Baking Premixes: Customised solutions
While there are several companies that supply ready-made, tried-and-tested premixes in an astounding range of varieties to the baking industry, the fast growing trend is customised premix formulas produced specifically to meet individual bakery requirements.
Given the sky-rocketing prices of fuel – and therefore transport costs, of energy – and therefore refrigeration and processing costs, and of labour and storage costs, as well as the critical skills shortage in the baking industry, premixes certainly offer an all-round solution.
The benefits of using premixes are truly convincing:
• Convenience: depending on the type of premix, bakery staff need do no more than simply add liquid, or flour, or a few ingredients such as eggs or shortening.
• Consistent results: premixes contain all the ingredients required in precisely the right quantities, which guarantees consistency, reliable quality and absolute safety. Guaranteed results also reduce wastage.
• Reduced inventory: the amount of ingredients that must be acquired and stored is significantly reduced, as is the acquisition, transport, storage and labour costs involved in ordering and receiving stock and keeping an inventory.
• Quality: the fluctuations in the quality or availability of individual ingredients no longer affect the bakery and there is no need to adjust recipes to compensate.
• Reduced labour costs: the time and labour required to store, weigh and measure individual ingredients is eliminated.
• Reduced skills requirement: Simplified baking instructions and consistent results mean that low skills levels among bakery staff, particularly in small bakeries, can be accommodated.
• Expanded product ranges: bakers can offer an almost endless array of new and exotic offerings without special training or sourcing special ingredients.
• Global expertise: premixes allow bakers to tap into cutting-edge advances in international research and development and in baking technology and nutritional science.
• Addressing processing challenges: premixes can be formulated to address specific processing challenges unique to any one bakery, as well as issues such as shelf-life and texture.
Premixes are also available in many different formats. Because it is often cost-effective for large bakeries to buy flour in bulk, there are concentrates and wet mixes that allow bakers to take advantage of this by adding their own flour. Concentrates require only the addition of flour, yeast and water, while wet mixes, which comes in a paste form, is simply added to the flour. Full mixes combine concentrate and flour, and only the yeast and water is added. Prepared mixes contain everything, except the liquid.
Given all the benefits of using premixes, as well as the different premix formats available, it is hardly surprising that there is a vast range of premixes available from all the leading baking ingredient suppliers for almost every baked product imaginable – from bread, bread rolls and an incredible selection of speciality breads, to cakes, croissants, buns, muffins, doughnuts, scones and tarts. And within these broad categories, there are even more options – sweet, savoury, traditional, exotic and seasonal choices as well as health choices such as low GI, gluten-free, low fat and much more. These ranges of baking solutions are available from all the reputable baking ingredient suppliers, and will open a new world of baking convenience and baked goods options for your bakery.
So is there any reason why not all bakers are using premixes as a standard? The main concern for many bakeries is that using a standard premix does not allow them to differentiate themselves in the market by offering custom-made goods that carry their own unique creative signature.
Of course, today’s premixes are extremely versatile and do in fact allow bakers to enjoy all the benefits of using a premix, while still providing room for customisation and creativity. For example, flavours and extra ingredients can be added to the premix to provide variation and unique tastes. In addition, signature toppings, fillings and decorations allow for the baker’s individual touch. This flexibility does allow bakers to use premixes without losing their uniqueness in a highly competitive market. But what about those secret or time-honoured family recipes that are often the foundation of a bakery’s success?
In response to this, a mega-trend has swept through the baking industry to truly eliminate this last potential criticism that may keep bakers from switching to premixes: total customisation through which the leading ingredients specialists in the industry create premixes designed specifically for your bakery, based on your own recipes and factoring in the unique processing constraints and conditions within your bakery.
The starting point for the creation of your own range of signature custom premixes is to partner with one of the reputable ingredient suppliers who can offer this competitive edge for your bakery. The experts will guide you through the process of narrowing down what exactly you want – a secret recipe premix in bulk, with the option to add to or vary the basic mix produced; a nutritional benefit such as low GI or low fat; or a higher volume, a crispier crust or a longer shelf life.
In order to produce a premix that will meet all these requirements, your ingredients supplier will need a very thorough understanding of your business, your customers and your processing capabilities. The experts will then use their experience and expertise to create a product that meets these requirements and test the performance rigorously to ensure quality and consistency. Only once a product has been formulated and tested, can a price be negotiated. Of course, agreements need to be in place to protect your proprietary recipes and the ingredient supplier’s intellectual property.
For all these reasons, it is vital to use a reputable ingredient supplier with whom you can establish a relationship based on trust and mutual benefit. But, just as importantly, you need to select a reputable company with the right capabilities, because creating a bakery premix involves a lot more than just removing water from a formula. In fact, it is a science and an art, because so many variables come into play.
For example, a baker’s own recipes may require special ingredients to be added, or the baker may want to make different types of bread with one mix – using a smaller percentage of premix with flour for a good bread and a much higher percentage for a premium bread. The bakery itself may pose certain processing challenges, such as space constraints or few workers, which might make the addition of certain ingredients problematic.
After determining what needs to be included in the premix and what will be added by the end user, the food technologist has a preliminary formula and can begin the processes of ingredient selection and formula refinement.
The first challenge food technologists face when making a premix – whether a dry mix or a paste or concentrate – is compensating for those ingredients with significant levels of water, such as syrup, milk or eggs. The correct amount of the dried or powdered versions of the moist ingredients must be calculated, as well as the corrected amount of water needed to reconstitute the mix with proper absorption.
The improved availability of egg powders produced from eggs has certainly played a crucial part in the development of more convenient premixes, especially where only the egg yolk or egg albumen is required in a recipe. Egg powders can be included in dry mixes. Food technologists and bakers must carefully select and evaluate the different egg powders to ensure they achieved the desired results with the pre-mix.
Similarly, the flour used is also crucial, especially if the end user is adding the flour on the bakery premises. This is because flour quality varies from supplier to supplier and from crop to crop. For this reason, food technologists have to build in flexibility in the premix to compensate for factors such as varying protein levels and quality profiles. In addition, different combinations of leaveners can dramatically affect the texture and eating quality, while the right combinations of enzymes are often the difference between success and failure.
In terms of the shortening, fats and oils used, there is no simple solution either. For a dry premix, one of the dry, beaded forms of oil and shortening must be used or the oil and shortening must be plated onto the flour. Either way, the functionality may be affected and this must be compensated for during the formulation. Matters become even more complicated in the case of cake premixes, where the air usually incorporated during whisking the shortening, must be incorporated into an aqueous mixture using surfactants.
Despite these challenges, food technologists often have opportunities to improve on a scratch formula, by, for example, creating a blend fats, or having a fat manufactured to specification to produce a desired effect. They may also have access to enzymes and other ingredients, or the latest technology, resources that small bakeries simply don’t have.
During the development process, thorough bake testing is required, as well as other tests to determine, for example, potential ingredient interactions. But even once the ingredients have been perfected, there is more to a good premix – the formulation must be adjusted for tolerance to a range of eventualities, such as under- and over-mixing, time delays between mixing and baking, and storage conditions of the premix itself and the final baked product.
However, the final result is a truly unique and robust premix that not only captures your signature recipes, but is tolerant under numerous fluctuating circumstances, providing your bakery with all the benefits listed at the beginning of this article.
Premixes available from Supreme Flour, Famasons, Sunrich and South Bakels to name but a few.
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