Consumers are searching for high-quality pizza crusts that deliver on flavor and texture.

In an age where modern technology meets lofty expectations, consumers are taking the artisan experience they get from craft-style baked foods and applying it to their pizza preferences.

“It’s not exclusively pepperoni, sausage and cheese anymore,” noted Eric Riggle, president, Rademaker USA. “There’s roasted garlic, wilted spinach and heirloom tomato pizzas now, and they give that homemade, artisanal look. It all has to do with that higher-quality eating experience that people are looking for. They want an interesting crust that has different characteristics and flavor than what they’re used to.”

Developing innovative crusts challenges the pizza producers, but it’s also creating more opportunities than ever before.

“Artisan pizza crust isn’t replacing what’s already in the market; there’s still a need for that traditional, value pizza,” Mr. Riggle observed, noting that many Rademaker customers are seeking to offer new pizza varieties as opposed to replacing what they currently make. “A higher-quality crust requires some new twists on pizza processing that are learned from existing technologies for other laminated bakery products.”

When processing pizza crust, matching the ­machine to the dough type is an important step for dough consistency.

In fact, the opportunities for creating new and exciting types of pizza crust are almost as vast as the crust styles themselves. For instance, Tromp Group Americas offers several different types of dough band forming, including stress-free and extruded that can be incorporated inline a variety of ways, depending on the particular pizza style and customer needs.

“We have several multi-purpose lines that are doing some straight-line pizza dough and can also process laminated dough from self-rising crusts,” said Jim Cummings, president, Tromp Group Americas, noting that the company manufactures pizza line equipment for both sheeted and pressed processes.

The sophisticated pizza palate doesn’t seek excitement from the toppings alone. For many, the experience starts at the crust for both the flavor profile and texture.

Oftentimes, bakers rely on fermentation and rest times to achieve new profiles.

“Fermentation can happen in multiple stages in the production process,” said David Moline, vice-president of sales and marketing, Moline Machinery.

For an open-textured crust, the bake profile is also a factor in the process.

For example, floor time can take place after mixing and before processing.

“On a lot of pizza systems, we’re including a pre-proofing stage after we’ve formed the dough sheet and possibly laminated,” Mr. Moline said, noting that a line can include a resting conveyor for an ambient proof. “The dough can relax for anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes on an overhead system prior to makeup and cutting. That allows the sheet to completely relax after it’s been reduced to nearly the final sheet thickness.”

Inline proofing can also impact the crust style.

“While pre-proofing significantly influences the final dough characteristics, inline proofing also benefits manufacturers who are looking for a particular pizza base,” said Claus Hetzner, technical sales, Fritsch Group. “The type of crust is controlled by the dough treatment before and during the sheeting process combined with floor time and adjustable proofing.”

Fermentation is important to consider at any point of the process and not just while it’s happening. When the equipment is doing its job properly, it will free the baker up to focus on that profile development.

“For an open-textured crust, a dough must be divided gently,” said John McIsaac, vice-president of strategic business development, Reiser. “We work relentlessly to divide dough gently but with great weight control. Our goal is to give the finished divided product the same characteristics as the original dough from the mixer. This allows the producer to focus on fermentation, ingredients and processes that make the product they want.”

With open-structure crusts, the bake profile can also come into play, Mr. Cummings noted.

“Our stone belt technology, combined with infrared burners, allow maximum flexibility for all types of finished crust textures,” he said.