When consumers open the box, they expect to see a collection of even, whole crackers. The last thing they want is a bunch of broken ones or crackers that fall apart as soon as they are pulled from the carton. While a sturdy cracker that can withstand shipping and handling begins with a strong dough, every part of process has an impact on the integrity developed in the finished product.

It begins with a well-made dough, mixed for the proper amount of time at the right temperature and hydration. But every step after that process — proofing when necessary, laminating, sheeting, cutting and baking — all can either preserve the cracker’s integrity or undermine it.

“You have to look at every step because if we have one weak spot in that whole process, the cracker is going to be less than ideal,” said Ken Zvoncheck, director of process technology, Reading Bakery Systems. “I might have the best dough in the world and the best baking profile, but if I’m not reducing the dough sheet correctly, the cracker won’t be optimized. Once you get the different processes synchronized, you know you’re going to have a very nice product.”

Cracker dough integrity can be compromised at the sheeting line and in the oven. As the sheet is reduced, gluten can suffer damage if it is not reduced properly. Checking is typically seen as an issue of uneven moisture removal, but it can also be impacted by multiple steps in production.

“All stages of production can contribute to product checking: consistent ingredient recipe, mixing technology, correct product docking, correct baking process optimization and ambient cooling parameters,” said David Hamilton, sales director, Spooner Vicars. “If checking has recently occurred, investigate any change to the whole process, including factory ambient conditions.”

And between these two processes, crackers can lose their shape in the transfer from rotary cutter to oven, which creates mismatched, inconsistent product. Bakers who optimize these steps help ensure every box of crackers delivered to the end consumer is full of whole, consistent product. 

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