Delicacy has long been a priority for sweet goods and pastry producers. These fragile treats require gentle handling to maintain their integrity. Flexibility, however, is becoming a greater priority as these categories require creativity to follow the latest market shifts.

“Production of pastry products has developed rapidly over the years as consumer trends have continued to evolve,” said Hans Besems, executive product manager, AMF Bakery Systems. “New ingredients, healthier products, fewer calories and hand-crafted products like artisan-baked pastries or croissants are very popular.”

These trends can go viral. Remember the cronut? Consumers are also asking for pastries that leave them with less guilt either through a clean label, fruit fillings or whole grain dough. Maybe the product portfolio needs to go the opposite direction with a focus on premium ingredients: nuts, caramels, real butter and chocolate. Incorporating global indulgences into a North American line can ease the cabin fever consumers are experiencing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

All of these trends require a versatile line that can still handle doughs gently and honor product integrity. Because consumers expect their sweet goods and pastries to be beautiful as well as delicious, automation becomes a baker’s best friend.

Flexibility in equipment settings allow bakers to adapt to changes in ingredients, whether its flour quality, healthier fats or premium ingredients.

“The pastry line process must face the unavoidable variability in the characteristics of the ingredients used to produce a desired product,” said Shilpa Builta, account manager, North America, Mecatherm. “Manufacturers must not only meet quality, cost and efficiency targets but also have the flexibility to cope with the markets’ changing demands. Rather than adapting the ingredients to the equipment, we need to use equipment that can be easily adapted to various ingredients.”

Mecatherm’s Mecapatisserie line allows operators to adjust at every step to deal with variations due to alternate ingredients whether they’re a simple change in flour quality or reformulating for a clean label.

Whole grains, for example, can result in a stiffer, drier dough, which can be more difficult to process. Full butter products are common on a pastry line, but bakers are also introducing healthier fats, too.

“They all pose their own changes to the process,” said John Giacoio, vice president, sales, Rheon USA. “We just have to handle it a little bit differently, but it’s just making an adjustment.”

Premium fats can come into play with laminated products like pastries. Pumps deposit the fat layer onto a dough sheet before it’s laminated. Bakers can choose from fats ranging from real butter to vegetable shortenings. Within the world of vegetable shortenings, bakers can find a variety of fats to meet their label needs whether that’s reduced saturated fat or vegan shortenings. All have their own processing needs, and if they aren’t handled well, that can compromise finished product characteristics.

“The AMF Tromp Fat Pump transfers all fats with a very short processing time directly above the dough sheet to minimize structural changes to the fat involved,” Mr. Besems said. 

In light of the many ingredients being used by bakers today, Rademaker USA redesigned its fat pump for easy processing, cleaning and maintenance.

A new fat pump from Fritsch, a Multivac company, improves the flow properties of butter and high-quality fats, producing a butter sheet for the lamination step.

Being clear about the formulation’s processing needs allows bakers to get the right equipment for their products. It not only can improve product quality, but it also can assist with sanitation needs.

“On the make-up tables there are specific depositors and strewing units that can handle a variety of filling types and nuts, but bakers need to be aware this equipment needs to be designed for wet cleaning depending on the types of allergens being processed,” said Nick Magistrelli, vice president of sales, Rademaker USA.

This article is an excerpt from the  April 2021 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on sweet goods, click here.