Formulas And Procedures

In general, formulas can be divided into different groups. Saltines and other fermented products use a sponge-and-dough system that is normally formulated with yeast. In contrast, straight cracker doughs and the like will have small amounts of sugar, fat, and other characterizing additives and are chemically leavened. Cookie formulas will contain moderate to high amounts of sugar and shortening and are primarily leavened with sodium bicarbonate and ammonium bicarbonate in combination with a leavening acid to produce a baked good with high volume. Cookies may also contain other ingredients such as icings, fillings, fruits, nut pastes or pieces, flavors, and chocolate to give them distinctive value.

Cookie formulas are generally classified according to the kind of equipment used to form the individual pieces. Stamping machines, rotary cutters, rotary molders, wirecut machines and depositors are used for more than 90% of the cookies commercially produced in the United States. The type of equipment being used for a product sets limits on the dough rheological properties or the final composition of the dough.

Deposit cookies are the machine-made counterparts of hand-dropped cookies, and many published (1) formulas for the latter can be easily adapted to factory requirements. General rules are that deposit cookies should contain (on the basis of flour as 100%), about 35 to 40% sugar, 65 to 75% shortening, and 15 to 25% whole eggs. The flour should be milled from soft wheat, and it should be unbleached.

Although wire-cut cookie equipment is rather tolerant as far as dough consistency is concerned, there are still some rheological requirements that must be observed. The dough should be sufficiently cohesive enough to hold together as it is extruded through orifices. Yet it must be relatively nonsticky and short enough, so that it separates cleanly when cut by the wire. Such formulas may contain several times as much sugar as flour, shortening up to 100% of the flour, and are generally the type of doughs to which particulates (nuts, chocolate chips, or candy pieces) are added. Doughs may be almost as soft as some cake batters or too stiff to be easily molded by hand. The softest wire-cut doughs overlap deposit doughs in consistency, while the other extreme is close to the consistency of some rotary-molded doughs.

Whatever the mixing procedure, it must be sufficient to produce a uniform distribution of ingredients. Many cookie doughs are rather tolerant in the amount and type of mixing that will yield satisfactory performance and products. Saltines and the like must be developed (or brought to a stage of near-maximum dough strength) by the mixing process. For high-sugar-fat formulas, a preliminary creaming stage, in which the sugar and shortening are mixed together for a time before other ingredients are added, is said to ensure uniformity and air incorporation. This creaming step also produces a finer texture in the finished cookie. Most particulates (eg, chocolate chips or nuts) are best added at a late stage of mixing, either with or after the addition of flour.

Brownies are one of the few kinds of cookies that can be baked in a continuous sheet on an oven band, then cut into pieces during or after cooling. Brownies are made with high proportions of sugar, invert syrup and other hygroscopic ingredients, so that they are soft and chewy when fresh, and retain this texture fairly well over a period of weeks or months when properly packaged. The batter, which is often quite soft, is extruded directly onto the oven band as a sheet of uniform thickness, and no other forming operations are performed.

The manufacturing process for sponge-and-dough (eg, saltines) consists of the following steps: weighing the sponge ingredients, mixing the sponge, fermenting the sponge in troughs, mixing the sponge with the remainder of the dough ingredients, fermenting the dough, laminating the dough, sheeting the dough to a required thickness, cutting and embossing the dough sheet, removing the scrap, sprinkling salt on the dough sheet, baking, breaking the baked dough sheet into pieces, and packaging. The manufacturing steps for yeast-leavened or chemically leavened snack crackers resemble the foregoing sequence to a considerable extent, with variations depending on the need for special shapes or content of additional ingredients.

Reciprocating cutters (stamping type) and rotary-cutting machines must be fed, by conveyor belts, with a continuous sheet of dough. An important requirement of these machines is that the scrap dough must be removed in one piece and reincorporated, if the operation is to be efficient. The scrap is returned to a prelamination stage in an operation that will uniformly reincorporate the scrap back into the fresh dough. Care must be taken, in that excessive scrap or rework may affect machining and finished product attributes. Also, the sheet thickness must be maintained within a narrow range, so that the weight of the dough pieces will not vary significantly. The dough must have some elasticity and be cohesive enough to bear its weight, if it is to form a sheet that will retain its continuity and not tear. Excessive elasticity creates problems with shrinkage of the pieces and difficulties in maintaining uniform piece weight. To obtain the desired characteristics, the dough must contain a substantial amount of wheat flour, to provide the gluten that will give the dough strength and elasticity. In processing, the dough must be developed by a mixing operation that orients the gluten molecules, or it must be repeatedly sheeted and layered. The content of ingredients that weaken or "shorten" the dough, such as sweeteners and shortenings, must be kept relatively low. Moisture content, for all practical purposes, is the amount of ingredient water added and should be sufficient enough to allow full hydration of the gluten, without weakening the dough excessively. Nearly all cookies and crackers are baked after forming. A few recipes for fried cookies and crackers can be found in the literature, but these do not appear to have been commercialized to an appreciable extent.

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