|Artisan breads typically are sheeted in a stress-free system. Stress-free systems are ideal for artisan breads because they do not degass the dough and maintain its structure. After makeup, curling chains and pressure boards mould the bread to its specific shapes. Photo courtesy of RHEON USA|
Artisan bread production is not what it used to be. Gone are the days of creating individual French or ciabatta loaves by hand. Instead, advances in technology allow bakers to oversee control over artisan production lines that are completely automated.
PLC controls enable bakers to control time and temperature of artisan dough during mixing, fermentation, makeup and baking.
Controlling time and temperature is two of the most critical aspects of artisan bread production. This is because artisan breads require longer mixing, fermentation and baking times than traditional loaves. Bakers ensure control over their artisan production lines by controlling time and temperatures of artisan dough.
All aspects of artisan bread production can be accomplished through automation. This includes creating a sour, mixing, fermentation, makeup and baking.
Although many suppliers offer sour starter mixes, some bakers choose to create their own sour starters. Choosing to create a sour requires time and space in order to develop the natural flavors properly.
Previously, creating sours required manual labor to continuously feed and monitor the starter. However, equipment manufacturers now offer systems that automate this process. These systems use flour water, time and temperature to automatically store and feed the natural sour starter to the mixer when it is called for.
Typically, flour and water are automatically added to the starter tank in a one-to-one ratio. The tanks automatically stir the mixture in a precise manner that allows the sour to develop.
One manufacturer recommends holding the sour starter in liquid sour tanks for eight hours to 24 hours. According to the manufacturer, many things happen in that period of time: “You build a lot of bacteria in that first stage,” he says. “And you build certain flavors and enzymes. In the next stages you are building different enzymes, your bacteria mature and then take on different flavor characteristics. As the tanks get colder, you build more acid in your tank, you get to your final stage, where your yeast is at its most productive stage.”
By giving time and temperature, the manufacturer says, “This is what gives you individual flavor and taste.”
This manufacturer offers an automated system that adds flour and water to the sour tank at the same time. He says that this ensures “perfect emsulfication of your flour and water.”
When it is time for the sour to be added to the artisan mix, sour systems automatically feed the sour starter to the mixer, usually 10% to 20% sour starter to flour.
Mixing is one of the most important aspects of artisan bread production. It is in this process that artisan dough can be destroyed.
Bakers generally use vertical mixers for artisan bread production in the United States. This is because vertical mixers are able to stretch artisan dough’s gluten structure without damaging the dough’s integrity.
However, one mixer manufacturer offers a spiral mixer that he says is ideal for mixing artisan dough. This mixer has twin semi-spiral mixing tools and a moving bowl. This cuts mixing times in half. The twin mixer arms also moving in opposing circles, which stretch the gluten structure without ripping it, the manufacturer says.
After mixing, artisan dough requires fermentation. This process used to require manual labor, but many manufacturers not offer automated systems for this process.
|Artisan breads typically are baked in stone ovens. Stones provide strong bottom heat and ensure proper crustiness and shape of traditional artisan breads. Photo courtesy of Auto-Bake America LLC|
One manufacturer offers a continuous fermentation chamber that gently moves artisan dough while allowing yeast interaction. From the outside, the chamber appears similar to a tank resting on its side. But on the inside it is jacketed for healing and cooling, and is equipped with an air conditioning system that pumps in fresh, humidified oxygen at an ideal temperature.
This fermentation chamber also has a screw that gently moves so the dough so it comes into contact with all sides of the chamber, therefore allowing air for the yeast to grow.
This system eliminates the use of fermentation rooms and dough troughs. Artisan dough is fermented anywhere between 30 minutes and five hours before moving to the makeup line.
Artisan bread makeup used to be one of the most difficult processes of artisan bread production. This is because it requires a gentle touch from the makeup equipment that was difficult to achieve from most dividers. In addition, water content is high in artisan breads, which makes them sticky and difficult to handle.
Now, instead of dividing and rounding artisan breads, automated sheeting, particularly stress-free sheeting, is the norm for artisan bread production.
Manufacturers say that about 90% of artisan bakers use this continuous sheeting system, due to its advantages. Stress-free systems form a continuous sheet of dough without applying stress, which degasses the dough and damages its structure.
Stress-free systems also are ideal for breads with high absorption rates without degassing the dough. In addition, stress-free systems have the flexibility that appeals to artisan bakers: Bakers can alter dough thickness and dough’s internal structure.
After a dough sheet has been formed to its specified size, most bakers use curling chains and pressure boards to mould the bread.
There are several options to choose when baking artisan breads, but bakers typically choose to bake artisan breads in stone tunnel ovens. This is because the stones in these ovens provide strong bottom heat.
One oven manufacturer offers a stone vertical oven that features radiant heated stone hearth baking surfaces. The manufacturer says that these stones are able to ensure replication of color, texture, crustiness and shape of traditional handcrafted artisan breads.
Because this oven is vertical, it uses minimal. floor space. Artisan breads move in a vertical S configuration through heat zones.
Other types of ovens, such as thermal ovens, are able to provide the characteristics of artisan bread. Ovens used for artisan bread must have multiple zones to ensure quality crust: a feature associated with artisan bread.
Generally, steam must be applied in the first zone to prevent premature forming of the crust. This also ensures that artisan bread will obtain an ideal rise during baking. At the end of the oven, artisan bread should undergo high heat to obtain the desired final crust.
Automated artisan bread production can be accomplished as long as bakers maintain control and dedicate time to process artisan breads.