7 Oct 2022
In our globalized and consumerist world, the visual image dominates, says food anthropologist and illustrator Bee Farrell. When it comes to buying bread, many of us use our sight first and then incorporate other senses, as well as our memory and emotions to decide what type of bread we will buy. Cost and accessibility may determine many of our choices, but other more subtle cues are used to guide us.*
When looking at a loaf of bread, the crust is the first thing consumers see. With bread, freshness is determined by the smell and the aroma. Who can resist the aroma of freshly baked bread?
The main challenge with crusty breads is to keep its initial characteristics during the hours of shelf-life.
Depending on environmental conditions, the crust texture can evolve in very different ways. For instance, in countries with a more humid climate (e.g. Belgium), the crust will tend to become chewy and elastic quite quickly, whereas in the south of Spain it would completely dry out to the point where it would be too hard to bite into.
What is happening to the crust during the bread’s shelf-life?
The evolution of the crust texture during shelf-life is guided by water migration, both inside the bread and in relation to the external environment. At first, there is an equilibrium of moisture content inside the bread: the water migrates from the inside crumb that is still warm from the oven, towards the outside that has cooled down already. This means that the moisture content of the crust increases.
Then, there is an equilibrium with the outside environment. Generally speaking, we can see that:
That’s why in the case of high hydration, open-structure types of bread you quickly get a thicker and chewier crust because the dough contains more water and the breads are baked at a higher temperature.
How can you keep the crust characteristics for as long as possible?
As it’s important to balance the moisture content of the crust, it’s important to control the humidity of the storage area. When packing the bread, make sure the bread is cooled down sufficiently in order to avoid an accumulation of moisture in the bag leading to a loss of crispiness. Use preferably perforated bags for crusty breads to allow moisture to escape.
In case of parbaked frozen crusty bread, make sure the breads are thawed completely.
Parbaked frozen crusty bread
When freezing bread, the crust and outer crumb cool down first and quickly. The core will be warmer than the outside; this results in condensation just under the crust.
When baking off the bread, the heat of the oven will first reach the crust and outer crumb before reaching the core. The core will be colder, and therefore contain more water especially when the bread wasn’t thawed properly. As water is already present just under the crust, a high quantity of condensed water will remain in the core.
If the core is still frozen, even more condensation will occur inside the core of the bread and result in a higher moisture content in the crumb after baking. There will be a higher migration from the crumb to crust during shelf life, resulting in a faster loss of crustiness after bake-off.
The graph below shows why it is so important to thaw parbaked frozen bread completely before bake-off, as it will slow down the loss of crustiness over time.
What about avoiding the formation of a crust? As for example in toast bread.
The current methods in place like cutting of the crust after baking in a conventional oven or working with radio frequency and microwave baking are quite cost intensive, resulting in several challenges. The cutting of the crust requires a long time for cooling and results in a lot of wastage, not forgetting the difficulty in actually slicing the bread. The other method requires high investments in equipment, and often results often in a chewier bread.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as the British say.
What about the crust texture after the first bite? This is different for each type of bread. Think about a typical Belgian pistolet, a French baguette or a Japanese milk bread for example. It is crucial to understand precisely what the consumer is looking for.
To get a good view on this, Puratos developed different tools to characterize and define what the texture and crust of a bread should be. Different methodologies based on scientific research have been developed, in order to perfectly put into words what the starting and end goal are that we need to reach.
An in-house sensorial expert panel is present to help define the crust characteristics in a scientific and standardized way. In addition to this panel, a Sensobus conducting consumer research can be of great support to better understand consumer preferences.
Also several tools are available like the texture analyzer measuring the acoustics of the crust.
Crusty breads: Thanks to our 100 years of experience in the bread business, our thorough knowledge and expertise of the process and our ‘Innovations inspired by Nature’, we master every aspect to create the perfect crispy crust you are looking for.
Soft breads: Our latest ‘Innovations inspired by Nature’, Intens Short Bite, has been developed to create the perfect short bite for an ultimate soft crust on soft baked goods like burger buns, toast bread, brioches, Panettone and so much more.
Double Bake Color: a Clean(er) Label bakery improver, based on our ‘Innovations inspired by Nature’, form a more homogeneous crust coloration and a reduction in time of up to 60% of the second bake at the point of sales.
Soft’r White Crust: a Clean(er) Label bakery improver, based on our ‘Innovations inspired by Nature’, has everything you need to make a great tasting bread with a soft crust which also reducing your costs by up to 30%. All these features are guaranteed without investing in new equipment.
Besides obtaining the right color and texture, you can also choose to decorate the crust with grains and seeds or try a specific Dutch and Belgian habit: crusty rolls with Tiger decoration.
Grains & seeds: No matter whether you are looking for grains infused with sourdough, sprouted grains or even both, we have the right solution for you.
Décor Tiger: An extra thin layer of decoration to put on the outside of your rolls or breads to give an attractive cracking look to your crust.