There are clear requirements for the proofing process. The dough may be resting, but its transformation process does nothing but rest. The question is, always, how to improve the process? Technology brings new answers.
Technology innovation not only ensures the right temperature, airflow and humidity settings, but also addresses a priceless ingredient in baking: time. Reading Bakery Systems (RBS) recently launched a new multi-pass proofer, which was designed to do both. It is designed to be flexible in function, footprint, and form.
The ‘pass’ in multi-pass
The new multi-pass proofer automatically controls the heat and humidity inside the proofing chamber, perfecting the environment in the proofing chamber to allow the yeast to develop, resulting in flavorful end products. It precisely controls proofing parameters to optimize the process so that the dough develops faster, with improved consistency. The new proofer enables controls via an intuitive PLC touchscreen. “Setpoints can be entered onto the touchscreen to increase or decrease air circulation speeds, increase the temperature, or change the relative humidity settings. The system uses thermocouples and humidity sensors inside the chamber to monitor the actual conditions, and the system automatically adjusts to achieve the setpoints,” explains Chris Kline, R&D Engineer, RBS. Process and machine monitoring is done at the Operator Interface Terminal, where the operator has access to all recipe and process controls, which can all be adjusted during production as conditions change.
The temperature of the proofer can be adjusted from 70°F to 100°F (21°C – 38°C) and the relative humidity of the proofer can be adjusted from 45% to 85%. The temperature and humidity settings for different products can be saved in the recipe screens, to optimize proofing efficiency. Moreover, the full enclosure around the machine provides insulation and is designed with doors and access points to facilitate cleaning and inspection, which also contributes to minimizing downtimes.
The multi-pass proofer is built with five independent conveyors with variable frequency drives (VFD). Their speed can also be adjusted via the touchscreen interface. Each of the transfer points between the conveyor tiers is also fully adjustable, to optimize product transfers.
The five-pass proofer packs 42 m of proofing distance in a 9 m-long machine, saving big on floorspace in the bakery. “We’ve taken the ‘multi’ in multi-pass to a new level. This design has a lot of efficiencies, but the smaller footprint vs. a comparable production line is significant,” Kline highlights. Aside from freeing up space in the bakery, nesting multiple conveyors into a single enclosure lowers the overall volume of heated space, which also saves on energy requirements.
The new proofer requires a minimum of five meters of ceiling height. It can come with different widths, to match the equivalent RBS oven widths. The standard design has an overall length of 16 m, including the infeed and discharge conveyor extensions.
RBS designed this machine to meet its SafeShield Program standards, making cleaning and sanitation much easier. The specialist illustrates: “The drive roll bearings are located in the drive cabinet area – and not near the product zone – allowing for ‘exposure-free’ bearing lubrication and inspection.”
One way to go is up
Another recent development in proofing technology is built around flexibility. Mecatherm’s M-UB Handling System supports all process stages and promises homogenous treatment of all products, on any type of support.
When proofing large volumes of dough, the stakes are higher in maintaining optimum conditions. All products must be exposed to the same airflow – at the required parameters. Measurements are taken continuously to regulate temperature and humidity rate according to settings defined by the baker. “The filtered, warmed and humidified air is blown in the proofer through textile blowing ducts positioned in the lower part of the enclosure. This air is then collected in one or more points of the upper part of the proofing enclosure. Air conditioning features and air flow circulation are calculated and adjusted following product rates, proofing parameters and enclosure volume and design, on a case-by-case basis to make sure that each product receives the same quantity of hot air,” explain Marie Laisne, Marketing Manager and François Retailleau, Product Manager, Lines and Digital solutions, from Mecatherm.
Several proofing systems handle products directly on belts. With vertical solutions, such as Mecatherm’s MVS and M-UB proofers, products are placed on proofing boards or pans.
Mecatherm’s vertical proofing provides several advantages, the two specialists detail:
- Easier maintenance
- Hygiene: the systems are very easy to clean
- Food safety: products are not in direct contact with the conveying system, limiting contamination risks
- No risk of dough damage/deformation (no transfers from one conveyor to another)
- Simple changeovers (flexibility for multi-product lines)
Proofing can be managed in two steps, which improves product quality control, by allowing different proofing temperatures in two different zones. “It is possible to have a warm zone first and a second, colder zone after. The second zone, the ‘retarder’, helps to provide better steam on the product, for a better volume and a better shine on the product surface, as well as a better development of aromas,” Mecatherm’s team explains.
Mecatherm’s MVS and M-UB modular proofers are designed to provide a high level of flexibility. The MVS proofer allows a wide range of capacities and dimensions, meaning it can operate with a wide variety of pans and peelboard sizes. They are also suitable for heavy-duty loads of up to 10 tons per module, Mecatherm highlights.
The M-UB proofer features a smooth top transfer system, with no shock, making it particularly adapted to the most sensitive products. It can also be flexibly used with a variety of products that have different proofing times: some modules can be easily bypassed to lower proofing time, when needed. Mecatherm adjusts proofing solutions as needed; for example, if products with different proofing times run simultaneously, a solution will be put in place to allow quick product transitions, which is a specialty of all Mecatherm proofers.
Innovations in every aspect of proofing help optimize the process and contribute towards the operation’s overall efficiency. End products with perfect color, texture and flavor are the result.
The article was originally published in Baking+Biscuit International magazine, issue 2 – 2023.