Dave Krishock, Grain Craft Bakery technical services manager, points out the key obstacles to overcome for automation when working with artisan breads.

“Ideally while bake absorption for pan breads is generally between 59-63%, absorption for artisan breads will occasionally be up to 70% or higher, which is what makes the automation of artisan breads so challenging,” Krishock explains. “Higher absorptions lead to softer, stickier doughs that require different processing techniques from smaller retail or wholesale bakeries that typically work up doughs by hand on the bench.”

The most important practice in processing is consistency, he emphasizes. This includes consistency in the ingredients you are using and the entire process of mixing.  

“Regardless of the brand of flour, the baker must have consistently good flour that performs well during mixing, make up, proofing, baking, and packaging,” Krishock says. “Smaller artisan/wholesale bakers often rely on long, slow, cool fermentation, double hydration during mixing and a variety of preferments to produce their signature breads. Automated lines often must compensate for these specialty steps and that is why a consistent flour supply is imperative to maintain optimal final product quality.”

To maximize the desired attributes through the mixing process, he explains, you first must understand the goals of mixing and why the correct gluten development during mixing is critical to the remainder of the baking steps.

Think of gluten as the miraculous net that holds bread together; it helps dough rise by trapping gas bubbles during fermentation and gives bread its unique texture.  

When gluten is fully developed the dough is at the correct temperature and handling quality. When a gluten film is visible, the dough is ready to be discharged from mixer.  

If the dough is over mixed the gluten matrix begins to degrade. If the dough is too warm and sticky, lacks elasticity, and / or has too much flow, this will lead to sunken or misshaped loaves and rolls.

Water absorption

In addition to gluten development, you must first make sure the water absorption is consistent and fitting for the type of flour selected based on the final product application, Krishock says. The water absorption is the percentage of water required to completely hydrate a flour and reach optimal consistency without becoming too sticky to process.

Farinograph results will help in determining a starting point for absorption and stability.  Bake absorption is determined based on flour weight.   Using the incorrect water absorption can affect loaf volume, bread yield, machinability, proofing, shelf life and final product attributes.

Proofing and scoring

Provide adequate spacing when placing dough pieces into proof boxes, cross-stacking boxes to allow adequate time for chilling.  

A light spread of oil can be applied to keep the surfaces from drying out.  Rack covers or lids should be used for extended duration in the retarder to prevent drying.  

Dough temperatures should be monitored when pulling from the retarder with adequate floor time prior to final proof.  

Proof box temperature and relative humidity must be monitored to ensure product consistency.  

For overnight fermentation in the retarder, we recommend using a higher protein flour, such as Grain Craft Power Flour which will provide excellent tolerance over long fermentation periods.

“Again, consistency in all steps is critical in exceeding customers’ expectations time after time,” Krishock explains.

Speaking at the International Baking Industry Expo (IBIE), Andy Brimacombe, president, Puratos U.S. & Pennant Ingredients, shared that Puratos is focused on sustainability, responsible sourcing and training for the next generation of bakers. Show-goers explored delicious, sweet goods with unique stories, a sourdough library with starters inspired by sourdoughs from around the world and responsibly sourced chocolates.

“As a company, we have a wealth of history, research and data that we constantly pull from to create innovative products,” he explains.

A key feature of the Artisan Marketplace, crafted by Puratos is the Sourdough Library. Part of The Sourdough Experience demonstration, attendees gained access to Puratos’ Sourdough Library through the magic of virtual reality and enjoyed a first-hand look at historic sourdough samples from the Library in Belgium.

“From our perspective, it is important to meet consumers where they are,” Brimacombe says. “A lot of our solutions are specific to health and well-being.”

Sourdough, in particular, has evolved from niche to mainstream over the past 20 years.

“The consumer understanding of what sourdough is today is much higher,” Brimacombe says. “If you go down the aisles, there are a lot more products with sourdough and grains. And consumers are prepared to pay for more value, especially in health and well-being.”

Gluten free

Earlier in 2022, Ardent Mills announced the launch of its new certified gluten-free flour blends and Keto-friendly flour blends for the Canadian market. The expansion of its portfolio comes as a natural next step in Ardent Mills’ strategic growth plan to further invest in alternative grain capabilities and diversify its portfolio of solutions, building upon its traditional flour business.

A major step for the industry, Ardent Mills’ Keto-friendly flour blends can be used as a replacement for conventional flour without compromising taste, texture or functionality, while the new gluten-free flour blends offer ease of use for a variety of formats.

The new flour blends will be available for purchase directly through Ardent Mills Canada and bakery and foodservice distributors across Canada. The new products include:

Gluten-free 1:1 All-Purpose Flour: Suited for retail bakeries, wholesale bakeries and foodservice operators, this innovative formula can be used as a one-to-one replacement for conventional flour in most recipe applications without compromising taste, texture or functionality.

Gluten-free Pizza Flour Blend: This innovative blend makes it easy for foodservice and pizza chain operators to deliver fresh, great-tasting, gluten-free crusts, including thin, flatbread and pan pizzas – which were historically difficult to formulate for.

Keto-Friendly Flour Blend: For bread and bakery manufacturers, Ardent Mills offers a Keto-friendly flour blend for a broad range of bread and baked goods, with the taste and texture consumers love. A proprietary functional ingredient system, this blend was formulated to achieve the right balance of dietary fibers and grains without nuts or nut flour and does contain gluten which allows customers to run on their current equipment without significant changes.

Keto-Friendly Pizza Mix: Developed for foodservice and pizza chain operators, this easy-to-use mix was designed for simple back of shop operations and is suitable for most crust formats while still providing a great tasting pizza experience with texture and crunch.

As part of the company’s long-term plan for strategic growth, Ardent Mills continues to invest in the alternative grains space. Most recently, the company acquired the business assets of Firebird Artisan Mills, based in Harvey, ND, which provides dedicated certified gluten-free milling capabilities.

Latin flavors

Latin American culture has left a legacy of irresistible cuisine. The delights of its nostalgic flavors, paired with the high standards of Ardent Mills, is what lead to the Cuatro Cosechas® family of flours, a carefully crafted selection of flours ideal for tortillas, cakes and breads.

With more than one third of consumers eating more comfort food during the pandemic, restaurants, foodservice, and manufacturers should be mindful that their ingredients hold up to the demands of diners seeking home-style flavors. Selecting flours that are milled with this heritage in mind, and which deliver consistent baking characteristics can make all the difference. Latin American cuisine, in particular, offers a range of baked goods for sweet and savory applications, with traditional preparation methods that date back centuries. Each dish, from freshly baked breads to hand-held foods, offers an origin story, crisscrossing the globe with their flavors.

What’s the best way to deliver these nostalgic baked good flavors without making your customers hop on a plane? By paying careful attention to the characteristics of the flour used when crafting home-style baked goods, including ensuring a consistent delivery of extensibility and absorption to elevate the flavors and textures that customers seek.

There is a rising wave of desire for baked goods that tell a story and allow diners to eat globally while staying in place. The spiked interest can be seen with a report from last year, where 59% of 18- to 44-year-olds say grocery stores that don’t offer internationally inspired foods are not keeping up with the times. Delicious knows no borders when it comes to great taste. Bakeries, CPG manufacturers and restaurants can tap into this rising trend by offering baked goods inspired by global travel destinations, including Central and South America.

Keeping these interests in mind, Cuatro Cosechas® is uniquely positioned to support indulgent foods and the culinary heritage of Latin America, creating nostalgic attributes with reliable consistency, taste, and texture. Each variety within the Cuatro Cosechas® brand is formulated to align with a specific baking application, delivering craftsmanship that excels in the kitchen time after time. Whether making fresh tortillas, pastries, bolillos, or sweet breads, each flour is crafted with a milling process that is fine-tuned for freshness, absorption, and protein needed to bring these Latin American staples to life.