The final step for most artisan breads before baking is scoring, which helps control the expansion of the loaf during the ovenspring phase of baking. Unique hand scoring is sometimes referred to as the baker’s signature, but automated lines will turn to scoring equipment do perform this task.

Mecatherm, Schirmeck, France, has worked on improving its scoring equipment, according to Cyril Munsch, the company’s sales director. It offers options to score products using a robotic scoring device equipped with knives and, for stickier products, water. “The same scoring device will work with blades and/or water, just by changing the ramp,” he said. “The water cut gives us more flexibility to duplicate a large variety of cutting shapes.”

After the bread is scored, it moves to the oven, where it is widely accepted that steam needs to be used in the baking of artisan breads. Steam during the first few minutes of baking delays the setting of the crust to achieve maximum ovenspring and assists in creating a shiny exterior that may be crusty or chewy, while keeping the interior moist.

Because of the product’s high water content and the fact that no improver is used, Mr. Munsch said, “The oven then becomes the key in getting the right crumb structure, as well as the product final volume.”

Mecatherm offers two tunnel ovens dedicated to artisan products. The FTP is a single-deck stone tunnel oven designed for authentic baking of the products on stones, while its FTM is a 3-deck tunnel oven featuring the company’s patented Bottom Bake Booster (BBB). “This feature guarantees exact control of the amount of energy we bring during the different baking stages to the bottom of the product to control ovenspring, as well as crust thickness,” Mr. Munsch added.

Generating the gases that give artisan breads their large open structures is critical to their production, noted Bob Marraccini, vice-president, RONDO, Moonachie, NJ. And to achieve this, the oven belt temperature needs to be a minimum of 450°F, he said. When initially asked about the key to baking artisan products, Mr. Marraccini responded “steam and stone;” however, he later recanted saying it doesn’t matter if an oven uses a stone or steel hearth, but that the oven has to be a minimum of 450°F. Stone will retain heat much better, and thus, it holds in moisture better, he added.

WP Kemper Bakery Systems offers a range of energy-efficient thermal oil ovens that use central boilers to heat the oil as well as generate steam. Stone is generally preferred in single-pass tunnel ovens, but hinged-plate steel is used in multi-deck ovens because stone is too heavy.

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