Creating artisan crackers and international baked snacks like lavash, water crackers and other crisps in high-volume operations requires a totally different approach than for other artisan baked goods. Instead of retaining moisture in breads, for instance, specialty cracker producers strive to remove it to get a crunchy, delicate texture.

Kevin Knott, technical sales manager, Bühler Inc., recommended a combination of heating elements for European-style premium crackers.

“We have many installations of these products being made on hybrid ovens with high-energy burners in the first few zones and convection energy to complete the baking profile,” he said.

Ken Zvoncheck, director of process technology, Reading Bakery Systems, noted that the intensity of the heat in direct-gas-fired (DGF) ovens generally makes the crackers slightly harder to bite. As a result, bakers rely on extended proofing or laminating the dough to maintain a delicate, crispy texture.

For straight doughs, he suggested a combination of DGF followed by several zones of convection. That’s why hybrids have become increasingly popular.

“In a DGF oven, all of the fire or flame is in the oven so that’s why it’s very intense,” Mr. Zvoncheck explained. “But in a convection oven, all of the fire is outside the box. It’s in a penthouse above the oven, and you’re only blowing hot air onto the product itself, both top and bottom independently.”

Convection, he added, provides greater flexibility to bake premium and even gluten-free crackers.

“Some of these crisp products that have a larger area cannot be made on a DGF oven because you can’t pull the moisture out uniformly enough, and then you get latent checking after baking,” Mr. Zvoncheck said. “Some crackers can be only made with convection technology.”

Belting is critical to creating a plethora of artisan-style crackers. Mr. Zvoncheck suggested a denser CB3 or CB5 belt works well with DGF ovens while a more open mesh one allows the heated air to bake crackers from the bottom as well as from the top, creating a more efficient baking profile.

“Convection is the most effective way to extract moisture out of a product,” he said.

Creating authentic artisan breads and other baked goods requires not only passion and inspiration but also the correct combination of belting and heating technology to make sure everything turns out perfectly in the end.

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