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Frozen Dough: Rising With the Trends

There’s nothing like the aroma of bread or cookies baking in-house to whet customers’ appetites.

These days, everyone from a mom-and-pop convenience store to a high-volume sandwich chain can prepare and menu freshly baked goods everyday—without hiring a pastry chef or dedicated baker. Improvements in frozen dough technology, packaging and product lines have made this possible.

Breakthroughs in baked goods

Frozen yeast breads and rolls have historically been formulated as proof-and-bake products; they are removed from the freezer, refrigerated overnight and placed in a proofer before baking. While certain chains still prefer these products, many have changed over to frozen par-baked breads and rolls to save labor and time.

“The next technological breakthrough is to have yeast products go right from freezer to oven like cookie pucks,” says Duszynski. “The trick is to get the rolls to rise well. We’re getting close but the process hasn’t been perfected yet.”

In the last few years, manufacturers have reformulated frozen doughs to eliminate trans fats; now whole grains are a top health trend. “We’re seeing more good-tasting whole grain products and new grains being made available,” says Barb Riordan, education manager, foodservice marketing for Otis Spunkmeyer, a company that makes frozen cookie dough in both puck and scoop-and-bake forms. Rich’s has introduced more whole grain and white wheat products; white wheat provides the nutrition of whole wheat with a smoother texture and lighter color.

Two contrasting trends are going on in the sweet dough category: indulgence and portion control. Companies are offering mini sizes of such products as cinnamon rolls and scones to “give them a healthier halo and fit in with the downsized desserts trend,” Duszynski notes. Riordan agrees, adding that Otis Spunkmeyer provides cookies in smaller sizes for operators who want them, “but our Supreme Indulgence cookies and Turtle Brownies are popular too.”

Working the dough

Restaurants use frozen doughs during every daypart. Breakfast sees a lot of scones, muffins and sweet rolls; lunch focuses on sandwich breads; mid-afternoon is cookie break time; and biscuits, rolls and artisan breads rule at dinner.

Shari’s Restaurant & Pie Bakery, a 98-unit chain out of Beaverton, Oregon, uses a million pounds of cinnamon roll dough a year for its signature Cinnama-sations breakfast items. “We bake the rolls and frost with cream cheese icing, then slice, batter and grill them to make French toast,” says Kevin Bechtel, Sr. VP of Purchasing, R&D and Menu Development for Shari’s. “We take great pride that we bake the rolls fresh every day.” Shari’s thaws the frozen dough and places it in proofers before baking.

“We’re working with manufacturers to develop a product that will take out the proofing step,” Bechtel reports. The new yeast doughs will go directly from freezer to oven; they’re slack thawed overnight in the walk-in, then baked. Bechtel also specs a frozen drop biscuit, which he’s currently running in some LTOs — 

Steak ’n Beans with Biscuits, a Farmhouse Platter with Biscuits ’n Gravy and a shortcake dessert.

A primer

Frozen dough products can be divided into four basic categories, says Gary Duszynski, director of bakery marketing, foodservice division for Rich’s. They are:

  • Breads and rolls
  • Sweet doughs, biscuits, scones
  • Cookies
  • Pizza dough

Within these categories there are many variations in flavor, shape and size. “Operators should choose products that fit their menu application,” explains Duszynski. “For a bread or roll, figure out what kind of sandwich you’ll be making. Do you want the bread to be crusty or soft; tightly textured like white bread or with larger, rougher holes, like ciabatta.”

Currently, the movement is all about convenience, he adds. Although frozen dough is available in bulk, most customers would rather buy it already shaped and sheeted. Companies like Rich’s, Bridgford, Pillsbury and Otis Spunkmeyer offer pre-formed frozen rolls, biscuits, loaves, cookie pucks, pizza crusts and more—many
of which come in their own baking trays or pans. Muffins, for example, are available in a 12-unit muffin tray filled with pre-deposited batter that ships frozen and can be baked off on-site.

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