Laminating: Layers of Dough

by Shane Whitaker
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Many baked foods begin as a sheet of dough, and starting with a uniform thickness is important, especially when making laminated products such as pastries, crackers, croissants, etc. Lamination is the process of layering the dough sheet to create a flaky texture. Uniformity of the layers assist in bakers’ efforts to make high quality baked foods.

The sheeting and laminating process once was a labor intensive process for the baker with rolling pin in hand, but today a range of industrial lines process hundreds and even thousands of pounds of dough per hour, stretching and folding the dough to create the layered structure of these products. These lines continue to evolve with greater automation features than ever before, while still gently handling the dough.

Nonetheless, some of the latest product trends using sheeting and laminating lines require that these lines are robust and capable of running at higher speeds.

PRODUCT TRENDS.

“Flatbreads and wraps have really taken off as a low-cal alternative to conventional bread, and that mandates a robust machine that can handle the thin dough at high speeds and still give a consistent weight and shape,” said Eric Riggle, vice-president, Rademaker USA, Hudson, OH. “Most of the lines we equip include solid gauging rollers at the end of the line and a heavier duty execution to withstand the increased pressure of these stiffer and thinner doughs.”

In addition to thin dough breads, Jerry Murphy, president of RONDO, Moonachie, NJ, indentified gluten-free products as one of the latest processing trends for sheeting and laminating lines. “Many customers are expanding their product reach beyond pastry into growing and emerging categories such as flatbreads and gluten free,” he said. “The expertise and knowledge gained by RONDO with laminated doughs over the years makes the processing transition for these sometimes tricky products translate quite well.”

Another trend identified by Mr. Riggle is the production of handheld baked foods. “Smaller products mean faster stroke rates on cutters, guillotines and transfer units,” he said. “Rademaker has developed faster guillotines and innovative solutions for transferring and producing these smaller dough products. Rademaker is constantly being approached to make their existing designs faster, more accurate, more reliable and still be cost effective.”

Dieter Wolf, marketing manager, Fritsch GmbH, pointed out that bakers are processing more soft doughs that require two to three hours of resting time after mixing and are using sponge doughs such as sourdough or biga and more natural doughs without baking improvers. The company’s range of sheeting and laminating systems from reversible dough sheeters to its Laminator 300 offer the necessary features for processing these doughs.

GENTLE ACTION.

The Laminator 300, which is available from Fritsch USA, Cedar Grove, NJ, uses the company’s satellite and calibrating heads to gently handle dough. All stations are equipped with sensors that constantly monitor the shape of the dough loop at all transfer points and automatically adjust the conveyor speeds to prevent compression or stretching of the dough sheet. Its fat pump uniformly layers shortening, margarine or butter on the dough sheet, and the electronically controlled folding units are specially coated to repel dough and lay it down the same way every time for perfectly laminated dough.

The Laminator 300 Plus is specifically designed for soft doughs, and a separate dough feeding station with an extra-long supply table ahead of the third sheeting unit allows bakers to either feed the dough manually or use an optional extra dough sheeter.

Rademaker sheeting lines monitor and maintain consistent flow-through at the reduction stations so as to not damage the dough, according to Mr. Riggle. “This is done automatically, which means that a customer does not have to employ a highly skilled worker to operate our line,” he said. “The product benefit is that you have an end product that hasn’t been damaged by being pushed or pulled through the process.”

RONDO’s industrial laminating systems are designed to treat the dough as gentle as possible to create higher quality pastries, according to Mr. Murphy. Its components are designed to impart the least amount of energy into the dough as possible. “You can see this philosophy clearly at the satellite head, which has 16 rollers and a diameter of 495 mm, which is by far the largest system available in the market,” he said. “Additionally the gentleness of the sheeting process is improved by the company’s patented system of two bottom rollers that sheet the dough in a progressive manner.”

Shawn Moye, executive director of sales, Reading Bakery Systems, said companies are looking to fully automate the sheeting and laminating process using gap sensors to determine gauge roll position and automated servos to move the rolls to this position. “This allows for full recipe download at startup and immediate and accurate response during operation,” he said. “Many bakers are also using laser-based dough sensing devices to determine dough height prior to entering the gauge rolls. This coupled with cascading speed control of the line allows more accuracy during the operation.”

ADDED FLEXIBILITY.

At iba 2009 this past October, RONDO introduced the Curl & More, a new piece of equipment that can be used for producing croissants with large amounts of filling. It is a flexible machine that can also produce curled pastries such as croissants or soft pretzel sticks, and depending on the pastry size, it produces filled and unfilled croissants, or other curled pastries, in two to six rows, achieving a capacity up to 12,000 units per hour. Its innovative filling device enables the application of large filling quantities, resulting in a dough-to-filling ratio of 1:1. “Until now, the industry believed that a ratio of dough to filling of this magnitude could not be achieved,” Mr. Murphy added.

The Curl & More can be used as a standalone machine or with automatic feeding such as the RONDO Modular Laminating Concept (MLC) feeding line. RONDO has focused on extending the range of applications for the MLC, a modular system for the automatic production of dough blocks and dough bands, according to Mr. Murphy. “Whether the baker produces puff, Danish, croissant pastry or yeast and bread dough, RONDO MLC increases productivity and guarantees a constantly high-quality level of products,” he said. “Best of all, the design modularity of the RONDO MLC makes its construction quite compact and, therefore, space saving.”

Bakeries want the sheeting and laminating lines they purchase today to be flexible and able to accomodate the products of tomorrow, according to Mr. Riggle of Rademaker. This means designing tools that are interchangeable and get a bakery from one product size to another quickly, minimizing costly setup time, he added.

SANITATION FOCUS.

RONDO also launched a new industrial sheeting and laminating line at iba in Germany that can be washed down. “The RONDO washdown line is made of stainless steel and features many detailed solutions that improve and simplify the cleaning process,” Mr. Murphy said. “For example, the line has smooth and slanted surfaces that enable water to run off easily, which prevents water or particles from collecting in corners and tight sections. The belt has sealed edges and can be released quickly and easily to allow access for cleaning of the underside and the tabletop.”

Rademaker’s Sigma line was designed to be the easiest to run, maintain and clean in the market, according to Mr. Riggle. “Its immediate innovations had to do with the accessibility of critical maintenance areas and the ability for us to troubleshoot a line remotely via a modem and for a client to clean a line quickly and get it back into production as fast as possible,” he added. “Customers want to run their lines for longer production runs in between shut-downs for sanitation and maintenance. Our machine improvements have addressed this important topic.”

Fritsch also touts the ease of maintenance and sanitation of its Laminator 300 and 300 Plus. Designed for continuous operation, the unit has easily removable flour containers, quick-release mechanisms on all conveyor belts and removable folding channel walls. Its cross-roller uses a patented tooth-belt drive that does not require lubrication.

Reading’s latest advances to its sheeting and laminating equipment have been made with food safety in mind. “We removed all unnecessary guarding to avoid possible insect harborage locations,” Mr. Moye said. “We also have created open-frame designs to ensure that during periods of sanitation all points around the machine are accessible. These same designs with food safety in mind have also created machinery with more direct drives and accessibility for maintenance.”

He also noted that sanitation and maintenance are key components because most bakers run these lines for up to three weeks without stopping. “They oftentimes have only eight hours to do any sanitation and maintenance on the machinery that may be required and then run for another three weeks straight,” Mr. Moye added.

Sheeting and laminating equipment already produces a wide assortment of baked foods, yet these lines will need additional flexibility as bakeries continue to add even more new products. Equipment manufacturers have introduced several new pieces of equipment as well as continued to improve previous lines to help bakeries meet the latest consumer trends and to have equipment that is easily maintained and sanitized. ◾

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