by Melissa Hillebrand
Premium pan breads proof for a longer period of time than standard pan breads, one manufacturer says, so premium dough can develop flavor.
Most makeup systems can handle premium pan bread dough.
Although white bread remains king in terms of dollar sales, demand for premium pan breads is skyrocketing. Many bakeries have taken advantage of consumers' shifting preferences within the last two years. This includes Sara Lee Bakery Group, which produced Sara Lee Heart Healthy Plus and Earth Grains Extra Fiber breads, and Interstate Bakeries Corp., which came out with Baker's Inn premium loaves.
Compared to traditional pan breads, premium loaves are smaller, have toppings on the crust and inclusions in the dough. Premium pan breads take on the form of a wide, dense loaf and typically are double-wrapped.
Getting into this growing market requires bakers either to make changes to their existing lines, or install new ones. Unfortunately, this can be costly as premium pan bread production has specific needs, such as different pans and topping equipment. Bakers can choose to manufacture premium loaves on their existing lines, one manufacturer says, but the machines will wear down more quickly. At that point, bakers should invest in equipment specifically designed for premium pan bread production.
Because premium dough comes from premium ingredients, it is important for bakers to develop and preserve the dough properly. In mixing, premium dough must be handled more gently than standard pan bread dough, due to inclusions and high-protein flour commonly found in premium breads.
One manufacturer suggests that bakers use a mixer with a medium-speed agitator, rather than a high-speed agitator, which traditional loaves are mixed with. Typically, premium dough has less water content than standard pan bread dough, and therefore is more resistant and has more body. Because of this, premium dough is not capable of being mixed at high speeds, one manufacturer says.
Bakers also should look for mixers that are capable of handling heavier loads. The manufacturer says premium bread mixers should run between 35 rpm and 70 rpm, as opposed to traditional dough, which can be mixed at speeds as high as 90 rpm. Because premium dough mixes at slower speeds, it must be mixed for longer periods of time.
Premium bread dough can be processed on most makeup systems. Many bakers have discovered that their standard divider equipment can handle premium dough.
One manufacturer says many bakers overwork their premium doughs because of their dividers. Bakers using an extruder with a twin auger that pumps dough into another pump may have to modify their equipment. These two pumping elements create pressure behind the second auger, the manufacturer says. Because of this pressure, dough keeps flowing back into the first auger, where it gets overworked.
To avoid this, the manufacturer recommends that bakers use a twin auger double screw system with positive displacement. The positive displacement prevents dough from flowing back into the auger.
Premium bread production also requires the use of special bread pans. When purchasing new pans, it is important for bakers to consider how these pans will fit in their lines, as premium pans are smaller and wider than traditional pans. If the pans do not fit in the existing lines, bakers will have to invest in a new pan handling system.
After dough is placed in the pans, it is important for premium pan breads to develop flavor. Premium loaves proof longer than traditional pan breads.
One feature of premium pan breads is the toppings on their crusts. These toppings include poppy and sesame seeds, oats, wheat, flour, nuts or raisins. One supplier says that topping ingredients should be placed on premium dough after proofing and before baking because the dough will be expanded and close to the final product size.
"If you [topped] before the proofer," the supplier says, "you just have a cold piece of dough in the pan. There's no area to top because it's a small piece." Furthermore, if the dough is topped before proofing, the topping ingredients will be spread out on the dough's surface after proofing and baking.
Once the product has been topped, it can be baked. Because bakers want to develop a thicker crust on their premium loaves, they bake at a lower temperature for a longer time. One manufacturer says that premium breads can bake as long as 90 minutes, compared to 25 minutes for traditional pan bread.
Premium pan breads also need more time to bake if they contain inclusions. "You may have something like a wet raisin or a nut in there that has oil on it," one manufacturer says, "and this moisture keeps feeding the dough to keep it from drying out."
Due to the density of premium loaves, they will take slightly longer to cool before the loaves are sliced and packaged. Bakers will not have to buy new slicing equipment for premium pan bread production, another manufacturer says. In fact, slicing premium breads is easier because they contain a lot of oil.
Bakers may not need new slicing equipment, but they will need new blades, the manufacturer says. Slicer blades for standard pan breads are normally 4.25 ins. or 4.375 ins. wide. Premium loaves require slicers that are at least 6 ins. wide.
The final step for premium pan bread production is packaging. Most premium loaves are double-wrapped, and this requires bakers to invest in new equipment.
"The paybacks are certainly improving for the bakers that have moved into premium breads," one manufacturer says. Equipment also can wrap premium pan loaves of different sizes.
Premium pan problems
Because the mixing, proofing, baking and cooling processes take longer for premium breads, and because of the addition of the topping process, bakers may experience decreased volumes. However, bakers can make up for this loss because premium loaves sell for higher prices.
One manufacturer says this loss also can be overcome if bakers buy bigger equipment. "The older equipment has cycle limitations on the amount of loaves that can be loaded into an oven or proofer," he says. "There's nothing bakers can't do on the old equipment, it's just a matter of how fast and how much volume they can get out."
However, another manufacturer offers a different view. He says that bakers should not experience a loss in volumes because premium pan breads are smaller. Limitations are in the makeup process and how many pounds per hour can be made, the manufacturer says.
Space limitations represent another problem that arise when bakers install or convert to premium pan bread production. If bakers are buying bigger equipment, then they may create a bottleneck somewhere in the plant, a manufacturer says.
Converting or installing a premium pan bread line is not an easy process. It will take time if bakers are converting their equipment on a piece-by-piece basis. Adjustments also must be made, as premium products require more time to produce. However, bakers will be rewarded with high profits if these difficulties can be overcome.