Par-baked breads should be about 90% frozen when they exit the freezer and not allowed to rethaw before the second bake.
As consumer demand for fresh baked bread rises, restaurants and in-store bakeries are faced with a decision: Invest in equipment and skilled workers to formulate and bake bread on-site, or buy par-baked.
Fortunately for the baking industry, the reality of hiring qualified bakers—- in addition to space and cost constraints—-is challenging, and the need for par-baked bread is extensive.
Taking advantage of this growing segment requires bakers to make some changes to their fully baked processes, particularly in baking, cooling and freezing. After implementing these production line modifications, bakers can begin shipping par-baked breads.
The main difference between fully baked and par-baked breads is how they are baked. Par-baked products only need to remain in the oven until all interactions with yeast have been stopped, one oven manufacturer says. At this point, the product's cellular structure has been formed.
It also is important to experiment with variations in baking time and temperature. One manufacturer says baking temperature should remain the same, but bake time can be 20% to 50% less than a fully baked product, depending on the product's size and what the customer wants. However, Al Dassinger, Baker Boy's R&D manager,says it is best to decrease the oven temperature for a par-baked product and bake it for a slightly longer time.
Any type of oven can bake par-baked breads because time and t e m p e r a t u r e adjustments are the only needed modifications. But investing in a vertical oven may prove wise for bakers of par-baked breads.
A vertical oven's baking chamber is more compact than a tunnel oven, allowing bakers to maximize the amount of steam on their products. Proper steam injections are necessary to help par-baked bread form a soft and thin crust to retain the bread's moisture. In a tunnel oven, steam can evaporate quickly, an oven manufacturer says.
"If you don't have the right amount of steam, the product will dry out completely," the manufacturer says. "If it does, the crust will get so dried that when you do the second bake of the product, the crust will detach itself."
Vertical ovens also use little floor space, leaving valuable room for other applications or equipment. "The big thing about vertical ovens is that they don't take up a lot of space because you are moving your pans upward, a small transfer, and then down," another oven manufacturer says. "They are a very efficient medium for doing a parbaked product because you do not need the length or the same amount of time in the oven as you need for a finished product."
Cooling and freezing options
Similar to baking, slight modifications to cooling and freezing processes also are necessary to manufacture parbaked products. Par-baked breads should be cooled to room temperature after baking and before entering the freezer. If a bread's internal temperature is too warm when it enters the freezer, the bread will develop a dry shell that will flake off, Dassinger says. Also, if bread is not cooled to room temperature, it will take more time and energy to freeze it.
Humidity factors into the cooling process for par-baked products. If ambient air is blown to cool the bread, mold spores are circulated. Too much humidity allows mold spores to develop and grow on par-baked products.
Dassinger says that par-baked bread should be 90% frozen when it leaves the freezer. If it is frozen for too much time, it could develop freezer burns, and if it's not frozen enough, the product may collapse, he says. It's important for par-baked bread to remain frozen until it is baked again, because if the frozen bread partially thaws and then refreezes, its quality suffers.
Although it is not necessary for bakers to buy new equipment for parbaked bread production, one manufacturer says his company's vacuum-based cooling system provides several advantages for bakers of par-baked breads. This system reduces bake time, he says, because products do not have to be baked until their crusts, which maintain breads' volumes, develop. No volume is lost with the vacuum-based cooling system because it lowers the product's internal temperature to 50°F in seven minutes or less, the manufacturer says.Therefore, par-baked breads can have a 20% reduction in bake time. A reduction in bake time also means that the bread will retain more of its moisture.
Once the product leaves the vacuum-based cooling system, it can be packaged immediately and placed in a holding freezer. Over time, the product's temperature will lower to -10°F, which should be the temperature of the holding freezer, the manufacturer says. This step eliminates both conventional cooling and freezing, and retains the moisture that might have been lost if the bread was conventionally cooled and frozen, the manufacturer says.
This vacuum-based cooling system also provides savings to bakers. Because bake time is reduced, bakers can increase their capacities and reduce energy costs. Money also will be saved on eliminated energy costs from the conventional cooling and blast freezing processes. "Energy savings are maybe 30% to 40%," the manufacturer says, "so the return on investment is rather quick."
Besides baking, cooling and freezing equipment changes, it may be necessary for bakers to alter their fully baked dough formulations when producing par-baked breads. "Usually there is a little less sugar, so it doesn't brown as much," Dassinger says. Because he recommends that bakers lower their oven temperatures for par-baked breads, Dassinger also says that less yeast should be used because the oven is not going to kill it as fast.
Fermentation is another aspect of par-baked bread production that might require some adjustments. Fermentation is important in the parbaked process because it helps the bread retain its moisture and build shelf life and flavors. These characteristics can be compromising because of the double baking of these products.
One manufacturer offers a continuous fermentation chamber that gently moves the dough while allowing necessary yeast interaction. The chamber is jacketed for heating and cooling, and is equipped with an air conditioning system that removes carbon dioxide and pumps in fresh, humidified oxygen at the ideal temperature. The chamber also has a screw mechanism that gently moves the dough so it comes in contact with all sides of the chamber, therefore allowing air for the yeast to grow.
This system eliminates the use of fermentation rooms or dough troughs, and it helps bakers produce a consistent par-baked product, a manufacturer says.
"Every bit of that dough is going to be the same age going into your divider. What that does to your process is obvious. If you have dough that's at the same temperature with the same resting period, you're going to be much more accurate and have a much more consistent product," he says.
The possibilities for par-baked bread production are endless, but ultimately, producing a quality par-baked bread relies upon baking and freezing. If bakers modify their lines and ensure that their par-baked breads are moisturerich with long shelf lives, they can claim a share of this industry.