In a proverbial black-and-white retail world, consumers are searching for some color. The cookie-cutter look is out, and the fresh, homemade look is in.

“Consumers are seeking greater variety and personalization in all aspects of life, including food,” said Bruce Campbell, executive product manager, AMF Bakery Systems. “The typical sandwich shop or quick-service restaurant needs to offer a variety of premium bread and roll products and appeal to consumers’ changing preferences.”

Artisan demand is transforming the marketplace.

“Restaurant chains are all looking for ways to upgrade their menus, and that is creating a want to add brioche rolls, pretzel rolls, and crispy pan and hearth sandwich rolls,” said Mark Rosenberg, chief executive officer of Gemini Bakery Equipment/KB Systems. “All over the country, restaurants are offering a wide range of rolls to make tastier sandwiches.”

Marked by yeast reduction or the incorporation of ancient grains, artisan products are often higher in nutrients and perceived as fresher. Glazed brioche hamburger buns, artisan crusty bread, and sourdough or slider rolls are a few examples of what consumers are looking for, said Richard Breeswine, president and c.e.o. of Koenig Bakery Systems.

Adding artisan buns and rolls to product portfolios can meet the demands of the younger generations, and if incorporated smoothly into a company’s manufacturing process, artisan baked foods offer a payback with consumers’ willingness to spend more for quality and diversity.

“Running hamburger and hot dog buns is a commodity market,” said John McIsaac, vice-president of strategic business development at Reiser. “If producers can also run artisan-style rolls, they can differentiate themselves in the market.”

However, simply calling a product “artisan” or sticking a label on a bag won’t cut it, said John Giacoio, vice-president of sales at Rheon USA. Consumer palates are more refined, and a product’s appearance is crucial. Success in the buns and rolls category requires a process that allows the dough to develop flavor and structure before being formed.

“Artisan products often mean soft doughs with high hydration, long dough resting time, use of sourdoughs, and little or no baking improvers,” Mr. Breeswine explained. “Processing soft doughs can be a challenge because they tend to be stickier and thus are harder to process over various modules of a makeup line.”

While artisan and conventional products have structural and formulation differences, it is possible for a bakery to incorporate diversity into a high-volume line. Though it does require some adjustments, the return on investment by filling this artisan demand might be worth a look into an all-in-one line.

A tweak here and there

For bakeries seeking incremental artisan changes to already formulated products, a good move involves altering the bun’s or roll’s appearance.

To achieve the artisan “look,” shape plays a crucial role. Rondo’s RONDObot forms round artisan buns out of rectangular, high-hydrated dough pieces with a weight range of 80 to 800 grams.

“By programming the different rounding phases in six directions, the bun may be shaped in an artisan way,” explained Coen Nikkels, marketing and business development manager, Rondo.

Oil can also prevent sticking and achieve clear deformation marks on a final product.

Installing an artisan bun or roll on an original line can begin with small changes and examining how well the process works before moving on to bigger alterations.

“The process should not vary a lot whether a bakery produces conventional or artisan buns,” Mr. Breeswine stated. “Every dough should be treated with care, and makeup equipment should be able to process specialty doughs as well as traditional doughs — in the best case, in one and the same production line.”

Overall, artisan production is all about treating the dough as gently as possible. Magnus Soeson, area sales manager of North America with Sveba Dahlen, a Middleby Bakery company, also encouraged bakers to use different types of nonstick aid such as flour and oil when necessary to handle these softer doughs.

To manage the bulk fermentation, a consistent spec flour with a lower protein flour can be used, said Patricia Kennedy, president and c.e.o. of WP Bakery Group USA.

“Employees have to control the process much more carefully with a quality artisan dough process, and the machines have to be able to handle this type of dough without sticking,” she said. “All this needs to be carefully planned and controlled.”

When creating a crustier roll on a traditional line, bakeries can use a simple trick of a perforated pan, Mr. Rosenberg noted.

Artisan buns and rolls also need a longer proofing time between makeup and baking, said Mr. Breeswine. This requires an adjustment with the automatic proofer or proofing chamber and could change the occupancy of the oven.

“Bakeries might need to adjust their operation so that the makeup line, proofer and oven are occupied at all times for a good return on investment of their equipment,” he said.

Before settling on such adjustments, bakeries must view the process as a whole. Other equipment changes might have an advantage.

“Always look at the asked-for final product and then try to get as close as possible with your current line by doing small changes on the line and also the formula,” Mr. Soeson said. “If the result doesn’t match the request, don’t bother to do a ‘half mess.’”

Mixing and matching

If artisan products require greater adjustments, this is when additional functional equipment comes in to play.

Mr. Campbell suggested incorporating a second makeup line alongside the bun or roll line to create maximum efficiency.

“For instance, an AMF Tromp SFA Sheeting Line alongside a standard high-speed AMF Accupan Roll Line makes artisan-style baguettes while still using the same mixing, proofing, baking and cooling process,” he explained.

Two equipment areas after the mixers where artisan production will need alterations are the divider and oven. Typically, the process for artisan baked foods is slower, and dividers tend to be stress-free. Erika Record Baking Equipment’s volumetric dividers within its Colbake system for bread and roll production have a standard and a gentle setting for less de-gassing.

To improve its Vemag divider, Reiser’s waterwheel flow-dividing technology can run artisan-style products with greater scaling and product quality. The company often works with other suppliers for optimal results. It also teams up with Gemini Bakery Equipment for speed-plus-gourmet results when it comes to proofing, moulding and panning, Mr. McIsaac noted.

Although Rheon’s lines can make pan bread, its gentle dividers can handle high-hydration, long-floor-time dough without damaging its structure.

“You cannot use a pocket divider for artisan breads because it degases the dough and damages the structure,” Mr. Giacoio said. “You need a stress-free line to gently handle and form the bread.”

He added that a hearth oven, often used for artisan bread, can be added to the end of the line and the introduction of steam at the beginning of the baking process is important for a crusty bread.

While the Multipurpose Line for Specialty Bread from Minipan can shape conventional buns and rolls, to achieve artisan bread, Franco Fusari, co-owner and commercial director, Minipan, suggested adding the company’s r_EVOLUTION Line x Artisan Bread. This sheeting system comes alongside the multipurpose line to shape dough with a stretch-and-fold technique and sheet generator, which replaces old school extruders with an ancient yet efficient feature for in-line long resting product.

“The oven technology also needs to be considered,” Mr. Nikkels said. “In general, high-speed bun ovens are direct-fired thermal ovens; artisan products are normally baked on a stone floor.”

For greater quality when using thermal ovens, a separate sheeting line can be added as a bypass, he added. It can take the highly hydrated artisan dough from the hopper and create a soft, continuous dough band that is shaped and then sent to the existing line to be proofed and baked.

Gemini Bakery Equipment/KB Systems has installed several systems with alternate makeup lines that then feed a common proofer and oven.

“We have learned that an oven designed to produce a crispy specialty product that requires high-quality steam and longer bake times can also produce a soft bun properly,” Mr. Rosenberg said.

Tecnopool’s spiral oven can be customized to the product type. For example, the conveyor speed can be slowed or quickened, and the oven includes a steam option. Additionally, it saves energy by using thermal oil and minimizing temperature loss.

Erika Record’s ovens can be used for artisan and traditional products. Its Tagliavini Atlas Compact, Double Deck Tunnel and Backtechnik Cyclothermic Tunnel ovens can use a variety of belt materials, including mesh or stone for artisan rolls and buns. Its ovens are also flexible for various product sizes and production speeds.

This article is an excerpt from the December 2019 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on bun and roll technology, click here.