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Dough Basics

The Evolution of Frozen Dough

In the 1950's the baking industry was revolutionized when food companies developed new technologies to freeze baked foods. Sara Lee was the first to introduce a line of frozen sweet goods. In the late 50’s, an entrepreneur had the idea of offering completely mixed, yeast leavened, raw frozen dough to the housewife, allowing the homemaker to bake “homemade” bread in their own kitchen. Soon food retailers, hospitals, restaurants, hotels and fast food chains began offering the fresh baked products at their locations.

Restaurant owners and food retailers realized the benefits of frozen dough quickly. In addition to the convenience of frozen dough, frozen dough products offered consistently high quality products every day and between multiple stores. In addition, frozen dough offered a considerable cost savings as owners did not need to hire as many people to prepare food.

Quality In — Quality Out

To acheive a high quality dough, high quality ingredients are necessary. There are some general rules that must be adhered to when selecting the ingredients needed in preparing a high caliber dough. The main components that go into making a superior dough follow:

Wheat Flour

Flour provides structure to wheat-based food products through its proteins and starch components. A protein matrix forms when two particular proteins are mixed with water. This mixing causes the proteins to interact and form what is known as gluten. Gluten is very important, as it traps and holds air during mixing. Later, it retains gas from yeast activity. This trapped gas causes the product to expand, making it less dense and more palatable. When wheat flour is mixed with water, yeast, salt and other ingredients, it forms the cohesive, elastic mass that we call dough.

In frozen dough, it is important to use a high protein flour with good tolerance to combat any rupturing of the gluten matrix. During the freeze and thaw processes, dough weakening occurs due to rupture of this matrix. Custom Foods uses high quality, high protein (12 to 14%) flour.

Starch, a major component of flour, also provides structure to products during the baking and cooling process. Heating starches during baking causes starches to swell and increase their water holding capacity (known as gelatinization). When dough is baked, it changes from a soft, yet flexible dough into a rigid finished bread. Starch provides body to the product during baking and provides firmness when cooled. Flour is a binding and absorbing agent, which can affect the “shelf life” of products. 

Yeast

Yeast is a major factor in frozen dough production. Baker’s yeast is a living microscopic organism which is used for leavening doughs. These organisms are a complete system that can perform all of life’s necessary functions. Yeasts can take in food, process it, grow and reproduce.  In dough, enzymes break down damaged starch molecules into simple sugars. These sugars are then converted by yeast to carbon dioxide gas and alcohol during the fermentation process. Fermentation, as applied to dough, implies all the physical and chemical changes created by yeast, producing leaven of the product, influencing dough handling (extensibility and elasticity), crumb structure, flavor development, shelf life and even crust color.

Bread quality depends largely on the stability of yeast in frozen dough during storage. Higher percentages of yeast are used in frozen dough to offset decreased yeast activity due to the freezing process. To optimize yeast survival, yeast activity needs to be minimized as much as possible before freezing.

Water

Water is required to combine ingredients, which then binds the ingredients and forms a dough mass. It acts as a lubricant to disperse ingredients uniformly, and combines with flour to form gluten. Additionally, the amount of water affects the fermentation rate, which maintains the quality and strength of finished products. 

Fats and Oils

Fats are semi-solid or plastic at room temperature, whereas oils are liquid at room temperature.  Fats and oils are used in baked products for lubrication during the mixing and baking, influencing the final volume, crumb structure and softness of the product. It also aids in lubricating the slicing blades during slicing and packaging. Fats and oils also act as a tenderizer and flavor enhancer, in addition to affecting the keeping quality of products.  

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