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From the freezing to the oven

New kind of frozen bread may be a novelty in supermarkets and convenience stores

Staple food for many civilizations, made in several shapes and to several recipes, bread is even today produced with almost the same ingredients used since the 7th century BC, when the Egyptians discovered that, for the dough to become lighter and smoother, they had to add a liquid fermented from spelt, a lower quality wheat used in those days. It was they too who started to use clay ovens to bake the dough.

Even with so much knowledge built up over this long period, the result of the mixture of the ingredients and of the cooking is not always a standardized product, particularly in the case of the French rolls, which account for over half the annual sales of the Brazilian bakery sector – which, according to figures from the Brazilian Association of the Bakery and Confectionery Industry (Abip) are around R$16 billion. This finding led to an unprecedented study that seeks to establish a new technological standard for the process of producing bread from frozen dough, used in supermarkets and convenience stores.

The purpose of the research was to give frozen bread the characteristics of texture and taste of the bread from the bakery. It was carried out by a company from São Paulo called Fmaiis and coordinated by Professor Carmen Cecília Tadini, from the Chemical Engineering Department of the Polytechnic School of the University of São Paulo (USP). Funded by FAPESP’s Small Business Innovation Research program (PIPE), the project studied three formulations and three processes of freezing: freezing the dough for the bread unleavened, freezing the dough leavened, and freezing the bread pre-baked.

The best results were found in the combination of a formula that balances the ingredients (wheat flour, water, yeast and additives) and freezing the bread pre-baked. The balance allows the dough to stand up better to the stress of being frozen and unfrozen. After freezing, the pre-baked bread is taken to the point of sale and its baking is concluded as needs be. The advantage of this choice is that, at the point of sale, only an oven is required, and there is no need for specialized labor.

The French roll is the kind most consumed in Brazil, it has a short shelf life, and in its formulation there are no ingredients to prolong its characteristics of freshness. “Besides the great commercial impact, because it involves questions like the easiness with which the bread is marketed in small sized places, the project provides for production being carried out in a totally mechanized industrial process and with guarantees of the quality of the product being maintained”, Carmen reckons.

Specialized in the production of ingredients in powder form for baking and confectionery, Fmaiis wants the project to make its products more competitive and attractive to the consumer. The idea arose at the end of 1998, when production engineer Luiz Fábio de Toledo França, the company’s administrative and financial manager, turned to Professor Carmen to develop a product that was missing on the market. “The idea was to make a frozen roll that, when consumed, would be as close as possible to ready made bread”, says França.

The technology for producing frozen bread on an industrial scale has now been used for over a decade abroad, but chiefly for sandwich loaves. French bread rolls have been very little evaluate. In this study, which began in 1999 and is planned to be finished at the end of this year, several parameters involved in the process of manufacture were analyzed, such as the formation of the dough, fermentation, pre-baking and the stages of freezing and the unfreezing later, besides the best conditions for storage and distribution.

To determine the product’s shelf life, physical parameters (appearance, mass, specific volume and water content) its texture (firmness, elasticity and how chewable it is) and an analysis of the insides of the loaves, which gives the measure of the porosity of the dough, were assessed during the frozen storage time, which lasts up to 28 days.

Analysis by the senses
To assess the results of the project, Professor Carmen’s team, in partnership with researchers from the Sensorial Analysis Laboratory of the Adolfo Lutz Institute in São Paulo, organized rounds sensorial tests with a group of judges made up of 15 men and 18 women, with ages varying between 20 and 60. All previously trained by Lutz’s team. The first stage ascertained whether the testers detected a significant difference between the pre-baked frozen bread rolls and the fresh ones, as to appearance, texture on cutting and sensation in the mouth. In the course of one week, they assessed samples of frozen pre-baked rolls after one hour of final baking.

The fresh rolls were processed with the same formulation as the frozen dough and baked on the same day. No significant differences were noted between the samples, with regard to the sensation in the mouth and the texture on cutting, and only as to appearance after being frozen for three days or more. The results showed that the frozen pre-baked rolls were readily accepted by the evaluators.

The second stage of the analysis compared the frozen pre-baked rolls with the similar product sold in supermarkets. The bread developed in the project was approved in all its attributes assessed (appearance, texture, taste and intention for purchasing), unlike the commercial brand. 49 men and 38 women, aged between 17 and 62, took part in this test.

The next step in the project is in the hands of Fmaiis, to take the product onto the market. Management is reassessing the sector, due to the great turmoil and uncertainties in the economy, particularly regarding the cost of importing the wheat and equipment. According to the company’s estimate, there is a market to be reached in the medium term in the order of 400,000 tons a year, with approximate sales of R$600 million a year, made up of convenience stores, highway gas stations and supermarkets. Fmaiis hopes to get 1% of this market, which is equivalent to sales of R$6 million a year. And, to do so, they intend to apply all the knowledge acquired in the development and testing of the frozen pre-baked bread rolls.

The Project
Study of the Process of Freezing Bread Rolls (nº 98/14847-3); Modality Small Business Innovation Research Program (PIPE); Coordinator Carmen Cecília Tadini – USP/Fmaiis; Investment R$ 81,482.00 and US$ 43,137.19