Innovations create process and product benefits for toffee makers
Marketing of toffees and caramels is regularly based on traditional values in terms of taste, mouth feel and presentation. Toffee producers, however, quite rightly expect state-of-the-art ideas from equipment manufacturers.
Two recent innovations match the industry's needs for production
systems appropriate in a highly competitive market, and the ability
to make stimulating new products.
The first innovation is a 'Compact', cost - effective standard system to generate a wide range of toffees and caramels. It gives an entry level option for companies new to this sector, with a rapid return on investment and an economical cooking and depositing solution for companies operating at the lower end of the output scale, with capacity up to 350kg per hour.
Production flexibility ensures that ingredients such as butter, and a variety of flavours, can easily be added on a continuous basis to produce a full range of high quality single or centre-fill traditional toffees and caramels. Products can be made in an assortment of colours with added-value centre-fillings such as jam, chocolate, fat based creams and fruit pulps.
This plant combines established cooking, caramelising and depositing units into a standard automated system. Continuous operation ensures high consistent quality and also reduces labour requirements.
The complete line can be controlled centrally - from the cooking and mixing of ingredients through depositing to wrapping. Recipe management software can monitor the complete process.
The second innovation extends the product range capability of depositing plant. Toffee can now be deposited with nut and fruit inclusions.
The development of a new mechanically actuated valve means that a blend of liquid syrup and inclusions up to 3mm in diameter can be deposited: toffee with nut pieces, or toffee with jam centres containing fruit are typical new products.
This ability can be added to a number of other options now available to add variety to the basic product. Heat sensitive additional ingredients such as butter, and flavourings, can be blended into the syrup during caramelisation. Striped products are another value-added alternative.
Today's toffee plants have been developed for the continuous production of any caramel or toffee recipe, with maximum outputs of over one tonne per hour. These bespoke plants cover every aspect of production, from pre-mixing of ingredients through to feed to the packaging machine.
There are two basic production methods, which differ in the way the key cooking and caramelisation processes are handled. In one method, cooking and caramelisation are separate; in the other, they are combined and achieved simultaneously.
Separate cooking and caramelisation (the method used by the new 'Compact' system) is the preferred option of many manufacturers because of the greater degree of process control it offers.
The temperature to which the mass is cooked determines the degree of hardness of the finished caramel. Caramel colour and flavour are controlled, independently of the cook temperature, by adjusting retention time during caramelisation.
In a separate cooking and caramelisation plant, cooking is accomplished in a 'Microfilm' falling film swept surface evaporator, which cooks the syrup to final solids in less than ten seconds, avoiding uncontrolled caramelisation. The Microfilm rotor consists of a steam jacketed tube with a high-speed rotor, fitted with hinged blades, which wipe the inner surface of the tube. The sugar is spread in a very thin film and is moved through the cooking tube by a combination of gravity and the design of hinged rotor blades.
The syrup passes to a Carablend unit where it caramelises under its own heat as it moves through a stainless steel tube with a totally enclosed steam coil wrap. Extra ingredients and flavours can be metered and blended during caramelisation.
Alternatively, combined cooking and caramelisation is still preferred by many long-established manufacturers as an excellent match to the traditional process of batch cooking in steam-jacketed mixing pans.
In a combined plant, the process involves the continuous feed to a direct steam jacketed 'Carablend' cooker - in the form of dissolved syrup from a reservoir tank. The syrup moves gradually through the unit, being heated and cooked on the way, and retention time can be varied.
Whichever process is used, heat sensitive additional ingredients - butter and flavourings for example, can be metered and blended into the syrup during caramelisation. Options include a butter melting and metering system, and a liquid additive system for flavours.
For certain fudge applications, fondant can be mixed into the cooked caramel in the Carablend