New systems for icing bakery products are addressing multiple issues: removing the sticky build-up from spraying and enrobing equipment; segregating downstream machinery from contamination by gooey glazes; and accommodating consumer demand for single-serving portions.
|Sweetgoods pass through a Hinds-Bock oscillating string-icing machine.|
|Belshaw’s six-across glazer coats 7,200 donuts per hour.|
|Bakon USA enrobers feature dedicated conveyors that help keep downstream belts clean.|
From a consumer standpoint, iicing, glazing, even butter-finishing on dinner rolls often is the differentiating factor between adequate and excellent bakery products. Whether you are talking about string-iced Danish, chocolate-enrobed cookies or sophisticated cake treatments, icing systems continue to play an important role in turning out baked products that are satisfying to both the eye and the palate.
Icing systems are one of three types: sprayers, waterfall enrobers and batch or dipping systems. Sprayers, which typically are used on Danish, streusel and similar products, employ either a continuous coverage technique to coat the entire baked item or a string of icing that generally is applied using multiple heads moving back and forth to create the desired grid or spot effect.
Today’s spray icers use easily programmed air-mix technology to generate the proper icing consistency: more air in the mixture reduces the size of the individual icing droplets, allowing full coverage; less air is used for string icing. Proper air mix is crucial, particularly because excess aeration results in a mist that is too fine to coat the product properly. Most spray systems are designed with a cover to contain any excess spray. Overspray is then filtered and reused, minimizing waste.
Waterfall systems are designed to apply a thicker coating of icing than sprayers. These machines cover the entire product with a “curtain” of icing. Cakes, cupcakes, soft rolls and other bread products are often enrobed using waterfall technology. As with spray systems, modern waterfall equipment is designed to recycle any product by pumping unused icing or glaze from a tank, situated beneath the machine, back up to the top of the curtain mechanism.
Batch, or dipping systems, largely used for donuts, are the least complex. Products are dunked into a vat of glaze and quickly removed, giving the donuts the shiny appearance, sweet flavor and slightly crunchy mouthfeel that donut-lovers crave. According to Mike Baxter, product information and marketing manager for Belshaw Bros. Inc., batch systems are popular because they are cheaper, simpler and less problematic than their more automated cousins. “Larger customers use two or more of our batch icers,” he notes. Belshaw also offers waterfall equipment for donut glazing.
Because icings are designed to adhere to bakery foods, they are inherently messy. That is, they stick not only to their intended target, but to every other proximate surface. The sanitation challenges presented by the icing process have spawned a call for more dedicated conveyors that run only on the icing system. Once iced or glazed, products move onto a clean belt for cooling, freezing, slicing, packaging or further decoration.
“People are more conscious that icing products are messy and, as they cool, difficult to clean, so it is wise to have a dedicated conveyor section [for icing],” says Luc Imberechts, president, Bakon USA. “The separate conveyor always stays in the sprayer section so the bottom part of the product never gets dirty before going to the next section of conveyor belt.”
Chief among the challenges faced in the attempt to use separate conveyor systems for icing is accommodating the ever-increasing demand for smaller portions and single-serve bakery items. While larger items easily ford the gap from one conveyor to the next, smaller items either fall through the gap or get stuck, causing waste and downtime. According to Imberechts, Bakon has addressed this problem through implementation of an axis, called a transfer shaft, which bridges the belt gap and allows for smooth product flow.
“Small products need correct small takeover from the icing system,” Imberechts says. “The transfer shaft ensures that small products have a good transition from one belt to another and that products won’t get stuck between conveyors.”
Increased demand for customized icing systems and more intuitive controls are driving development at Hinds-Bock Corp., according to Vice President Lance Aasness. “Within the past two years we have designed [our icing systems] to be more user friendly,” Aasness says. “Some projects require different curtain widths, so we customize [the equipment] for our customers. Or, we’ll use two oscillating heads in order to get a particular pattern of icing on the product.”
Aasness notes that “comprehensive heat controls” are in high demand “because special icing requires specific heat control to get the icing onto the product. Hinds-Bock icers have sophisticated controls to regulate oscillating head speed, pump speed, conveyor speed and product temperature. “All of that is used to tune the machine to give the desired finished appearance to the product,” Aasness says.
Another driving force in icing system development is the use of new ingredients. “Today, there is much more versatility in ingredients than there was in the past,” Imberechts says. He notes that in addition to standard sugar and shortening icings, bakers are using more water-based glazes, such as pectin, as well as water-based chocolate icings.
“We want to offer a machine with the versatility that runs those different ingredients,” Imberechts says.