Fresh, crispy, and crunchy wafer biscuits are always a delight to eat. Wafers usually refer to a thin crisp type of biscuit. Wafers are large flat sheets which are rigid. They are subsequently sandwiched with cream or caramel before cutting with saws or wires. Wafer variants include cone shapes, used to hold ice cream, and various folded and hollow ball forms. Lets us look through the production of these crunchy wafer sheets.
WAFER PRODUCTION PROCESS
- Flour of medium protein level(9.5%). Flour with very low protein will give weak and fragile wafers whereas high-protein flours may give hard and flinty wafers.
- Eggs and fat are added principally as release agents. Fat would help to reduce the stickiness of wafer and eggs are a source of both fat and emulsifier.
- Lecithin is a useful addition for emulsifying purpose. The inclusion of antioxidant in the oil may be useful to avoid rancidity.
- An addition of salt as a flavor enhancer and the level is usually around 0.25 per 100 units of flour.
- An addition of ammonium bicarbonate for aeration purpose.
- Food colors
- Small quantities of sugar and milk powder.
Mixing Of Batter
Mixing of all the raw materials together for 2.5–6 minutes to achieve homogeneity. Usage of high shear mixers is best suited for the purpose because slower mixers may allow gluten strand formation. This results into strings and lumps in the mixed batter. The mixing process should proceed as soon as possible after the assembly of all the ingredients. This reduces the possibility of a ‘dough’ formation between flour and water. The use of cold water also reduces the tendency for gluten string formation.
Immediately after mixing, the batter has much air incorporated and may be slightly lumpy due to incomplete mixing. As the air rises out of the mix the viscosity reduces. A screen helps in removal of lumps and gluten strands and a constant gentle agitation to prevent separation in the batter.
The baking process involves the usage of Wafer Ovens. Ovens are made up of heated metal plates hinged at one side, typically thin and usually bear intricate surface patterns. The plate pairs either attached to heavy carriers or are self-supporting linked together to form a chain. Heating of plates is done through direct impingement of gas flames or individually by electric heaters arranged in the backs of each plate. Almost 20 pair plates may form a single plant. The plate surfaces carry designs that may be artistic or ornate or simply reticulate patterns of V-grooves of various depths.
The batter is deposited, usually in lines, across the lower plate, and on closing and locking with the upper plate. The very rapid production of steam not only spreads the batter evenly throughout the gap between the plates but also to a certain extent out through the vents. A minimum extrusion through all the vents is the aim as because that portion is valueless. The thickness of the wafers is proportional to the gap between the two plates.
The closure speed of plate leads to different qualities of the wafer from the same batter. Faster the closure gives lower weights and thinner wafers.
Conditioning of Wafer
Conditioning usually involves the deliberate addition of moisture to the wafer either by storage in a humid room or by passing the sheets through a high humidity chamber. An addition of moisture leads to expansion of wafers by about 0.2% in each dimension for each 1% increase in moisture.
Cream coated rollers apply the cream to the wafer sheets. The warm and soft cream helps in better bonding rather than a cooler stiffer one.
Convection air cooling at 10-12ºC. The humidity of the air should be kept as low as possible because by cooling the RH rises and this promotes moisture pick-up by the exposed wafers. The cooled wafer books should not leave the cooler with a surface temperature below the local dew point otherwise moisture will be picked up on the exposed wafers and warping leading to splitting apart of wafers from cream may occur.
The cooled books are cut into eating size squares, rectangles, fingers, etc. This is done by pushing them singly or in small piles through sets of taut wires, blades or circular saws. There are two cuts at 90º to each other and the resulting piles of wafer biscuit pieces are ready for packaging, storage or chocolate coating.