Parbaked goods are enjoying systematic growth, breathing new life into the frozen bakery sector with products ranging from specialty loaves, savory items, baguettes, and rolls. They spell fresh from the oven, tasty treats anytime, anywhere.
Quick-serve restaurants, supermarket bakeries, convenience stores, sandwich shops, and cafés have been monetizing the trend of preparing frozen parbaked (FPB) goods. North America is growing in the frozen par-baked bread market, while globally the frozen bakery market is expected to register a CAGR of 8% by 2023. Instrumental to the growth in this range is the immediate freezing after partial baking, to preserve the product’s quality and freshness. Parbaked products are baked to within 90% of completion, then quickly frozen and shipped to customers for the final 12-15 minutes of baking. “The two-phase baking procedure either results in (1) a softly baked pale product after the first par-baking phase which is packaged and can be stored at room-, cooled or frozen temperatures, and (2) in a brown, crispy and freshly perceived product after the second fully baking phase. Parbaked breads intended to be stored at room temperature are mostly MA-packaged (modified atmosphere), with CO2, N2 and without oxygen. The parbaking strategy can decrease the amount of bread waste by providing fresh bread at any wanted moment of the day,” highlights a study on the impact of par-baking and packaging on the microbial quality of parbaked wheat and sourdough bread (2018).
The managing director of Deutsches Tiefkühlinstitut e.V. – dti (the German Frozen Food Institute), Dr. Sabine Eichner, has shared with us the organization’s expertise: “In industrial shock freezing, foods are frozen at around -40˚C in a very short time. The water contained in the food expands and forms between the cell walls only very small ice crystals, which do not damage the cell structure of the food. The freshness is maintained by the process for a long time, because the cell metabolism is stopped, microorganisms cannot multiply and frozen foods remain hygienically flawlessly long-lasting.” Dr. Eichner explained that the baked goods are flash-frozen with high core temperature, fast and with high air velocity at -32 °C. “Cold air and cryogenic freezing processes are particularly suitable for baked goods,” she shared, adding that “The freezing process does not affect the positive nutritional properties of the products; on the contrary, the quality and freshness at the time of freezing are maintained over a long period of time. Scientific studies have proven that.”
In order to achieve the best results, the right preparation is paramount, from the thawing process to baking and cooling. The knowledge database TK-PEDIA of dti shares important guides for bakeries to properly handle frozen baked goods. For example, if the goods are prepared on metal sheets and not baked immediately, they should be stored or covered in closed transport trolleys to protect against dehydration. In addition, an optimal plate allocation means to allow a distance of 3x3cm between the baked goods.
The Challenges in Baking and Freezing
The main difficulty is to keep the characteristics of the bread because it is subject to a challenging process and big temperature fluctuations. One of the issues is that of flaking: “When freezing a traditionally-made bread, it contracts. If the crust is too hard, it will start to flake. When baking parbaked bread, we try to avoid a hard crust – by ensuring the bread is properly hydrated,” Carbonell tells us. To prepare this type of dough correctly, you have to avoid all airflow while cooling down, and keep it as little as possible inside the blast freezer while freezing. This time needed for the water in the dough to freeze varies according to the product’s size and recipe, because bread rich in ingredients has an even lower freezing temperature. Baking settings are very important, he stresses: “It is recommended to bake parbaked bread at low temperatures and longer times, to not dry the product.”
In parbaked products, it is important to use adapted improvers to instead of some traditional improvers. “Indeed, working in frozen bakery with big temperature fluctuations can be a challenging process. And that is why we created Double Bake Colour,” explains the R&D expert.
The Future is Parbaked
The biggest innovation driver will be convenience in the point of sales, according to Puratos, which is where most of the challenges in the process are. Innovations will also focus on keeping the products fresh, tasteful and healthy, Carbonell anticipates. Due to the ever-increasing shortage of skilled workers, the topic of recruiting for bakeries will be one of the biggest challenges of the future. “Here, frozen baked goods provide solutions and will play an even bigger role. Due to many advantages (always available, good and easy to trade, easy to calculate, constant quality, product safety), the products have become indispensable in many application areas and consumption occasions,” Dr. Eichner concludes.