Proteins functions in bakery. Think of air incorporation, which is best demonstrated by egg white (of which the dominant protein is albumen). Caseins (80% of the dairy protein) is great in binding liquids and air with fat particles: combining emulsification, volume and management of surface tension.

Depending on its origin, proteins can have as well a dominant flavour function (think of chickpeas) or nearly none (e.g. rice). With this, in synergy, colouring as part of Maillard reactions (proteins, reducing sugars, heat and a particular acidity) aid to flavour as well.

Enzymes are in fact also proteins and the consist major part of not only our metabolism, but also that of nature. Certainly we use (sometimes specifically engineered) enzymes in some of our baking processes to facilate the production in means of: rate of reaction (fermentation), consistency (size, thickness, checking), freshkeeping, ease of manufacturing.

For those working with bread, laminated products (puff pastry, viennoiserie, crackers) are aware that without the development of ‘gluten’ a bread can’t hold its structure and will collapse:

  • during proofing/ fermentation we require gasholding properties
  • During baking we require:
    • extensibility (as gas expands as a result of heat)
    • gas holding properties (the network should not tear and thus collapse)
    • gelling/ fixating of structure (so the starches stay at their place, air pockets)
  • After baking we require:
    • Structural stability

Next to gluten, some of these properties are found in milk and eggs as well.

Understanding how well a protein type or source is able to interact with liquids/ water, air and fats and to what ratio. Next to this the base function is good to understand as well, so one can design, pick and mix different proteins.

Taking however a protein from one source can be applied in a few different forms: a flour with high protein (e.g. soy flour, milk powder), a more concentrated form (50-80% protein or Protein Concentrate) or an isolate (~90% protein). Each form can have even multiple ‘side-effects’, you can find concentrates that emulsify better than they gel and vice versa with the same concentration of protein. It’s therefore good to inquire with the manufacturer what the intended design is ( for common protein sources this should be available).

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