After working for years in the frozen dough industry, supplying frozen products to bakeries, cafes and restaurants, I had the chance and the pleasure to get quite a lot of experience in the production of good quality frozen dough. A good quality frozen dough product is a product which, after having been frozen for up to 6 months, still comes out of the oven as beautiful, appetising, attractive to the eyes and tasty as a fresh product. So it gives me a great pleasure to share with you some of the secrets about frozen dough production.
First don’t get mixed up with “Retarded Dough System” and “Frozen Dough Technology”. Those are two different ways of processing the dough, the first one is very simple and the second one is very much more elaborate.
– The Retarded Dough System is just normal dough that we place in a normal freezer, to be used up at a later time, may be 1, 2, or 3 days later. This dough loses some of its performance capability during the freezing process and cannot be kept frozen for more than a few days only. This is just a convenient process that we can use in some short term situations.
– The Frozen Dough Technology on the other hand is a very detailed and specific way of processing the dough, that enable the user to get the optimum performance out of the dough which has been frozen for a longer period of time. This period of time could be from just a few weeks to a few months; 6 months being regarded as a maximum for a live dough containing yeast. This is exactly what this article is all about.
First, how many kinds of frozen dough processes can we differentiate?
1) Ready to Prove Frozen Dough, good for most yeast dough and puff pastry as well.
2) Ready to Bake Frozen Dough, recommended especially for croissant and Danish pastry items.
3) Part Baked Frozen Dough, good for bread items, not recommended for croissant, Danish pastry items, and sweet bread and bun items.
4) Full Baked Frozen Dough, good for sweet bread/bun and soft roll, not recommended for bread, croissant, Danish pastry and puff pastry items.
5) Raw Frozen Dough Ready to Bake (Proving in the oven), not available yet, new technology still under intense research and development.
Critical points to succeed in frozen dough preparation
1) Make sure that the fermentation process does not start at any stage during the production.
To achieve that: one must control the temperature of the dough during all the different stages of the process, from the very beginning (mixing) to the very end (proving baking).
Ideally dough temperature must not exceed 16C (61F) during the mixing, dividing and filling of the products.
After the blast freezing procedure the ideal storage temperature is from -18C (64F) TO -22C (72F).
2) To keep the dough temperature under 16C (61F), at all time during processing, is the most difficult part and to achieve this goal we need to:
a) Keep the room temperature at between 16C (61F) and 20C (68F).
b) Use cold flour. Before use, the flour should be stored in a chiller (+4C) (39F).
c) Use cold water from a chiller or a water cooler.
d) Replace 25% of the liquid used (water/milk) with ice flakes. Or if ice flakes are not available the use of icy cold water (+2C) (35F) is recommended.
e) Work the dough straight away from the mixer without or with as little rest as possible between the different stages.
f) Freeze the dough, after shaping and filling, as fast as possible and this is when we need a blast freezer to freeze the product very fast up to the core. Why do we need to freeze the dough as fast as possible? The answer is: To bring the temperature deep inside the products to around -8C (17F) to -15C (5F) very fast, around 10 to 30 minutes, depending of the size of the products. This way the ice crystals formed during the freezing process are very small and do not damage the dough structure. If the freezing process is too long (from 3 to 6 hours with a conventional freezer) the crystals formed inside the dough are very big and will damage the yeast and the gluten structure. Then in this case the product will be very long to prove and will not rise to its maximum desired size, this is typically a low quality frozen dough.
Now looking at each kind of frozen dough processes one by one, we can say that for bread items the part baked system is the best and gives very good results. For croissant and Danish pastry items (as well as bread items) the ready to bake system gives outstanding results, but demands strict supervision, good equipment and premise.
Regarding the ingredients used in the production of frozen dough, they are almost the same as for the normal type of dough except two slight differences.
First, the yeast. Instant yeast and fresh yeast are both good to use but we always have better results with fresh yeast, products are faster to prove with more oven spring as well. Also when it comes to the quantity of yeast used, we have to increase it quite a lot (up to 2 to 3 times the normal quantity) to compensate of the yeast dying during the freezing process.
Second, the dough/bread improver used should be a special kind of improver for frozen dough only. There are many brands available on the market.
Hopefully this article has given you some useful things to think about before you start mixing the dough and I really hope you enjoyed this introduction to the process of frozen production.