Always Bagels offers 90% plus par-baked bagels that can be ready to serve in less than five minutes.
Baking process equipment, such as this Polin Tunnel oven, generally works as well for par-baking as it does for full baking.
It is essential to set the structure of par-baked products before freezing in order to prevent collapse.
Once the par-baked item has baked long enough for the structure to set, quick freezing ensures freshness for the fully baked product.
La Brea Bakery, headquartered in Van Nuys, Calif., is one of the foremost bakeries providing par-baked artisan products to restaurants and deli chains.
"The purpose of a par-bake product came from a customer need," says Jonathan Davis, director of concept development. "Customers needed a consistently high quality, artisan hearth-baked product when they wanted it, without waste and worrying about product loss due to employee turnover."
This need evolved into a request for par-baked products that required less time to finish off. Although there is still a need for 50-60% baked products, the market for "almost finished" is growing by leaps and bounds. Refinement of impinger-type flash ovens, which combine high-velocity jets of heated air with other technologies, such as microwaves, had a lot to do with this. Flash baking brings a 75-90% baked product to fruition in only minutes, satisfying the end consumer on the spot with "fresh-from-the-oven" aroma, texture and flavor.
Turano Bakery produces both artisan and standard products from their facility in Berwyn, Ill. Joe Turano, plant operations manager, says that very few products Turano makes today would have been considered true par-bake five years ago. "Instead of the white, raw look, most of our par-baked goods now carry a slightly golden color, but are still not fully baked," he says.
Critical equipment areas
Baking process equipment is basically the same whether doing full baking or any level of par-baking. Different bakers have different opinions about what the critical equipment areas are, but all agree equipment should be easily controlled and flexible.
"The most important thing in making any par-baked product is to make sure you have the structure set in the product when you bake it," Joe Turano says. "If you don’t, the product will collapse if not baked enough. Baking is what requires the most attention."
The latest in tunnel ovens marketed by manufacturers, such as Pro Bake Inc. of Twinsburg, Ohio, do an excellent job of controlling the steam requirements so vital to help parbaked bread form just the right crust and still keep a proper moist texture inside. Jeff Salenger, sales promotion manager for Pro Bake says a highend tunnel oven carries the product through the baking process, moves it to cooling automatically, and then to blast freezing and into final packaging; all conveyorized, all automatic.
This brings up the one area that although used in some fully baked product areas, is essential to parbaking—freezing.
Always Bagels produces 22 different types of 90%-plus par-baked bagels. Anthony Pariti, president of Always Bagels says that aside from the "TLC" that goes into every bagel turned out from his Bohemia, N.Y. facility, the key to sealing in freshness is the freezing process.
"Our product is baked, cooled down for 30 minutes in a spiral cooler that brings the temperature down to about 75 degrees," Pariti says. "Then it goes through a spiral freezer which freezes it in the core to zero degrees within 30 minutes. When the bagels are thawed and put in the customer’s oven for three to six minutes, it brings out that more dense, chewy, crusty texture of a true New York-style bagel."
Debbie Benjamin, food support manager at Praxair Inc. Food Service Group, says, "To maintain freshness, optimally, you want to freeze as quickly as possibly. It basically prevents par-baked rolls, bread or other products from going through the staling phase."
Located in Burr Ridge, Ill., this division of Praxair manufactures blast freezers and also operates a full test lab. "We test the products in freezers which are all the same commercial models the baker would use. We do a full evaluation in our lab before recommending any freezing system. Bakers are always welcome to come and participate with us while we run the tests," Benjamin says.
Both spiral and tunnel freezer configurations are available. Benjamin states that both designs offer the same capabilities, however she recommends that tunnel models be used for lower volumes, under 1,000 lbs. per hour, simply because the more product volume, the longer the tunnel needs to become, adding cost and taking up much-needed floor space.
A spiral freezer moves the product upward, enabling it to process more product in much less space. Many bakers start with a tunnel freezer and as volume ramps up, graduate to a spiral unit.
A third area noted as critical in par-bake production is ensuring the raw product is handled properly during processing without undue punishment to the dough. This can be particularly critical in the creation of many artisan products.
Stephan Wechsler, president of Empire Baking Equipment, says, "Many of the newer products that are being par-baked today consist of very high hydration dough. They have a lot of water content and must be treated differently than standard Kaiser roll types of products. They are more highly fermented and require delicate handling."
Located in Hicksville N.Y., Empire meets this challenge with equipment specifically geared toward special baked products. Their specialty roll divider and sorter lines allow bakers to make very high quality products with a great deal of flexibility as far as the dough type, dough handling and dough weights.
The goal of all manufacturers today is to deliver equipment that produces a wide variety of products from a single line. Variety is the key to successful business and that is never more true than in the parbaked area.
Bakers are not just pumping out 20,000 white dinner rolls an hour. They are creating an ever growing line of products to meet the demand of the food service industry.
It ends with the consumer
The newest flash ovens take only 2.5 to 3 minutes to produce "instant" baked sandwich rolls, full bread loaves and even pizza using very high temperature. Therefore, increasingly customers want products delivered at near 80% parbaked level.
"What we call par-baked products today are very popular," Joe Turano says. "The end consumer receives the product fresh and warm and with the perception that the whole baking process has taken place at the store level."
To continue expanding in this profitable market, it’s up to the team of equipment manufacturers and baking companies to create par-baked products that keep this illusion for the end consumer.