Regardless of the type of mixer used for developing artisan dough, one idea remains: The mixing process can often affect the success of the dough downstream and also the finished artisan product.

“The quality of the various mixing stages — mixing, kneading, falling down — is of prime importance for the subsequent stages in the process,” says Frederic Dangel, area sales manager, VMI Mixers. “The geometry and speed of the tools, as well as the mechanical action that incorporates air in the dough, directly impact the structure of the dough and consequently other stages, such as fermentation.”

Bill Grutter, vice president, BakeRite Systems, agrees, noting that mixer manufacturers generally recognize the importance of sophisticated but adjustable controls, mechanical features and special tweaks.

Sometimes, a baker should simply consider how the artisan dough comes together, just as much as the type of equipment that is being used. For example, continuous mixers from Reading Bakery Systems can prepare artisan doughs through lower shaft speeds, gentler mixing and possibly longer mix times, according to Jim Warren, vice president, Exact Mixing, Reading Bakery Systems. For European-style breads and rolls that are becoming more popular in the US, Warren says, mixers tend to be larger, based on the production rate. “Slower shaft speeds are common, and shaft configurations that gently fold the dough are used instead of stretching and developing the dough,” he explains.

For its horizontal mixers, Tonelli Group equips them with variable speed drives and a recipe management system that enables more precision of the mixing steps. “I call it process control management,” says Kevin Wilkinson, North American Sales, Tonelli Group.

With the Tonelli system, the process entails mixing by phase or step. In step No. 1, the baker starts at a low RPM to incorporate ingredients. Step No. 2 ramps up the speed. In step No. 3, the baker can increase the speed even more and add ingredients while mixing. Step No. 4 slows the mixer back down for additional ingredients.

Wilkinson indicated that Tonelli’s process control management can house up to 15 steps per recipe, all programmable through the HMI interface. “In each step, we can have a mixing RPM and a phase time or step time, and various automatic ingredients and/or manual ingredients,” he says.

Referring to the concept of kneading rather than mixing, Damian Morabito, president, Topos, emphasized that it’s an important factor to consider when creating artisan breads. “When you’re properly kneading, the mix time is much shorter than when you’re mixing or going around too fast,” he says. “If you can optimize the kneading, your mix times can be nice and short,” he says, suggesting one minute on low and four to five minutes on high.

AMF offers a number options that help in adapting a horizontal mixer to the artisan process, including sponge doors and various minor ingredient feed systems, increased mixing tool horsepower for stiffer doughs and various bowl capacities with or without a breaker bar.