Running a thermal profile for product optimization with the Breadometer.

To accurately produce high-quality, high-yield baked goods, replace guesses and opinions with hard data. Thermal profiling dough and oven temperatures with an in-transit, portable data recorder has many benefits to the commercial wholesale or retail bakery. Here are 5:

1. Consistent dough proofing

The importance of proofing must not be discounted. Maintaining the consistency of the final proofing environment throughout the year by utilizing relative humidity and temperature measuring instruments is the proven method to avoid numerous yield-stealing process problems in the commercial bakery. Placing a thermal profiler in a pan, and magnetically attaching a  vapor sensor outside the pan connected to the thermal profiler confirms process consistency no matter the environmental conditions.

Given its cycle time and %RH / temperature conditions, proofing is the “bioreactor” of the breadmaking process. Temperatures control the speed of yeast fermentation and also determine enzyme activity (i.e. in-situ production of molecules, such as WE-AXs, dextrins, and lysolipids). Upon exit from the proofer,  if dough temperatures exceed 100°F (38°C), the gluten matrix becomes more susceptible to rupture, causing gas bubble coalescence or foam instability, thus increasing the need for dough strengtheners and vital wheat gluten use. Additionally, xylanases, amylases, and lipases will accelerate activity rates, impacting the original  formula balance established to stabilize the foam inside the dough.

2. Confirmation of oven reliability

Profile the actual oven rather than product temperatures using a combination of ambient thermocouples and convective heat flow sensors to benchmark existing oven(s) prior to choosing a new oven or to confirm an existing oven’s current status. An oven balancing tool utilizes a thermal profiler to record data from three flexibly placed sensor panels for this work.  Rather than attaching individual thermocouples, three magnetically affixed panels are arrayed left to right across the tunnel (or on high to low shelves in rack ovens), each with an ambient thermocouple and solid state mass puck to plot consistency of radiant and convective heat flow throughout the oven, while baking a particular product variety.

Direct gas-fired tunnel ovens are typically 50% efficient; meaning that about half of the total heat produced by the oven is consumed to bake the dough load. One  pound of dough needs approximately 300 BTU to transform into baked bread. However, the most important measure for optimum baking is how fast or slow the BTUs are absorbed by the product. The timing at which the thermal events in the S-Curve take place depends entirely on how heat is transferred and absorbed by the product.

Oven conditions that control how much heat is used to bake the product include the following:

  • Burner output (BTU/H)
  • Burner tri-zone settings
  • Temperature control during production gaps or full oven load
  • Coloraider settings
  • Exhaust Baffle adjustments
  • HVAC facilitation

3. Product quality and clean label reformulation

Proper thermal profiling helps minimize or eliminate the incidence of over- and under-baking. No one wants a doughy crumb that appears to be underbaked in its center, or an overbaked bread with a dry, crumbly crumb that lacks softness and resiliency. This is particularly important when developing reformulations to bake a better clean label product.

Ensure optimum bake-out with S-Curve management to reveal Yeast Kill, Starch Gelatinization, and Arrival stages at the proper percentage(%) of bake time. Using a special 6- or 3-channel thermal profiler accessory, repeatable data via consistent placement of the insertion sensors can be obtained. The S-Curve can also be a useful tool for bakeries located in high altitudes.  Engineers and R&D personnel may establish the optimum thermal event values in order to  ensure throughput, texture and moisture-content targets for long shelf-life.

Control  water removal from the product, preserving  as much moisture as possible during baking while consistently achieving an optimum dough-to-crumb transition and obtaining  a golden-brown crust.

Eliminate mono- and di-glycerides (e.g. GMS) used to provide a few days extra of crumb softness and product freshness. A properly baked loaf of bread, formulated with a maltogenic amylase (and no emulsifiers), can remain fresh for at least three  weeks.

4. Cooling profiling for fresh keeping

Control cooling loss and preserve as much moisture as possible during cooling while consistently meeting minimum bagging temperature.

Achieve a balanced cooling profile in terms of temperature and time required to obtain proper results prior to bagging. Remember, bread loses about 2.0–3.0% weight during cooling, and the loss  is valuable water. Stop over- or under-cooling bread as a consequence of seasonal variations that impact ambient air.  The method to optimize cooling lines is to run a thermal profile. After depanning and prior to packaging, a thermal profiler can ride on the spiral conveyor or among the fixed location to obtain a chart of baked goods and ambient temperatures that build a library of consistency to track and control this important stage of the production process.

5. Ensure FSMA compliance

The FSMA Final Rule for Preventive Controls for Human Food (21 CFR §117.155 and 21 CFR §117.160) mandates food processing companies verify and validate the post-bake Hazards Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP).  AIB International’s Kill Step Protocol is a common method of accomplishing this.

Kill steps in the production process (e.g. baking and pasteurization processes) are designed to guarantee the absence of microbial pathogens in food products with a proactive stance. These verification and validation activities must ensure that preventive controls established in the Food Safety Plan are consistently applied to control biological hazards, such as, E. coli or Salmonella.

Gain FSMA compliance by utilizing the thermal profiler as the data collector for performing kill step work. The AIB has laid out the method of performing multiple profile runs which cover the entire oven to collect 30 rows of data that are distilled into the coolest, slowest channel to reach safe exposure criteria as the benchmark for a particular variety baked in a particular oven.

Kill step calculators

AIB International has developed a series of 10 individual Excel kill step calculators. To simplify the data collection and analysis, innovative software tools enable multiple calculations and accept thermal profile data directly. Working in conjunction with the AIB, the BakeWATCH Kill Step Calculator was developed.  The calculator automates the data collection, individual dough channel validation, and report generation  of thermal inactivation parameters (D and Z value) without the error-prone need to export data from a thermal profiler. The same AIB product varieties are selected from a drop-list, and additional varieties and product types may be configured with the User Variety Manager feature. Access to kill step execution capabilities in-house eliminates the need to hire external consultants annually.

A Robust Bakery Toolkit = Competitive Advantage

Using a combination of the tools mentioned here, bakeries can raise market competitiveness through high-yield production and the supply of consistent quality baked goods. Investing in measurement, verification and compliance technologies stand to help bakeries increase profit margins and deliver consistent baked goods that drive brand loyalty.

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