Bakery equipment is becoming increasingly sophisticated. Zara Horner explores the latest trends

The equipment used today to produce baked goods is virtually unrecognisable from that used in the recent past.

Digital functionality and programmable controls are now the norm, with hundreds of recipe presets offering users more control and ease of use.

As well as turning out consistent product, these developments mean there’s less waste, a lower operating cost and reduced energy consumption. Also, the easy operating mechanisms mean less highly trained staff may use the equipment, saving further costs.

“Today’s clients want it all,” says Catherine Yu, general manager at Kolb Hong Kong, the bakery and kitchen installation design, manufacture and supply company.

“The equipment we supply is technically advanced, runs fully automatically and requires less labour to work the production line.

“For example, the Ultrasonic Cutting that we supply to our customers in Hong Kong and Indonesia allows us to monitor the machine by means of a fixed IP login to check the operation and daily cleaning, which is very important.”

Yu says research and development at Kolb is focusing on environmental issues.

“Our priority is low carbon emissions while still helping customers to maintain high output. Our e+ series of ovens, in particular the rotary unit, helps to lower power consumption by 25%.”

German company MIWE adds the suffix e+ to systems “that excel in energy efficiency and improve the quality of the baked goods,” explains Charlotte Steinheuer, marketing communications director.

“The MIWE roll-in e+ rack oven came at just the right time for bakers. It’s more energy economical than any before it.”

Additionally, there’s an optional heat storage wall, which gives the oven better heat storage, thanks to increased mass.

Recent additions include the eco:wing, a specially positioned cover flap in the flue gas duct that improves heat transfer and bakery equipment is becoming increasingly sophisticated.

The best bake increases the energy efficiency of the entire system by another 15% as compared to its predecessor.

To boost energy efficiency even further, the oven also features an improved steam device.

“It produces softer and more saturated steam, thereby improving the quality of the baked products even more. The oven is also equipped with the MIWE aircontrol air regulation system which offers more sophisticated control options and an excellent crust even in unfavourable ambient conditions,” Steinheuer says.

Space saving

Kolb’s Yu agrees there is a trend to maximise space in professional kitchens, with the people running them looking for more compact, space-saving equipment.

“Chefs look for baking equipment that is multi purpose. For example, ovens with baking, steaming, stewing and frying  functionalities.

“Latest models also have enhanced cleaning functions, which help to save time and are user friendly.”

For Dirk Friedlein, director product marketing Asia Pacific with US company Manitowoc: “Clients in the foodservice business are no different to you or me. The main difference is that customers run a business and profitability is without argument the highest priority.

“We all want our technical appliances not only to perform all possible tasks at the lowest cost, weight and size, but also expect good design, intuitive handling, stable and flexible software.”

Friedlein agrees space saving is an issue in regional professional kitchens today.

“Stackable ovens reduce the required real estate dramatically,” he says.

Two decades ago Manitowoc introduced an oven whose door moved to the side so it did not block aisle space or another piece of equipment. This continues to be a popular design choice.

“It makes the workspace safer by eliminating the risk of burns or hitting someone.”

The company also has a range of mini ovens to address this issue. “Each mini has the same technology as the bigger brother and performs almost the same. The possibilities are endless as we offer minis in 2/3 gastronorm (GN) as well as 1/1 GN size, with six or 10 tray capacity or as a two-in-one version two cooking cavities with one control.”

Minis come in mobile varieties as well.

Recent technical developments have taken kitchen equipment to the next level, Friedlein says, with some ranges allowing chefs almost unlimited creative possibilities.

Like his industry colleague, Friedlein says sustainability and the environmental footprint are high on the Manitowoc agenda.

“Our appliances are made using hydroelectric power and heat produced from biomass at our factory in Germany.”

One of the company’s latest offerings is the Convotherm 4 oven. This features ConvoClean+ and ConvoClean – developed for maximum flexibility with minimum cleaning fluid consumption; a reduction of 38% compared to the Plus 3.

The unit also combines a striking design, so it can be used for front of house cooking, Friedlein says, as well as intuitive features and functionality. All of which are high on customers’ wish lists.

“With new operating functions and single-measure dispensing suitable for all usage profiles, it’s fully automatic, so avoids any contact with chemicals.”

Rules and regulations to protect the health of kitchen staff are getting stricter,

Friedlein points out. “We support this and will continue to make our kitchen equipment safer and even more sustainable.”

When it comes to cleaning, the MIWE cleaning control version 3.0 is “absolutely perfect for the user who wants a fully automatic cleaning system, but also wants to make use of a full set of energy-consumption, ecological and time saving advantages as well,” MIWE’s Steinheuer says.

Cleaning times have been reduced and the machine requires considerably less water, which means less energy.

“Additionally, it uses a food safe, absolutely risk-free cleaning agent. It has an automatic fill level display, and an auto-start function for cleaning outside of hours, no staff required.

“The cleaning tank is designed for several cleaning cycles,” Steinheuer says.

“Any residual heat from the cleaning process is harnessed for the first baking operation.”

On the menu

Ease of use and maintenance are top of Alain Guillet’s criteria.

The chief pastry chef at Hong Kong’s Island Shangri-La says, “Accurate temperature control is also vital. The heat at the top and bottom of an oven is different and we must be able to understand and control this to ensure consistent quality.”

Reduction is also an issue. “Costs and waste,” Guillet elaborates. “Management is keener than ever to get these down and the equipment we use in the kitchen can help.”

One innovation Guillet mentions is overnight cooking mechanisms now available on some units. “This helps preserve power. We switch on and go. But these units are expensive to buy.”

While he chooses different brands for different pieces of equipment, on the whole he opts for MIWE units “because they are reliable”.

For example, the new MIWE aero e+ has an optimised steam device, new electrical components and improved insulation. An automated quantity system, known as gradient baking, delivers even with partial loading. The power-down mode and triple-glazed door reduce energy loss.

Meanwhile, the MIWE condo oven now has a proofing cabinet and has been redesigned with hygiene as priority. A rounded stainless steel inner shell has no “superfluous grooves and edges,” according to Steinheuer, with a new door mechanism which is released by two knurled screws, no tools required, so that the inside of the glass pane points outwards and can be easily cleaned.

Chef Guillet says he always has in mind that “When it comes to baked goods, freshness is key.”

“I can bake 1,000 Danish pastries and croissants at any one time. For a banquet I may need to produce 200 bread rolls.”

Guillet says while he loves to bake his signature gateau, “bread is really interesting”.

The ever-increasing demand for artisan baked goods as well as higher nutritional content creations, is easily met using Kolb’s stone bake deck oven, Yu says.

“Our clients confirm the bread baked in these units is always of a good quality, and a lovely bread aroma is emitted as well.”

Yu expects this bread trend to grow. “Consumers are willing to pay more for

good quality,” she says, and notes macaroons are the “hot ticket item, especially in Hong Kong at the moment, so demand for dropping machines is high.”

“We see the same trend,” confirms Friedlein. “We have invested heavily in research and customer surveys to better understand this segment.”

The result is the BakePro. “Select the right amount of added moisture for your food items in convection mode and the Convotherm 4 will add the required rest time period automatically.

This is a traditional baking function in five stages. Steaming and resting produce baking results as good as the traditional baking oven without the need to defrost frozen baked goods before baking. All this is programmable, including multi-stage baking profiles.”

The Advanced Closed System+ (ACS+) of the ovens reduce cook time, ensure traditional baking results and lengthen the shelf life of baked products.

“What our customers really like is flexibility,” Friedlein says. “They can bake croissants and rolls in the morning and savoury products in the afternoon – all in the same equipment.”

The use of frozen dough, already well established in Europe, is gaining momentum in the region and manufacturers have had to keep abreast of this trend as well.

“It creates operational challenges,” Friedlein concedes. “Frozen dough has to thaw before it can go into the oven. This allows the product to pick up additional moisture. In a Convotherm 4 activating BakePro product can go from the freezer directly into the combi – the ACS+ eliminates the thawing process.”

The creativity in Asia is endless and the willingness to explore new ways of operating impressive, Friedlein says. “We expect to see new concepts with a larger menu mix and more need for flexible solutions in any direction. Many markets in Asia will continue to mature and see increased pressure to reduce operating costs.

“The phenomenal variety of cuisine, combined with space restraints will call for flexible, smart and compact equipment. As productivity, ease of use and safety must go hand-in-hand, technologies will more and more replace traditional cooking methods.”