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Shape a stubborn mass into a bar - any ideas on how to do that?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

Hi there,

 

this is my first post here at ChefTalk, good afternoon everyone. I'm producing some new kind of granola bar and since business is fine, me and my guys need to think about ways to produce a couple of thousand bars each month (instead of a couple of hundred so far). 

 

When the mass is ready to be worked into bar shapes, it strongly resembles MAOAM candy; it can be shaped but it's not runny at all. We're thinking about either:

 

1. using custom made baking sheets and some kind of hydraulic press in order to distribute the mass evenly, then cut everything with a metal form, or

 

2. using rollers - that's something that seems rather easy, I'm thinking of something that works like a big pasta machine. Slowly add the mass and the result is a long sheet of uniform height that can then be cut into the final bar shape. Problem is, common dough rolling machines do not have the required thickness, as the bars need to be about 0,4 inches high. 

 

3. something else. I'm really looking forward to any suggestions or any input whatsoever here. Our product is good, the potential clients are even willing to pay for machinery up front, but the product shall never be mass-produced, so we're not talking about an industrial scale here. We're basically measuring each bar by hand right now, that takes a lot of time and is not feasible on a larger scale.

 

It is very possible that there's a very easy way to do what we want to do, but since none of us has a background in commercial cooking or backing, we just have no idea what that could be. Space is not an issue, our commercial kitchen is big enough. 

 

Thanks a lot everyone! By the way, english is not my first language, so be easy on me when my descriptions sound a little strange and/or you can't fully understand them.

post #2 of 17
How are you forming the bars now?

mimi
post #3 of 17
Get a reversible dough sheeter.

Place your masd inbetween two paper sheets and roll it out to your desired thickness.( sorry, I don't do imperial measurements, and refuse to even think about decimal imperial measurements)

Now, how do ypu want to cut the bars?
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post #4 of 17
Commercial production would probably be extruded (like pasta) as one continuous bar. Then cut to length. A large sausage stuffer with a custom nozzle would be cheapest probably.
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post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thank you for the replies!

 

1) Right now we are forming the bars by hand. We roll out the mass to the desired thickness with a rolling pin, then we cut them with a knife. This takes ages, since you never hit the perfect thickness for the entire mass. Push too deep here, apply to little pressure there and whatever you cut out, it's going to vary in weight significantly. 

 

2) We wanted to use a dough sheeter, but I fear the mass will just jam the roller because the rolls can't grab it. I tried rolling a bar through my pasta machine at home and the two stainless steel rollers could not even get a hold of the mass. Does that have anything to do with stickyness or is it more the lack in flexibility of the mass that stops the rollers from grabbing the mass in?

 

3) That's awesome! Never thought of that. Indeed, the large producers always use extruders. Do you have a machine in mind? Minced meat is very soft and easy to work, so exactly the opposite of our mass - or are these machines powerful enough? If I use a (probably stupid) analogy and think of an icing bag, sausage meat would come out of the nozzle easily. Our mass would not budge and the bag would tear before anything would leave the nozzle. However, if these machines are powerful enough, that would be a perfect idea.

post #6 of 17
Always hand crafted is a great selling point.

Start portioning by weight...
Go out and pick up two full sheet pans with one inch sides ( straight not slanted).
Prep with parchment ... bottom only ( no oil or bakers grease needed the parchment will peel right off).
Scale out the amt ( some pre thought required here as your bars will be thicker so naturally they will not be as wide) and press into the prepped pan.
Take the other pan and use as the "press".
Weight it down ( bricks are great just make sure whatever you use has a food safe barrier like foil wrapped around it).
When you are ready to portion just measure and mark the pans (I guess this could be done when the new shape is figured) and switch from a knife to a good SS bench scraper or pizza wheel.

Just check it out.
If it works...great.
Order more sheet pans.
If not.... you are only out a few bucks for the pans.

mimi
post #7 of 17
Another thought.
No reason you could not continue to roll by hand.
In fact I suggest you do.
It was working before no reason to change.

mimi
post #8 of 17

What about an old fashioned wine press or a variation of one?

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post #9 of 17




The reason I suggest using a dough sheeter is because I use one to produce fillings for my bars, 24 varities, with the majority having a filling 2mm thick. Some fillings are very stubborn, like caramel, Italin nougat, marzipan,praline, etc. Mind you, my production is still small, on average I produce around 1000 a week.

You have to "pull" the mass through the sheeter. Either you grasp the end of the paper sandwiched mass that protrudes at the recieving end, and gently pull it through while the machine is running. Let the rollers do their thing. The other way is to press down hard on the paper that protrudes from the recieving end, so it doesn't slip on the belt, and let the belt pull the mass through, just keep pressure on the mass so it doesn't slip. With most of my fillings, I keep the mass warm, popping the mass in an oven for a few seconds, and then back on the sheeter.

Another option that is very cheap is two bars of wood or metal and a stable, flat table: sandwich your mass inbetween paper, place a bar of your desired thickness on either side, and using a straight (no taper) rolling pin, "squish" and roll the mass by resting the rolling pin on the metal bars, guaranteeing you even thickness.
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post #10 of 17
The second technique described by @foodpump is how I do my sugar dough for cookies.
I use dowels for the height gages and (mimi being mimi) wrap them in cling wrap or foil to insure food safety.
After wrapping just mark off your guide and use a pizza wheel ( there is a specific cutter for this job but not really any faster or more accurate for your specific need IMO) and a straight edge.

Out of all of the above suggestions this IMO would be the most cost and labor efficient.
But what do I know lol.

mimi
post #11 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thank you again for all the replies!

 

Mimi, continuing by hand unfortunately is not an option. Our output needs to be about 1-2k bars per production day and the bars need to be exactly the same weight (with a deviation of maybe 1 gram or so). Our approach right now yields an amount not even close to what is needed, and with a lot of deviation in weight (say, 4-8 grams).

 

We will be looking into the sausage stuffers, that sounds very promising. 

 

What about a meat grinding mechanism but without the cutting blade at the end and a custom made nozzle? The spiral that pushes the meat forward should be able to push our mass forward. Could that work?

 

The dough sheeter is probably the most expensive solution, but one that we consider nevertheless. My concern is, wont the belt give in to the mass? When I pull it through and let the rollers work, wont the belt just give in? If the mass takes the path of least resistance, wont I just be pulling the paper through the roll and the mass stays in front of the rollers?

 

Then again you mention italian nougat, which is really stubborn as well, and you manage to get it thin. Sounds good. 

 

The wine press, I think the pressure will be too small to get the mass moving towards the nozzle. Or do I severely underestimate the pressure that such a machine can build?

 

Thanks again!

post #12 of 17

I was thinking of the wine press idea more along the lines of compressing the product into a shape rather than to extrude.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #13 of 17
Hi Guy,

No the belt won't "give in". The belt only carries the mass to and from the rollers. It is the rollers that do the compressing, and these are serious hunks of nickle plated steel--they won't give in or deform.

Hope this helps
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post #14 of 17
I need to slow down on my reading...
Third time this week I missed a numbers problem.
Yeah...you need a sheeter.

mimi
Edited by flipflopgirl - 7/11/16 at 6:09am
post #15 of 17

if you run a conveyor between the rollers then this may solve the issue of the rollers "not grabbing" the mixture because you are transporting it instead of feeding it through. also try teflon rollers instead of stainless steel.

 

if the mass is a solid mixture and not loose mixture then I would consider extruder, type/model is dependent on your recipe density and viscosity etc etc etc.

 

if loose mixture then a machine that dispenses is the better choice.

 

do some googling and see some youtube videos of how companies do it (clips from discovery channel etc) and look for best option to suit your budget, and mixture.

post #16 of 17
Chefshane:

Huh?

How do you "run a conveyor between the rollers"? On a sheeter, the "rollers" are two steel round bars mounted horizontally, andyou can adjust the gap between these round bars. It is these bars that do the rolling.

Have you ever used a dough sheeter?
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post #17 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thank you all again for your replies, I appreciate every single one!

 

The sausage filler does not work. We tried it it failed and an engineer of the leading brand in my country said it would work if you'd raise the pressure, but the machine would not live very long that way. Something about the gaps and the seal.. 

 

Before we try the dough sheeter method we'll go for rolling out the mass in batches between two steel bars of a certain height. It was suggested here previously and it looks like it could work. 

 

Our long term goal is an extruder machine, but I don't think it will ever be a good choice to get one. These things cost 50k++ and are build to spew out thousands of bars per hour. No matter how good business is, we probably will never produce more than 50k bars per month. That's like a couple of hours of work for an extruder - what the heck am I gonna do with the machine for the rest of the month? Utilization rate would be crazy low.

 

I'll keep you guys posted.

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