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With the demand for more and varied frozen dough products growing inside and outside the home, manufacturers are finding it necessary to fine-tune recipes to best meet consumers’ expectations of the finished baked food. They must manage sensory attributes through proper ingredient selection.

“In order to achieve the desired finished product texture from a frozen dough, it is important that the formulation has been properly optimized for frozen storage,” said Paula Labine, marketing director, milling, ADM.

Know your dough

There are three basic categories of frozen dough. The original — unfermented frozen (UFF) dough — made its debut in the 1970s. The dough is prepared, shaped, frozen and distributed. When it’s time, depending on the formulation, the dough may require thawing and proofing prior to baking. In some instances, no thawing is required; however, baking times tend to be longer, and the product requires a steaming oven.

Pre-fermented frozen (PFF) dough has been around since the 1990s. This is dough that has undergone some or all of its proofing prior to freezing. Referred to as ready-to-bake, PFF dough is faster to work with than UFF as it doesn’t require a proofing step after the freezer. This is especially true for layered dough products, such as croissants and pastry, which can go directly from freezer to oven. A defrosting step is often recommended for breads and baguettes. One of the biggest challenges with PFF dough is that temperature fluctuations during storage and transportation may cause the proofed structure to collapse.

“These two frozen dough formats help all types of bakers simplify the production process,” said Alex Peña, director of product development and technical services, Bellarise. “Costs are better controlled, and quality is more easily ensured. The PFF dough products give bakeries more control over their production times and enhance efficiency. In the case of foodservice customers and home bakers who lack proof boxes, PFF makes it easy to produce breads by skipping the proofing process altogether.”

The third category is referred to as par‐baked frozen dough. As the name suggests, this is dough that has been partially baked at low temperature into a crustless mass and then frozen. It bakes up fast — giving the item a golden-brown crust — and can be served quickly. It’s the secret behind quick-service pizza chains and many sub-style sandwich shops, as it helps them eliminate over-baking and food waste while preparing for an unexpected rush.

Moisture and ice management

With all three types of frozen dough, ingredient technology and processing must be carefully considered to ensure proper leavening and gas retention. Gluten strength is paramount for desirable shape, crumb structure and volume. A disrupted gluten network is typically attributed to ice crystal development during freezing and frozen distribution.

“Manufacturing frozen dough is a complicated process,” said Yanling Yin, director, research and development, bakery applications, Corbion. “Considerations must be made for safety, storage and distribution, which can only be undertaken by businesses that have the experience and access to distribution networks. Further, manufacturing frozen dough requires blast-freezing capabilities in order to quickly and safely prepare frozen baked goods at the highest possible quality.”

Ice crystal growth occurs readily at temperatures close to the dough’s freezing point. Temperature fluctuation leads to the melting of small ice crystals on the dough surface and the formation of larger ice crystals, a process known as recrystallization. Many studies on how frozen storage affects dough have cited ice recrystallization as the main detrimental factor to frozen dough product quality.

“Negative effects range from unstable or inconsistent finished product, to freezer burn, excessive condensation, icing breakdown or weeping, poor flavor development, and loss of crispness,” Ms. Yin said.

That’s where hydrocolloids come in to play. They bind and hold water. By binding water in dough, there is better moisture distribution throughout the dough.

“This limits crystal formation in dough during freezing, temperature abuse and frozen storage,” said Deborah Waters, senior business development manager, bakery, Kerry. “Yeast, which contains large amounts of water, is partially protected from freeze damage in this way, too.”

These water-binding ingredients can also preserve dough texture during freeze-thaw cycles.

“Hydrocolloids increase dough viscosity, which could slow down moisture migration and solids’ redistribution during frozen storage, especially during freeze-thaw cycles,” said Luc Casavant, baking application director at Lallemand.

Eggs can also help reduce the size of ice crystals.

“Eggs can provide some cryoprotection thanks to their protein and fat content,” said Elisa Maloberti, director of egg product marketing, American Egg Board.

Wheat protein and gluten are texturing ingredients that offer the added benefit of being plant-based proteins, Ms. Labine noted. Wheat protein works particularly well in frozen dough applications because it has a neutral flavor and allows formulators to deliver protein-forward products in a convenient format.

Ardent Mills markets high-fiber barley flour that has been shown to assist with improving freeze-thaw stability in frozen dough, said Vikram Ghosh, specialty sales.

While some proteins and fibers are hydrophilic, gums and starches are the more common hydrocolloids used to immobilize moisture in frozen dough.

“They can also interact with some of the native components such as starches and proteins to help increase tolerance during the freeze-thaw process, positively affecting the textural characteristics of the final product,” said Anita Srivastava, senior product development manager-bakery applications, Kemin Food Technologies. “It is important to remember, however, that too many hydrocolloids can be negative due to a competition for water from starches and proteins.

“Xanthan gum in formulation can strengthen the dough by forming a strong interaction with the flour proteins,” she continued. “Guar gum, on the other hand, is not considered a good gum for frozen dough as it produces rubbery crust and low crust thickness.”

Mr. Gennrich agreed with the benefits of using xanthan gum.

“Adding a small amount can prevent ice crystallization,” he said. “Each xanthan gum particle can hold 40 times its weight in water, providing excellent freeze-thaw stability.”

Some hydrocolloids may also assist with reducing breakage during shipment.

“Pectin is the best at improving storage life and the issue with freeze/thaw cycle stability,” said David Guilfoyle, group manager bakery/fats and oils, DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences. “Pectin has some limitations regarding supply. There are a couple of gum blends that will work similarly to pectin. These are locust bean with xanthan and locust bean with guar.”

This article is an excerpt from the April 2020 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on texture, click here.