By Lin Carson

 

snack crackers

We have received requests in the last few months on how to make the thermal profiler and texture analyzer work in a quality program. We have since worked with Caryn Ong (Food Technologist) at the Wheat Marketing Center, to show you how you can make these tools work for you. The BAKERpedia team was at the wheat marketing center the other day to research the production of crackers and their texture. Cracker production, is unlike many other baked goods.  It has a low water absorption (usually less than 30%), different leavening systems and a very slack dough that can tolerate high stress reduction rollers.

Baker’s %
Cracker flour 100
Shortening 17
Sugar 20
Lecithin 0.5
Malt extract 0.2
Honey 5
Nonfat dry milk powder 2.5
Salt 0.8
Vanilla extract (liquid) 0.5
Sodium bicarbonate  0.6
 Sodium sulfite  0.1
Ammonium bicarbonate  2.5
Water  24.5 (approximately 40oC)

While the world outside of the U.S.A call these sweet baked goods biscuits, Americans call them crackers.  Crackers are thin crispy baked products, that can either be sweet or savory. What we made here used a Marie Biscuit (a very popular cracker in the British colonies) formula, which tastes very similar to animal crackers.

Ingredients:

Method:

  1. Dissolve the ammonium bicarbonate and sulfite separately in water  (ammonium is for leavening and sulfite is to reduce mix time and increase extensibility)
  2. Add all the ingredients into the mixer and mix at low speed for 2 minutes.
  3. Scrape the sides down.
  4. Mix it again at low speed for 14 minutes or until dough temperature reaches 40-43oC or 104-109o(this is to make the dough pliable and extensible )
  5. Shape the dough into a block  and use it as soon as possible to minimize the drop in dough temperature.

 

Lamination

Pic 1 : Kathleen Gehring and Jingming Ning helping cut dough sheets to line up for lamination

6.  Sheet the dough and mold into desired shape.

Laminator

Pic 2: Laminator

Molder

Pic 3: Molder

7.  Bake it with the following oven settings for 6 minutes:

Oven setting:

Zone 1: 175oC (347oF)

Zone 2: 210oC (410oF)

Zone 3: 185oC (365oF)

Baking time: 6 min

Conveyor belt

Pic 4: Crackers baking on a conveyor belt in the oven

The team was curious on how the cracker baked in the oven, and so we sent our Breadometer V-mole through, sandwiched between two sheets of crackers.

Crackers exit oven

Pic 5: Crackers exiting the oven

 

Breadometer

Pic 6: Breadometer test of crackers

We received the following thermal profile. At a maximum of 112oC (233oF) exit temperature, we reached an arrival time (93oC or 200oF) at 67% of the bake.  This is a third of the bake time, spent in the crumb set zone.  We believe this drives off the rest of the moisture in the cracker, leaving it to have a final moisture of less than 3%.

Thermal profile biscuits

Pic 7: Thermal profile of crackers baking in the oven


In order to understand and characterize the texture profile of the crackers, we used a Brookfield CT3 texture analyzer with a three point bend test to fracture the cracker. This fracture at 3 mm was at 2000g.  If quality required that this fracture be higher (or harder) >2000g,  the arrival time would need to be sooner in order to drive out more moisture.  This would mean the manipulation of zones 1 & 2 in the oven to bring the arrival time closer to 60%.  The ability to manipulate the baking profile to affect the product’s textural attributes is critical to consistently meet texture quality parameters. 

Cracker Texture Analysis

Pic 8: A Brookfield Texture Analyzer

Three point bend

Pic 9: A three point bend test for a cracker

We hope this helps you understand how you can characterize and quantify your baking process based on these tools. Any differences in ingredient or process can be seen with the Breadometer and quantified by the texture analyzer. Having a clear understanding of how your baking process works would yield higher quality products with less waste.

Let me know if I can be of help in your crafting your quality program. For more information, contact Lin Carson.