Bakery technologist, Piet Sluimer, expects the demand for bake-off products to increase in the years ahead. His Belgian colleague Ton Groeninck agrees: “People like the aroma and real feel of bread into their homes by baking it off themselves. And these bake-off products are interesting for bakeries because they enable them to create the impression that they are selling fresh bread without having to go through the whole process.” Both see this development creating lots of possibilities for high frequency (HF) oven technology (mico-wave and radio-frequency) that, according to them, is suitable for “dedicated applications”.
Sluimer (the author of Principles of Bread Making, among others) and Groeninck (bakery technologist at the Belgian industrial bakery Vanelor, Erpe-Mere) talk about developments and expectations in the industrial bakery industry during a meeting with other professionals from the sector. In addition to the increase in demand for bake-off products they talk about the importance of saving energy and the use of HF oven technology. They discuss this with Capway’s bakery technologist Ed van de Koppel, product and processing technologist Onno Kuiper of Rademaker (designer and supplier of solutions for the food processing industry in Culemborg / NL), Eddy Verbeure (plant manager), Hans Groeninck and Tom Goeminne (technical manager) of Vanelor.
“Very interesting”, is Onno Kuiper’s first impression of the HF oven technology, the method for baking bread with electromagnetic waves. Kuiper has just seen this technique being put into practice with his five round table companions. In his left hand he holds the bread that has just emerged from the HF oven. Hans Groeninck takes advantage of the short silence that falls as Kuiper studies the bread: “I am pleasantly surprised, but I can only see possibilities for crustless bread.”
The six industrial bakery specialists look at the table where a number of bread products are laid out: some have been baked in an industrial micro-wave oven and some in a traditional oven. Piet Sluimer throws into the discussion: “HF oven technology may well be a success, but I don’t see a market for it at the moment for traditional bread.” Kuiper agrees with Sluimer: “The technology seems particularly suitable for colourless or bake-off products. But, for a lot of clients bread without a crust is a must. Certain types of sandwich bread for instance or cakes with a coating. Here the HF oven technology is a solution.”
Will industrial bakeries of the future use HF ovens? Tom Goeminne thinks this is possible, but in combination with a hot air oven: “I think that traditional ovens will remain necessary if only for adding a good strong crust to the bread.” Kuiper does not believe either that conventional ovens will disappear from industrial bakeries in ten years’ time. “Around 90% of bakers believe the crust to be really important. They also invest in this aspect, by equipping themselves with stone ovens for instance. Bakers are convinced that this enhances the flavour. The HF oven technology needs to prove itself first.”
Kuiper believes that there are applications for traditional ovens and for HF baking, depending on the type of industrial bakery. “I can see two avenues of thought”, he declares. “Are we going for mass production and manufacturing as many of the same product as possible for as little investment as possible, or are we offering a complete almost artisan range? The HF oven technology seems to me to be mainly suited to the first option, for ‘dedicated’ sandwich bread or bake-off lines because HF baking is not the solution for all types of bread.”
Eddy Verbeure thinks that the energy saving aspect of HF oven technology could be a deciding factor in its success. Three years ago energy saving was hardly an issue, but with increasing energy prices all this has changed. “Every form of cost reduction appeals to bakeries, so we certainly must not underestimate the importance of saving energy. If HF baking produces a product that looks a bit different but that has the same quality and is lower in price, then that’s yet another argument when negotiating with clients. I think that bakeries are indeed prepared to invest in this new baking technology. If only to make sure they don’t lag behind.”
Looking to the future, Piet Sluimer also sees enough possibilities for high frequency ovens. “In the past artisan bakers just had a push-in oven with a stone floor. Now everywhere you go you see rotating rack ovens, baking more efficiently. HF oven technology for bakeries is a rather special new development and there is certainly room for it. But creating a crust remains a problem, so it cannot be used for all products.” Bakery technologist Ed van de Koppel explained that baking with an HF oven is ideal for special products. “The waves create a finer and even cell structure in the bread than can be seen with bread baked in conventional ovens. The fact that you can make it as detailed as you want is a great advantage of this technology.”
Sluimer concluded: “There are real opportunities for par-baked bread and sandwiches for instance and perhaps even toast. It will take a while longer for traditional fresh bread, but the HF oven technology has only just arrived and will no doubt develop further. Soon we will perhaps be able to create a crust using this technology. Someone just needs to discover how and to implement it. Because it is now working on an industrial scale, it will be a definite success. Seeing is believing.”