Learning More About Ancient Grains

Ancient grains continue to gain strong headway in the retail marketplace, as consumers seek out unique flavors of breads. To learn more, bake reached out to Tess Brensing, food scientist and technical product manager at Archer Daniels Midland.

Ancient grains are gaining significant traction in the artisan bread baking sector, as retail bread bakers seek to create unique flavor profiles. In general, what are some of the key benefits of incorporating teff, farro and sorghum into whole grain or multigrain formulas for breads and pastries?

Teff, farro, and sorghum offer unique flavors, colors, and textures which can help differentiate breads and pastries. Teff is a very small grain which can be used as a whole grain or as a flour with a dark tan color. Farro is ancestrally similar to wheat; it can be used for an ingredient call-out and add a textural component when used as a whole grain. Sorghum is an easy-to-incorporate ancient grain that is more neutral in appearance and offers an earthy flavor. Teff and sorghum are also gluten-free, so they are great to use when creating foods without using wheat flour. With the use of these grains, developers can appeal to health-conscious consumers looking for purposeful, closer-to-nature ingredients that can help deliver nutrition consumers desire in creative platforms with great taste and a feel-good benefit. ADM offers a wide range of on-trend ancient grains in a variety of formats to meet a variety of baking needs.

Let’s look specifically at each grain. What are the benefits for retail bakeries of using teff, farro and sorghum?

Teff is a tiny, dark brown grain with a strong earthy and nutty flavor. Its flavor is less noticeable as a whole grain, but it can be a pleasant addition of flavor in flour form. Teff can also be used in gluten-free applications.

Farro’s flavor profile is more reminiscent of barley or oat. In its whole-grain form, it can be used for risottos, snacks, and crackers. It’s also a good option for incorporating into bread.

Variety and sourcing greatly impact sorghum ingredient attributes. The variety of colors of sorghum translate to differences in flavor and appearance. ADM has specifically selected varieties which are very white in appearance and neutral in flavor. This neutral taste makes it easier to incorporate whole grains into a wider variety of products to meet whole-grain and multigrain demands. And it’s packed with protein, fiber, antioxidants and essential minerals to appeal to today’s growing market of health-conscious consumers.

Milled sorghum products also have benefits when used in baking. These products can be whole-grain flour or flour with the bran removed. Sorghum flour can be used as a portion of an ancient grain blend in breads and is also well suited for formulating gluten-free crackers and snacks. It’s also an excellent option for replacing corn in extruded snacks and cereals – adding whole grains, non-GMO and grain variety. ADM’s Harvest Pearl® sorghum flour, which is milled in a sorghum-dedicated and gluten-free certified facility, is an excellent option for replacing wheat.

Teff and sorghum are gluten-free, so there is growing interest in these grains for gluten-free applications. What are some important troubleshooting ideas and/or techniques to consider when developing gluten-free formulas for new products?

When formulating new products, it is worthwhile to utilize the benefits of each grain to build an optimized grain blend. Water binding characteristics, color, flavor, and inherent texture can be used to your advantage to achieve desirable final product attributes. When starting formulations, consider your ability to balance the flavor profile by selecting the right grains – whether you are going for hearty and earthy, or neutral and mainstream.

Sorghum is good for adding a neutral base and can be complemented with other ancient grains. Teff has a strong, pleasant flavor, and a dark color – which can be used in different ways depending on a customer’s application needs. The form of the grain (whole, flour, grits, flakes, etc.) is important in gluten-containing and gluten-free products.

ADM’s product advisors are well-equipped to solve technical challenges by taking a holistic approach to product development. Our teams understand the purpose that each ingredient serves in the application and can dial into the best solution or combination of solutions to deliver the desired taste, nutrition, labeling and cost.

What are some of the key benefits of using sorghum flour as a replacement in certain breads and pastries?

Sorghum can be used in a variety of ways to create unique bread and pastry products. The variety of colors of sorghum can translate to differences in flavor and appearance. For example, ADM has specifically selected varieties which are very white in appearance and neutral in flavor. That allows for greater flexibility when creating the desired products. ADM’s Harvest Pearl® sorghum flour, on the other hand, is an excellent option for replacing wheat.

Any other thoughts or ideas for new product applications using these grains?

According to Mark Floerke, Scientist III – Snacks, Bakery & Confections for ADM Research, these grains can be used in almost any baked good to create visual interest, differentiation and unique flavors, and also to add real and perceived nutritional value.