Fresh-from-the-oven signature breads at retail were once almost the exclusive province of fine restaurants, but the rise of commercial par-baking has made it possible for any restaurateur or food retailer to produce even artisan breads without skilled labor.
“Cryogenic freezing of par-baked goods is giving commercial bakers who have only baked fresh a new strategy,” says Mark DiMaggio, head of food & beverage at the Linde Group (Linde Cryogenics, a Division of Linde Engineering North America is a CSA CSM). “Bakeries can extend their distribution range and serve new retail segments.”
With par-baking, dough is partly baked (typically 80-90 percent) by the commercial bakery so the yeast is activated and the loaf is set for final baking. There’s no need for dough mixing, kneading or proofing. The retailer need only pop items into an oven to brown—and let the aroma fill the air.
Par-baked goods have been available in supermarkets since about 1949 with the advent of Brown ‘n’ Serve rolls. Joseph A. Gregor, a baker who was also a fireman in Avon Park FL reportedly discovered the advantage of par-baking while experimenting with a new biscuit recipe. When the local siren sounded, he donned his fire hat, shut off the oven and ran out the door. On his return, he discovered the rolls were fully baked on the inside and needed only a quick browning to finish.
Par-baked goods have grown rapidly over the past five years and today include a range of specialty loaves, savory items, baguettes and dinner rolls. They are ubiquitous at a variety of food establishments—quick-serve restaurants, supermarket bakeries, convenience stores, sandwich shops and cafes. Key to that growth is applying an immediate freeze after partial baking that preserves product quality and freshness.
Cryogenic freezers, according to Linde, require low capital investment, increase yield, deliver increased throughput in less space and provide a higher quality product compared to mechanical freezers.
A cryogenic tunnel freezer or a spiral freezer flash freeze using controlled blasts of liquid nitrogen (N2) or carbon dioxide (CO2). The quick freezing action preserves the shape and appearance of the product while helping to retain the baked dough structure and desired moisture level inside. Such freezing solutions, according to Linde, help keep par-baked items fresher longer and therein extend a baker’s effective service area.
Linde offers a range of cryogenic spiral freezers, from entry-level box spiral freezers for lower volume production, to the hygienically-designed CRYOLINE® XF (cross-flow) spiral freezer. The cross-flow spiral freezer features a patented high-efficiency design that produces a more even flow across the belt for higher yields and can deliver production rates up to 20,000 lbs. per hour.
“With the addition of a simple, compact cryogenic freezer,” says DiMaggio, commercial bakeries “can enter a world of frozen par-baked products delivered to a much larger network than their current radius. And they can do this without a great deal of capital investment and floorspace—which are a few of the advantages of cryogenics.”