Gourmet cookies are marked by their large premium inclusions, which can potentially get damaged during processing. Good equipment design is critical for protecting inclusions when cookie dough is divided into pucks. This mostly requires gentle handling of the dough, minimizing friction and large enough gaps to allow larger inclusions to pass through unharmed.

“The best equipment solutions will handle the cookie dough gently and deposit, form, extrude or divide it with the inclusions cleanly, accurately and with little temperature rise,” said Cesar Zelaya, bakery sales and technology manager, Handtmann. “Clean, precise dividing that occurs with the least amount of friction ensures the highest quality of dough. It also is the best way to reduce smearing, tearing, chipping and rough handling so the baker gets the highest return on his or her inclusion investment.”

Handtmann relies on its vane cell dividing process to protect the dough and inclusions from unnecessary work. The vacuum in the system tailors the pressure that moves the dough to its specific characteristics. This ensures the dough isn’t enduring any unnecessary pressure.

“Our patented vane cell dividing process handles sensitive batters and doughs by very delicately moving them with less friction through a product path that is up to five times shorter than other systems,” Mr. Zelaya explained.

A short path through the equipment can reduce the amount of friction, and therefore heat, imparted on the dough and inclusions.

“The longer the distance it’s traveling in the machine, the more heat that builds up,” said John Giacoio, vice president, sales, Rheon USA. “That heat will melt chips, and you wouldn’t get the same effect of the dough turning chocolate on you when it’s supposed to be a vanilla dough.”

When Rheon updates its co-extruder for cookies, the company focuses on reducing the trip the dough takes from hopper to extruder. This includes eliminating pinch points that could damage or bottleneck the dough. These co-extruders also reduce back pressure on the dough as it’s extruded, which also reduces friction and heat.

“The back pressure creates a lot of friction and force, which breaks particulates,” Mr. Giacoio said. “The standard machine is about 4.5 to 1 back pressure, but we can get our machine to a 1.5 to 1 back pressure, which is almost no back pressure whatsoever.”

Reiser’s Vemag double-screw portioning system divides the dough gently while retaining piece identity. The system also works with an array of attachments to give the product its final form — from a sharp edged puck to a “hand-scooped” look.

Friction and temperature work on a dough and make it more dense, which is not ideal for gourmet cookies.

“You really want the appearance to look good in texture and bite, and the best way to do that is to put minimal work or lowest stress on the dough as it goes through the machine,” Mr. Pallottini said.

RBS uses a low-force system on its new Genesis Pro WCS to push the dough through with less damage to the inclusions. It does this with a pair of feed rollers.

“The secret really is all about the tolerances and tightness of holding everything parallel to one another in a certain dimensional range,” he said. “If you look at our system, it’s a hopper, a pair of feed rollers, a filler block and a die, and that’s really what’s getting the dough through. It’s pretty simplistic, but the trick is designing everything so the tolerances and the feed roller are all tightly parallel to the filler block.”

The biggest threat, however, is the dividing itself. If the gap in the feed rollers or the diameter of the extruder head isn’t large enough, then premium inclusions risk not making it through intact.

“The secret ingredient is the design of our extruding heads,” said Franco Fusari, commercial director and co-founder, Minipan. “We have been working on two main features: increasing extrusion efficiency through bigger diameter rollers and improving their superficial grip to the dough.”

This improved grip has the benefit of reducing friction, preventing inconsistent temperature throughout the dough.

“The important thing is making sure the gap in the feed rollers is bigger than the inclusions you are planning to run,” said Sam Pallottini, director of cookie, cracker and pet food sales, Reading Bakery Systems (RBS). “Usually chocolate chunks are the biggest issue, but you can have nuts that are too large and cause issues. You can fracture the nuts, crushing them.”

Typically, these gaps are set at the commissioning of new equipment. Bakers need to know the size of their inclusions, but RBS offers different heads and secondary heads that provide the option for different-sized gaps.

Spooner Vicars designed its APEX 400 Wire Cut machine to provide control over the feed roller speeds and gap, giving bakers the ability to set the system to allow for larger inclusions.

Erika Record’s Formatic cookie machine can deposit cookies with both small and large particulates, including nuts, chocolate chunks, berries and other inclusions.

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