Compression/freezing process improves taste, texture of microwaveable frozen baked goods

Shin’ichiro Yasuda, Kao

 

There’s nothing quite like the taste of freshly baked bread. While those who bake their own get the authentic sensory experience of a bakery, most consumers aren’t so lucky. Bread loses its optimum flavor and texture after a day or so, no matter how it is stored.

 

Freezing extends the life of bread and other baked goods, but thawing and reheating doesn’t restore the product to its freshly baked state. Too often, baked goods taste a bit stale and lose some of their airy texture and moisture after they are frozen. To make matters more difficult for the baked goods industry and its distributors and retailers, bread is bulky making it expensive to transport and store.

 

A new compression and freezing process developed by Kao Corp. vastly improves the taste and texture of frozen baked goods that are reheated quickly in a microwave oven while also reducing their bulk for transportation and storage. The process works well even with products that are stored frozen for several months. Kao partially cooks (retaining maximum moisture), compresses, and then uses the steam generated by internal cooking to finish the process while simultaneously restoring original bulk and moist freshness.

 

Bakery fresh bread in about a minute

Using common baking ingredients, this process reduces the volume of bread, donuts, waffles, cakes, pies, muffins and other porous food products containing cereal flour and water to as little as 10% of their original bulk. Existing processes also achieve bulk reduction by freezing and compressing, but require a longer period to reheat and do not achieve the same quality in the finished product. Often, products require reheating in a toaster or conventional oven and lose some of their desirable moistness and fluffy texture after reheating. Under Kao’s method, consumers simply heat the compressed goodies in a microwave oven for a minute or so, and the product is restored to its original volume with a freshly baked taste and texture.

 

Kao’s process works with products that are comprised of at least 10% moisture content by weight and 30 to 90% air by volume. In addition to baked goods, this patented technique works with products that are cooked using other methods such as roasting, frying, steaming and stir-frying. The process can also be applied to semi-prepared foods.

 

After the product is cooked or semi-cooked, Kao subjects it to rapid freezing making certain that only the edges of the product, not the middle, freeze. Next, the products are compressed and vacuum packed and typically sealed in a flexible or rigid plastic package.

 

In addition to microwaves, other means of internal vibration heating such as magnetic vibration, high frequency heating and far infrared heating can be used to reheat the product. A conventional oven will not produce the best results, however. That’s because external heating, unlike internal vibration, causes the product to lose moisture making the surface hard after reheating.

 

The beauty of Kao’s process is that it does not require any exotic, expensive ingredients. All of the required elements are already commonly used in baking. For example, the water-retaining agents, a key to the process, include ingredients such as gum karaya, xanthan gum, gelatin and soybean protein.

 

Though the science behind this process is not fully understood, Kao believes its success is largely due to the chemical behavior of fats and/or oils interacting with glutein proteins in flour. The fats and oils maintain the cell structure of the product due to their plasticity when frozen and during the reheating process.

 

However it works, Kao’s process can be applied to a huge swath of the food industry. With its ability to shave shipping and storage costs in low-margin industries while improving quality, it certainly merits a serious look. Kao is offering this patented process for licensing.

 

 

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Kao’s compression/freezing process improves taste, texture of microwaved baked goods while reducing product size, shipping costs.