. Together the consortium will work to address nutrition and processing opportunities for pea and fava on the Prairies.”

Pulses have always been known for their positive environmental contributions. Today’s consumers are embracing plant-based eating with an emphasis on natural ingredients (not ultra-processed), and the ever-present sustainability trend. IYP brought even more attention to sustainability and it continues. Jennifer Evancio, Director, Sales and Business Development, Avena Foods Ltd, in Regina describes, “IYP served as a catalyst for innovative conventional and gluten-free bread and baked goods companies to learn that there was a whole other world of ingredient options by using pulse ingredients. When we launched Best Pulse Egg Replacer and Pulse Visco Enhancer, these ingredients offered functional, clean tasting, nutritionally dense options that customers were eager to try and work into their specific applications. Now, we are seeing a wider acceptance of pulse ingredients in this category with more room to grow. Avena Foods is excited about the work we’re undertaking with Proteins Industry Canada’s (PIC) support and our PIC industry partners. This $6.3 million project will help us to better understand tempered pulse flours applications in a variety of food categories, with bakery being a key area. We are taking a whole foods approach, rather than fractionating the pulses into their components. Our plan is to leverage the functional benefits of pulses in their natural and complete state, providing an environmentally sustainable approach. There is still much to learn about how pulses fit within baking and Avena Foods is continuing its leadership role in this area.”

Five years later, it’s a pivotal time to follow these innovative companies as they lead and work on techniques to increase pulse incorporation into products within the baking sector.

Jane Dummer, RD, known as the Pod to Plate Food Consultant, collaborates and partners with the food and nutrition industry across North America.

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