Consumers today are all about convenience, but they also want food that is fresh, tastes good and can be made at home. This is also true of baked goods – both sweet and savoury. This has created both a challenge and an opportunity for the baked goods industry and for retailers who now had to find solutions to satisfy this need.
The frozen bakery and par-baked sector has seen significant growth in recent times. This has led to more large-scale production of frozen and par-baked baked goods and this is being spurred on thanks to technological innovations – from ingredient innovation and state-of-the-art freezing technology, to effective temperature-controlled distribution and custom-designed bake-off equipment.
These advancements are allowing bakers to meet the growing demands among consumers for freshly baked high quality sweet and savoury goods available around the clock, part of the ever-greater demand for more convenience and more choice. And this demand for greater choice includes not only more premium and interesting options, but also healthier choices such as baked products with less salt, no allergens and no preservatives.
This trend does not only take home-baking into consideration but also commercial baking. For retailers, using frozen and par-baked goods saves time and money. Since bakers can simply move the exact amount required of the chosen products straight from the cold storage into the oven.
This means that preparation time and labour is greatly reduced. Furthermore, a range of baked products of the highest quality – from bread and rolls to sweet and savoury pies, as well as high value treats such as croissants and Danish pastries – can be produced in a fraction of the time by frontline staff that require minimal training compared to the artisan training and years of experience that would be required to produce such quality and ranges from scratch.
Rising to the challenge
Manufacturing frozen or par-baked goods is not just a case of simply freezing the raw item. The survival of the yeast is a particularly important issue, since yeast is, in fact, living substances and must be handled with care. When the yeast is added to a dough mixture, it is activated and undergoes a range of biological and chemical changes.
This activity is suspended by freezing and the yeast cell is solidly frozen at -33°C to -35°C. Whether or not the yeast survives the freezing process depends on the freezing speed, the lowest temperature during the freezing process and storage. If freezing takes place too fast, too many intracellular ice crystals will form and damage the yeast cells. If the freezing takes place slowly, or if the period before freezing is too long and not at a low enough temperature, a host of other problems arise. Of course, the freezing conditions must be absolutely uniform throughout the freezer, to ensure a uniform bake-off result.
One of the more recent innovations in this regard is specifically formulated frozen dough yeast, which, among other benefits, prolongs the storage time of the frozen dough. This yeast is stronger than normal dry yeast because it has a lower water content and when the yeast is frozen, no ice crystals form inside the cells where it can cause damage.
Yeast for frozen dough applications is specifically selected for its ability to survive extremely low temperatures which allows it to display properties similar to that of compressed yeast.
Ingredient suppliers are also constantly innovating and working on new formulations to improve the quality of products. For example, bread improvers formulated for frozen and par-baked goods that reduce bake-off times to as little as two minutes without any need for steam, while also improving appearance, eating quality and shelf-life.
New freezing techniques which combine formulation and processing, as well as yeast and other ingredient enhancements are reducing the final stage in the bake-off process even further, without compromising on dough stability, tolerance or oven spring in the finished baked product.
For the moment consumers will have to decide between convenience and choice, and their demand for the “real thing”, particularly in light of the fact that the par-baked and frozen trend has even permeated the world of artisan breads.
One thing seems certain the frozen and par-baked is not only here to stay but the way of the future when it comes to baked goods.
Chemgrit Food sources and supplies various ingredients for the baking and confectionary industry. For information contact Chemgrit Food.