High-speed tortilla sheeting

by Laurie Gorton
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Tortilla experts note that sheeted and die-cut tortillas, when compared with pressed styles, tend to be less strong … unless made from laminated doughs.

“A sheeted tortilla will give a much more consistent product in shape and thickness but will not give the smooth and shiny appearance of a hot-press tortilla produced in a conventional dough-ball system,”explained Eric Riggle, vice-president, Rademaker USA.

Sheeting systems for flour tortillas resemble those for flatbread, noted Ken Hagedorn, vice-president, sales, and partner, Naegele, Inc. “Tortilla doughs, however, tend to be stiffer. The most important factor is being able to run very thin, sometimes less than 1 mm. This also means running at high belt speeds to match the speeds of tortilla ovens, typically 75 to 100 ft per minute. This all translates into the need for heavy-duty construction of the line.”

The demands made on such lines often necessitate wash down capability. Mr. Hagedorn said that wash down is standard for the Driem/Kaak sheeting lines that Naegele represents, but it is also required because of the corn meal sometimes used. “It can have a sandpaper, or grinding, effect on drive rollers and bearings,” he explained. “It is really important to be wash down to remove the grit formed during a production run with corn meal.”

Lamination manipulates the sheeting process to produce more elastic doughs. “A laminating belt set in a 90° configuration achieves more of a hand-stretched and higher-quality sheeted flour tortilla,” Mr. Hagedorn said.

With any high-speed process, changeover time can be critical, and so it is with sheeted flour tortillas. Rademaker added features to help minimize lost production time. “First, our lines run off a recipe management program contained within the PLC,” Mr. Riggle explained. This simplifies the set-up process whenever production changes. “Also, since these products are die-cut, we can offer carousel systems that store the various diameter tortilla cutters, thereby reducing the time it takes to manually put a single cutter into place and reducing the chance that the cutter is dropped or damaged at this changeover period.”

The extreme thinness of tortilla doughs influences the design of Rademaker’s reduction stations and how the gap and final dough thickness are controlled. “Heavy, robust and solid final gauging rollers coupled with unique gap adjustment methods ensure that a Rademaker customer is delivering the most consistent product to their customer,” Mr. Riggle said.

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