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Title:
SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR PRODUCING BREAD OR PIZZA PRODUCTS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2015/026896
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
An improved system and method to produce a bread or pizza product is disclosed. Bread or pizza products that produced with the system and method are also disclosed. The bread or pizza products are intended for commercial manufacture with high volume and efficiency. The system and method produce bread or pizza products from multiple dough components. An apparatus for making the described bread or pizza products is also disclosed.

Inventors:
FAHEY-BURKE, Samuel J. (1819 E. Republican St. #205, Seattle, Washington, 98112, US)
MYHRVOLD, Nathan P. (11235 SE 6th Street, Suite 200Bellevue, Washington, 98004, US)
ZHOU, Huan Larissa (4722 12th Ave NE, #202Seattle, Washington, 98105, US)
CHAN, Alistair K. (9769 NE Murden Cove Dr, Bainbridge Island, Washington, 98110, US)
Application Number:
US2014/051801
Publication Date:
February 26, 2015
Filing Date:
August 20, 2014
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
ELWHA LLC (11235 SE 6th Street, Suite 200Bellevue, Washington, 98004-6481, US)
International Classes:
A21D10/00; A21B5/00; A21D13/00
Foreign References:
US20060068065A12006-03-30
US4882185A1989-11-21
US4416910A1983-11-22
US4251201A1981-02-17
US5514395A1996-05-07
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MALASKA, Stephen L. et al. (11235 SE 6th Street, Suite 200Bellevue, Washington, 98004-6841, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1. A composition having a pre-selected form comprising:

a dough base formed from a first dough component, the first dough component is formulated from a first set of ingredients into a pre-selected form; and

a distinct cavity within the dough base formed by a cavity- forming operation.

2. The composition of claim 1, wherein the composition is baked into a molded baked bread product.

3. The composition of claim 1, further including a fill material within the cavity.

4. The composition of claim 1, wherein the fill material includes a second dough component.

5. The composition of claim 4, wherein the second dough component includes a second set of ingredients.

6. The composition of claim 4, including a multi-component dough product wherein the cavity in the first dough component is filled with the second dough component.

7. The composition of claim 1, wherein the cavity- forming operation includes at least one of a blow-molding operation, an injection molding operation, insertion of a tool, application of heat to the first dough component adjacent to the cavity in the base to gelatinize starch in the first dough component as to at least partially rigidify the interior of the cavity, or a fluid injected into the cavity.

8. A process for producing a bread or pizza product having at least one distinct cavity comprising:

(a) mixing a first set of ingredients into a first dough component;

(b) forming the first dough component into a dough base in a fixture in a molding operation;

(c) forming a distinct cavity in the base with a cavity-forming operation; and

(d) finishing the bread or pizza product, wherein the finished bread or pizza product includes a finished distinct cavity.

9. The process of claim 8, wherein the steps of forming the base and forming the cavity in the base are performed at least partially simultaneously in the fixture.

10. The process of claim 8 wherein finishing the bread or pizza product includes at least one of baking the bread or pizza product into a baked bread or pizza product; par-baking the bread or pizza product; or freezing the bread or pizza product.

11. The process of claim 8, wherein the step of forming the dough base includes an injection molding operation, or a blow-molding operation.

12. The process of claim 8, further including filling the cavity.

13. A system for producing a bread or pizza product having a distinct cavity comprising:

(a) a mixing station for mixing a first set of ingredients into a first dough component;

(b) a forming station for forming the first dough component into a dough base having a form and a distinct cavity formed by a cavity-forming operation; and

(c) a dough finishing station for finishing the bread or pizza product into a finished bread or pizza product, the finished bread or pizza product at least partially retaining the cavity.

14. The system of claim 13, wherein the cavity-forming operation includes the insertion of at least one of a tool or a fluid into the dough base.

15. The system of claim 13, wherein the mixing station is configured to mix a second set of ingredients into a fill material for the cavity.

16. The system of claim 13 wherein the forming station performs a dispensing operation of the first dough component to form the base.

17. The system of claim 13 wherein the forming station performs a cavity- forming operation on the first dough component of the base.

18. The system of claim 13, wherein the forming station includes at least one of a mold fixture; a blow-molding machine; an extruding machine; or an injection molding machine.

19. The system of claim 13, wherein the forming station includes an inlet for a tool.

20. The system of claim 13, wherein the finishing station includes a freezer. 21. An apparatus to produce a bread or pizza product, comprising:

a base; a fixture within the base for supporting a dough component formed into a shell; an insertion tool including a set of ports configured for insertion and retraction into the dough component of the shell to form a set of cavities in the shell; wherein the shell includes an interior region and a perimeter region outside of the interior region.

22. The apparatus of claim 21, wherein the insertion tool is located in the fixture.

23. The apparatus of claim 21, wherein at least one of heat, a fluid, or other fill material is supplied through the set of ports to form the set of cavities.

24. The apparatus of claim 21, wherein the fixture includes a shape having sidewalls configured for conforming the shell to the shape of the fixture.

25. The apparatus of claim 21, further including a removal tool configured to remove the bread or pizza product from the fixture.

26. The apparatus of claim 21, wherein the fixture is configured for at least one of baking the bread or pizza product, freezing the bread or pizza product, or filling the bread or pizza product.

27. The apparatus of claim 21, wherein at least one port of the set of ports includes a first outlet and a second outlet.

28. The apparatus of claim 27, wherein a thermal element is located in the first outlet.

29. The apparatus of claim 27, wherein a fill material is supplied through the second outlet.

30. The apparatus of claim 21, wherein the fixture further includes a thermal element.

Description:
SYSTEM AND METHOD

FOR PRODUCING BREAD OR PIZZA PRODUCTS FIELD

The present invention relates to a system and method for producing bread or pizza products. The present invention also relates to bread or pizza products that can be manufactured with the system and method.

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS All subject matter of the Priority Application(s) is incorporated herein by reference to the extent such subject matter is not inconsistent herewith.

BACKGROUND

It is well known to produce a bread product such as a bread loaf from a dough component. Such bread products are typically baked in an oven in a process that results in the transformation of the monolithic dough component into a central interior portion or crumb and a thin but readily discernible exterior surface or crust. In the preparation of a bread product the crust and crumb are finished or baked under identical operating conditions (e.g. temperature time humidity, air movement, etc.). The crust is formed by the Malliard reaction which occurs at the exposed surface of the dough component when the bread product is baked. A common bread product has a dough component mixed from ingredients (such as flour, water, salt, etc.) and formed into a dough base that is then finished by baking into a baked bread product ready for use and consumption. Formulations of ingredients for the dough component and operating conditions for baking (e.g. temperature, time, humidity, air movement, etc.) can be selected to produce a wide variety of textures, flavors and other characteristics and effects in the bread product. It is well-known that the crumb and crust of a baked bread product will typically exhibit different characteristics of, for example, color, texture and taste, notwithstanding that the crumb and crust are formed of the same dough component and baked under identical operating conditions. The crust of a bread product is readily visible and prominent and may in some contexts be an important consideration in customer selection or preference. In the baked bread product, the interior dough mass forms the crumb and the exterior surface of the dough mass forms the crust. A typical bread product has a crumb that is a monolithic form providing a generally monolithic density as a result of the typical forming operation (and of the bread product being comprised of one dough component). The crumb of a typical bread product may possibly have many small voids that form within the crumb during leavening and baking but will not have by design any distinct cavity or open space. It is known that the size and density of the voids in the crumb and may be affected by adjustments of the formulation of the dough product (for example, the amount of water relative to flour in the ingredient mix).

That the bread product is baked as a monolithic form constrains the ability in production to establish significant variations in the characteristics of the crust and crumb for a given dough component or bread product of a given shape and size. While it is possible to select from a wide variety of formulations of dough components for a bread product, it is typical that compromises are accepted in terms of desired characteristics of crumb and crust in the preparation of a bread product. For example, if specific desired characteristics of the crumb are intended then it may be difficult or impossible to produce specific desired characteristics of the crust for the bread product. Likewise, it may be difficult to achieve with efficiency and consistency a desired combined characteristic or effect of crust and crumb in a bread product made of a monolithic dough component that is baked under identical operating conditions. Bread products are made in a wide variety of types and forms and shapes and sizes. A typical bread product may be produced in a generally known range of forms and shapes and sizes, including the common variations of the bread loaf. The readily available range of sizes and shapes and forms of a bread product is to some extent constrained due to limitations of the dough component and the desire for uniformity and evenness (among other objectives) in the resultant baked bread product from the finishing or baking process.

If the crust of the bread product is tasteful while the crumb is unappealing, the effort to produce a quality bread product is not a success. As is not uncommon, if the crumb of the bread product is appealing and tasteful but the crust of the bread product is not attractive or as appealing or tasteful, the effort to produce a quality bread product has still fallen short of the ideal. The ultimate result is likely to produce waste and inefficiency when the bread product is served and consumed (for example, the bread product when served may only be partially consumed by persons who eat the bread crumb but do not eat the bread crust and instead leave some or all of the crust behind on their plates as residual waste). In the baked bread product, the interior dough mass forms the crumb and the exterior surface of the dough mass forms the crust. A typical bread product has a crumb that is a monolithic form providing a generally monolithic density as a result of the typical forming operation (and of the bread product being comprised of one dough component). The crumb of a typical bread product may possibly have many small voids that form within the crumb during leavening and baking but will not have by design any distinct cavity or open space. It is known that the size and density of the voids in the crumb and may be affected by adjustments of the formulation of the dough product (for example, the amount of water relative to flour in the ingredient mix).

It is known that air or gas can be injected into a dough component (and that the dough mass may be able to "inflate" to some degree). For example, an alveograph injects air into a dough mass to test (among other things) the extensibility of a particular dough formulation. However, it is not well-known to produce a bread product with a distinct air- injected cavity. Bread products that may be sold with a distinct cavity (such as bread bowls) are not typically formed and finished in production with a distinct open cavity (notwithstanding that air pockets may form in a bread product during the finishing/baking process). It is better known that hollo wed-out bread products such as bread bowls are produced by forming/baking a typical form of bread loaf without a cavity and then cutting and removing a portion of the interior crumb to create a cavity (e.g. by hand in a manual operation after finishing rather than by a cavity- forming operation in production).

It is also not well-known or common in commercial production to provide a multi-component bread product made with a base formed of one dough component and an interior section formed from a separate dough component (e.g. a dough component fill as would occupy a cavity in the bread product). The typical commercial bread product is made from a single dough component. It is also known to produce foodstuffs such as confection products that contain a fill material (e.g. such as a filled doughnut with a base formed from a dough component and a fill provided through a mixture of a fruit-based or dairy based or other type of non-dough fill); such typical confection products do not contain a dough fill (e.g. a fill material that is a second dough component supplied into the dough base at the forming operation).

It is known to provide various treatments for the exterior surface of the dough component of a bread product before and during baking in an effort to alter the formation of the crust. It is also known to produce foodstuffs from layers of dough components. But such treatments and techniques are not understood in widespread implementation for commercially-produced multi-component bread products having one dough component for the crumb and another dough component for the crust. There is identified an opportunity for an improved system and method of producing a multi-component baked bread product in which one selected dough component forms the interior crumb and another selected dough component provides the exterior surface that forms the crust of the baked bread component. There is identified an opportunity to produce such a bread product with such a system and method in a manner that is suitable for efficient high-volume commercial production. There is identified an opportunity for an improved multi-component baked bread product that provides a crust and crumb that can each be selected to exhibit desired characteristics (e.g. achieved through selection of their respective individual dough components) and that in combination are tasteful and appealing. There is identified an opportunity for an improved system and method to produce a variety of improved multi-component bread products efficiently with consistency and quality and in a variety of forms and types that each are tasteful and appealing to purchasers/consumers (e.g. more likely to be consumed in full, in all portions including the crust).

It is known to produce foodstuffs such from dough components using fixtures

(e.g. pans) having a selected form that is generally given to the resultant product. It is known in commercial production to produce such products as muffins, cakes, pies in pans which provide a designated consistent form to the product. It is also known to produce certain bread products such as sliced bread loaves by high-volume processes in fixtures such as pans that give the products a consistent form provided by a pan. Such high- volume commercial bread products generally exhibit distinctive characteristics in addition to consistency of form that affect the consumer appeal and typically are readily distinguishable from other types of bread products such as artisan breads which tend to exhibit different characteristics (e.g. form, texture, taste, etc.) that some consumers may find more appealing. It is also well known to mold articles or objects in manufacturing processes from moldable materials such as plastics in high-volume manufacturing processes such as injection molding or blow-molding (e.g. creating open or novel plastic forms such as bottles using blow-molding techniques). It is also known that using such molding techniques a variety of plastic products may be produced in a wide variety of forms, shapes, sizes, and types by using mold fixtures that are designed and assembled to produce each product in the desired design form, shape and size. High-volume commercial manufacturing processes are able to achieve consistency and quality in the form and appearance of such molded plastic products and articles with designs that provide a desired appearance, external aesthetic, etc.

There is identified an opportunity for an improved system and method of producing a bread product to create an attractive and appealing bread product having desired a form, shape, consistency and quality on a high-volume commercial-industrial scale. There is identified an opportunity to use the improved system and method to produce a bread product with an established distinct interior cavity that can remain open/empty or that can be filled with a fill material to form a multi-component bread product (e.g. with a dough component forming a base providing a cavity and another dough component as a fill material within the cavity). The improved system and method can provide a forming operation that allows the bread product to be produced in various pre-selected forms, shapes and sizes in a consistent manner. The improved system and method can provide a finishing operation that facilitates uniformity of cooking or baking to achieve desired characteristics for the resultant baked bread product (e.g. attractive, appealing and tasteful bread product that exhibits other selected desirable characteristics and combinations of characteristics commonly enjoyed by consumers). It is well known to provide a pizza product having a shell formed from a dough component that provides the base or substrate for toppings such as pizza sauce, cheese, meat segments, vegetables segments, fruit segments, etc. that is cooked (baked) into a pizza. To form a shell of a pizza the dough component is typically mixed and then flattened to a sheet and formed into the desired shape, individually (e.g. as a single disc or form) or in volume (e.g. with a plurality of discs or forms cut into shape from the sheet); the toppings are then added onto the interior region of the shell. A pizza product is may be finished for consumption by cooking (e.g. baking in a conventional oven or cooking in a microwave oven). The production of a finished pizza product for consumption by commonly known processes is relatively simple and straightforward, able to be completed by individual persons at home kitchens, in restaurants, in commercial/institutional facilities, etc.

The commercial/volume manufacture of pizza products for commercial distribution (e.g. transport, storage and sale) is also well-known. One known type of pizza product in commercial manufacture is a frozen pizza product with shell and applied toppings combined into a ready-to-cook form and then frozen; the frozen pizza product may be finished for commercial distribution by freezing/packaging and transport to an outlet for storage/stocking and then finished for consumption (e.g. cooked or baked) into a ready-to-eat pizza product at or near the time of consumption. Another known type of pizza product in commercial manufacture is a refrigerated pizza product with shell and applied toppings combined into a ready-to-cook form and refrigerated; the refrigerated pizza product is later finished (e.g. cooked or baked) into a ready-to-eat pizza product at or near the time of consumption. It is also of course well-known to provide a ready-to-eat pizza product as a commercial product (e.g. sold in whole or in slices/parts at a pizza restaurant or other restaurant, concession, cafeteria, etc.). When a pizza product is finished for consumption (e.g. cooked or baked), the dough component of the shell is formed into a baked shell and the toppings are heated and/or melted (e.g. typically into a more integrated form) on the top of the interior region of the shell. During finishing, the exposed perimeter edge of the dough component of the shell may form what is called the "crust" of the pizza product. Notwithstanding that the entire shell is made from the same dough component, it is common that after the pizza product is finished (cooked or baked), the portion of the shell forming the crust will have a texture somewhat different than the portion of the shell that is beneath the toppings. The "crust" effect may be notable on the underside of the pizza shell as well as at the perimeter of the pizza product.

In the selection of pizza products, persons may not only exhibit a preference for particular toppings and combinations of toppings, but also for particular forms of shell or crust in the pizza product. For example, it is known in the manufacture of pizza product to provide for variations in the form of the shell of the pizza, for example, to provide a thin shell to produce a "thin crust" pizza product or a thicker shell to produce a "thick crust" pizza product. Pizza products are sold in many different variations of toppings and forms of shell. In some known variations, such as a "pan pizza" the shell of the pizza may be particularly thick and "doughy" (moist); in other known variations the shell of the pizza may be particularly thin and "crispy" (dry); in other known variations the shell of the pizza may have some intermediate form (e.g. "hand-tossed"). In any event, a conventional type of pizza product finished for consumption may have a shell that exhibits a different consistency and texture at the edge region or exposed "crust" (e.g. dry and has a relatively firm/crisp surface) than beneath the toppings in the interior region (e.g. relatively moist and pliable). It is not uncommon for the type of shell and crust of a pizza product to be identified as a product feature or selling point by a vendor or outlet and evaluated as a consideration in preference and selection by a customer who intends to purchase or consume a pizza product.

It is not uncommon that at the time a pizza product is consumed, certain persons may choose not to consume the exposed edge crust of the pizza product (though some persons may enjoy the entire pizza product including the crust and others may enjoy the crust itself). Perhaps due to the differences in consistency/texture of the crust and absence of toppings in comparison to the portion of the pizza product that is more commonly eaten in full, it is not uncommon at or after the time a pizza product is served for consumption, that portions of the crust of the pizza product are the readily-identifiable portion of any residual uneaten portions of the pizza product (perhaps along with certain portions of a topping or toppings). In may be considered by some persons as wasteful and inefficient that when a pizza product is served for consumption there remain residual uneaten portions of an otherwise edible foodstuff.

It is known to provide for pizza product that has a "filled" crust, as one apparent effort to encourage consumption of the crust of the pizza product (i.e. to promote the more complete consumption of the pizza product and less waste). In known pizza products, the fill material for a filled crust may comprise pizza sauce or cheese (e.g. similar or identical to the pizza sauce or cheeses used in the toppings). One known method of producing the effect of a filled crust is to fold the outer edges of the dough component of the shell over and around the intended fill material forming an enclosed pocket of the crust to contain the fill material. It is also known to form the crust of the pizza with an exposed recess or receptacle that may contain the fill material.

There is identified an opportunity for improved systems and methods of commercial manufacture of a pizza product and for improved configurations of pizza products suitable for high-volume cost-efficient production of pizza products that are tasteful and appealing to purchasers/consumers (e.g. more likely to be consumed in full, in all portions including the crust).

SUMMARY Embodiments disclosed herein relate to a pre-selected form finished for commercial production or multi-component bread product for commercial production configured to be finished under operating conditions into a baked bread product having a crumb provided from a dough mass and a crust provided at an exterior layer. The preselected form finished bread product includes a dough base formed from a first dough component into a pre-selected form by a molding operation such that the bread product has a large and distinct cavity within the dough base formed by a cavity-forming operation. The cavity-forming operation is formulated form a first set of ingredients including at least flour and water, and is initiated before the bread product is finished giving the bread product a pre-selected form with cavity that forms as the bread product is baked.

The multi-component bread product comprises a first dough component dispensed as the interior dough mass that will form the crumb of the bread product when the bread product is finished into a baked bread product and a second dough component applied to provide the exterior layer on the dough mass having an exposed surface at which the crust of the bread product will form when the bread product is finished into a baked product. The first dough component is formulated from a first set of ingredients and the second dough component is formulated from a second set of ingredients. When the bread product is finished into a baked bread product the operating conditions produce

(a) in the interior dough mass a crumb having certain desired characteristics and (b) in the exterior layer a crust having certain desired characteristics. Certain embodiments also relate to a process for producing a bread product. The process comprises the steps of (a) mixing a first set of ingredients into a first dough component; (b) forming the first dough component into a dough base in a fixture in a molding operation; (c) forming a distinct cavity in the base with a cavity-forming operation; (d) finishing the bread product.

Certain embodiments also relate to a system for producing a bread product having a distinct cavity. The system comprises (a) a mixing station for mixing a first set of ingredients into a first dough component; (b) a forming station for forming the first dough component into a dough base having a form and a distinct cavity formed by a cavity- forming operation; and (c) a dough finishing station for finishing the bread product into a finished bread product. The bread product when finished by baking comprises a crumb provided by the dough base and the cavity formed by the cavity forming operation.

Certain embodiments also relate to a system to produce a multi-component bread product with an interior dough mass formed from a first dough component and an exterior layer formed from a second dough component. The system comprises (a) a mixing station configured to mix a first dough component from a first set of ingredients and to mix a second dough component from a second set of ingredients; (b) a forming station configured to form the bread product by dispensing the first dough component into the interior dough mass and applying the second dough component as the exterior layer onto the interior dough mass; (c) a finishing station configured to finish the bread product into a bread product for commercial distribution. When the bread product is baked into a baked bread product under operating conditions the interior dough mass will form the crumb of the baked bread product and the crust of the baked bread product will form at an external surface of the exterior layer applied to the dough mass. The first set of ingredients and the second set of ingredients are selected so that when the bread product is finished into baked bread under the operating conditions the crumb exhibits certain desired characteristics and the crust exhibits certain desired characteristics.

Various embodiments further relate to a multi-component bread product formed by an extrusion process comprising a first dough component and a second dough component. The first dough component is extruded with the second dough component to form an elongated extruded form that can be formed into an extruded multi-component bread product when divided to a desired length. The extruded multi-component bread product can be finished for commercial distribution. The first dough component is formulated from a first set of ingredients comprising an additive for extensibility and to provide adhesion to the second dough component that is formulated from a second set of ingredients.

Various embodiments further relate to a method of producing a multi- component bread product for commercial distribution to be finished under operating conditions into a baked bread product. The method comprises the steps of: (a) mixing a first dough component from a first set of ingredients; (b) mixing a second dough component from a second set of ingredients; (c) forming the bread product by dispensing first dough component into an interior dough mass and depositing second dough component as an exterior layer onto the interior dough mass; (d) finishing the bread product into a finished bread product. The bread product is baked into a baked bread product under operating conditions. The interior dough mass will form the crumb of the baked bread product and the crust of the baked bread product will form at an external surface of the exterior layer applied to the dough mass. The first set of ingredients and the second set of ingredients can be selected so that when the bread product is finished into a baked bread product the operating conditions produce the crumb having certain desired characteristics and the crust having certain desired characteristics. Various embodiments further relate to an apparatus configured to produce a multi-component bread product with an interior dough mass formed from a first dough component mixed from a first set of ingredients and an exterior layer formed from a second dough component mixed from a second set of ingredients. The apparatus comprises a dispenser to dispense the first dough component into the interior dough mass and a dispenser to apply the second dough component as the exterior layer onto the interior dough mass. When the bread product is baked into a baked bread product under operating conditions the interior dough mass will form the crumb of the baked bread product and the crust of the baked bread product will form at an external surface of the exterior layer applied to the dough mass. The first set of ingredients and the second set of ingredients are selected so that when the bread product is finished into baked bread under the operating conditions the crumb exhibits certain desired characteristics and the crust exhibits certain desired characteristics.

Various embodiments disclosed relate to an apparatus to produce a pizza product having a shell formed from a dough component. The apparatus comprises a base, a fixture within the base for supporting the dough component formed into the shell, and a tool configured with a set of ports inserted into the dough component of the shell to form a set of cavities in the shell by a cavity-forming operation. The shell comprises an interior region and a perimeter region outside of the interior region.

Various embodiments also relate to a process for producing a pizza product comprising the steps of: mixing a first set of ingredients into a dough component, forming the first dough component into a shell, forming a set of cavities in the shell with a cavity- forming operation, and finishing the pizza product.

Various embodiments further relate to a system for producing a pizza product. The system comprises a mixing station for mixing a first set of ingredients into a dough component, a shape-forming station comprising an apparatus for forming the dough component into a generally flat pizza shell having a perimeter region and an interior region and a thickness, a cavity-forming station comprising an apparatus with a set of outlets for forming a set of cavities in the shell in a cavity-forming operation, and a finishing station for finishing the pizza shell into the finished pizza product.

Various embodiments further relate to a pizza product. The product comprises a shell formed from a dough component. The shell has an interior region and a perimeter region outside of the interior region. A set of cavities is formed within the dough component of the shell adjacent an edge of the perimeter region of the shell by a cavity- forming operation. Toppings may be applied to the interior region of the shell. The perimeter edge of the shell around the toppings is configured to form a crust when the pizza product is baked. The finished pizza product from the shell comprises a set of cavities in the crust.

Various embodiments further relate to a pizza product. The product comprises a shell formed from a dough component. The shell has an interior region with a set of generally depressed areas and generally raised ridges within a perimeter region providing a raised edge around the interior region relative to the depressed areas. A set of cavities is formed within the raised ridges and raised edge of the shell by a cavity-forming operation. The raised ridges and raised edge of the shell with the depressed areas in the interior of the shell define locations for toppings to be applied. The raised ridges and raised edge of the shell when baked provide a crust-like effect so that the finished pizza product will comprise a set of identifiable individual segments of a filled-crust pizza product.

Various embodiments further relate a pizza product as a shell formed from a dough component. The shell has an interior region and a perimeter region outside of the interior region. A set of cavities is formed within the shell in the interior region of the shell by a cavity-forming operation. The set of cavities is filled with a fill material so that the pizza product has a filled shell.

The summary is illustrative only and is not intended to be in any way limiting. In addition to the illustrative aspects, embodiments, and features described above, further aspects, embodiments, and features will become apparent by reference to the drawings and the following detailed description.

FIGURES

FIGURE 1 is a perspective view of a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 2A is a cut-away perspective view of a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 2B-2C are schematic cross-section views of a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 3 A-3B are cut-away perspective views of bread products according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 3C-3D are schematic cross-section views of a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 4A-4B are schematic cross-section views of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 5A is a schematic cross-section view of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 5B is a schematic top view of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 6A-6B are schematic cross-section views of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an exemplary embodiment. FIGURE 6C is a schematic top view of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 6D-6E are schematic cross-section views of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 7A-7B are schematic perspective views of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 8A-8B are schematic cut-away perspective views of bread products of a type produced in the system of FIGURES 4A-4B.

FIGURE 9 is a schematic cross-section view of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 10 is a schematic cross-section view of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 11 is a schematic cross-section view of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 12 is a schematic cross-section view of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 13A is a schematic block diagram of a system for producing a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 13B is a schematic process flow diagram of a system for producing a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 14 is a schematic process flow diagram of the mixing operation of the system for producing a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 15A-15B are schematic process flow diagrams of the forming operation of the system for producing a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment. FIGURES 16A-16C are schematic process flow diagrams of the forming operation of the system for producing a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 17A-17C are schematic process flow diagrams of the finishing operation of the system for producing a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 18 is a schematic process flow diagram of the packing operation of the system for producing a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 19A-19J are schematic cross-section views of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an alternative embodiment.

FIGURE 19K is a cut-away perspective view of a bread product of a type produced in the system of FIGURES 19A-19J.

FIGURE 20A is a schematic cross-section diagram of an extrusion system for producing a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 20B is a schematic cross-section view of a bread product of a type produced in the system of FIGURE 20A.

FIGURE 21 is a schematic cross-section diagram of an extrusion system for producing a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 22 is a schematic cross-section diagram of an extrusion system for producing a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 23A-23D are schematic cross-section diagrams of an extrusion system for producing a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 23E-23F are schematic cross-section views of a bread product of a type produced in the system of FIGURES 23A-D. FIGURE 23 G is a cut-away perspective view of a bread product of a type produced in the system of FIGURES 23A-23D.

FIGURES 24A-24B are schematic cross-section views of a bread product according to an alternative embodiment.

FIGURE 25A is a perspective view of a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 25B is a cut-away perspective view of a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 25C is a cross-sectional view of a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 26A is a perspective view of a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 26B is a cut-away perspective view of a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 26C is a cross-sectional view of a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 27A is a schematic block diagram of a system for producing a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 27B is a schematic process flow diagram of a system for producing a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 28 is a schematic process flow diagram of the mixing operation of the system for producing a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 29 is a schematic process flow diagram of a mixing operation of the system for producing a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment. FIGURE 30 is a schematic process flow diagram of a forming operation of the system for producing a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 31A-31F are schematic process flow diagrams of a forming operation of the system for producing bread products according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 31G is a schematic block diagram of a forming station and a control system for the system and method according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 32A-32B are schematic process flow diagrams of a forming operation of the system for producing bread products according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 33A-33D are schematic process flow diagrams of a forming operation of the system for producing bread products according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 34A-34C are schematic process flow diagrams of a finishing operation of the system for producing bread products according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 35A-35B are schematic process flow diagrams of a finishing operation of the system for producing bread products according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 36 is a schematic process flow diagram of a packing operation of the system for producing a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 37A 37D are schematic cross-section views of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 37E is a perspective view of a bread product of a type produced in the system of FIGURES 37A 37D. FIGURE 38A-38H are schematic cross-section views of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 381 is a perspective view of a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 38 J is a cut-away perspective view of a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 39A-39H are schematic cross-section views of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 391 is a perspective view of a bread product of a type produced in the system of FIGURES 39A-39H.

FIGURE 39J is a cut-away perspective view of a bread product of a type produced in the system of FIGURES 39A-39H.

FIGURES 40A-40H are schematic cross-section views of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 401 is a perspective view of a bread product of a type produced in the system of FIGURES 40A-40H.

FIGURE 40J is a cut-away perspective view of a bread product of a type produced in the system of FIGURES 40A-40H.

FIGURES 41A-41G are schematic cross-section views of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 41H is a cut-away perspective view of a bread product of a type produced in the system of FIGURES 41A-41G.

FIGURES 42A-42H are schematic cross-section views of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an exemplary embodiment. FIGURES 43A-43L are schematic cross-section views of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 44A-44E are schematic cross-section views of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 45A-45E are schematic cross-section views of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 46A-46I are schematic cross-section views of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 47A-47G are schematic cross-section views of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 48A-48H are schematic cross-section views of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 49A-49G are schematic cross-section views of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 50A-50I are schematic cross-section views of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an alternative embodiment.

FIGURE 50J is a cut-away perspective view of a bread product of a type produced in the system of FIGURES 50A-50I.

FIGURES 51A-51D are schematic cross-section views of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an alternative embodiment.

FIGURES 52A-52D are schematic cross-section views of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an alternative embodiment.

FIGURES 53A-53F are schematic cross-section views of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an alternative embodiment. FIGURE 53G is a cut-away perspective view of a bread product of a type produced in the system of FIGURES 53A-53F.

FIGURE 53H is a cut-away perspective view of a bread product of a type produced in the system of FIGURES 53A-53F.

FIGURES 54A-54F are schematic cross-section views of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an alternative embodiment.

FIGURE 54G is a cut-away perspective view of a bread product of a type produced in the system of FIGURES 54A-54F.

FIGURE 55 is a schematic perspective view of a fixture for producing a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 56A 56B are schematic partial perspective views of a fixture for producing a bread product according to an alternative embodiment.

FIGURES 57A-57D are schematic cross-section views of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 57E is a top view of a bread product of a type produced in the system of FIGURES 57A 57D.

FIGURES 58A-58D are schematic cross-section views of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 58E is a top view of a bread product of a type produced in the system of FIGURES 58A 58D.

FIGURES 59A-59J are schematic cross-section views of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 59K is a cut-away perspective view of a bread product of a type produced in the system of FIGURES 59A-59J. FIGURE 60 is a schematic cross-section diagram of an extrusion system for producing a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 61 A is a schematic fragmentary cross-section diagram of the extrusion system for producing a bread product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 6 IB is a schematic cross-section view of a bread product of a type produced in the system of FIGURE 60 according to an alternative embodiment.

FIGURE 61 C is a perspective view of a bread product according to an alternative embodiment.

FIGURES 62A 62L are schematic cross-section views of bread products of a type produced according to exemplary and alternative embodiments.

FIGURES 63A-63C are schematic cross-section views of a system for producing a bread product in operation according to an alternative embodiment.

FIGURE 63 D is a top view of a bread product of a type produced in the system of FIGURES 63A 63C.

FIGURE 64A is a perspective diagram of a bread product according to an alternative embodiment.

FIGURES 64B-64C are cut-away perspective views of a bread product of a type shown in FIGURE 64A according to an alternative embodiment.

FIGURE 64D is a schematic partial perspective view of a fixture for producing a bread product of a type shown in FIGURES 64A-64C according to an alternative embodiment.

FIGURE 65A is a perspective view of a bread product according to an alternative embodiment.

FIGURES 65B-65C are cut-away perspective views of a bread product of a type shown in FIGURE 65A according to an alternative embodiment. FIGURE 65 D is a schematic partial perspective view of a fixture for producing a bread product of a type shown in FIGURES 65A-65C according to an alternative embodiment.

FIGURE 66A is a perspective view of a bread product according to an alternative embodiment.

FIGURES 66B-66C are cut-away perspective views of a bread product of a type shown in FIGURE 66A according to an alternative embodiment.

FIGURE 66D is a schematic partial perspective view of a fixture for producing a bread product of a type shown in FIGURES 66A-66C according to an alternative embodiment.

FIGURES 67A-67B are schematic cross-section views of bread products produced according to exemplary and other embodiments.

FIGURES 68 and 69 are schematic perspective views of bread products produced according to exemplary and other embodiments.

FIGURE 70 A is a schematic perspective view of a bread product produced according to exemplary and other embodiments.

FIGURE 70B is a schematic cross-section view of a bread product produced according to exemplary and other embodiments.

FIGURE 71 is a schematic perspective view of a bread product produced according to exemplary and other embodiments.

FIGURES 72A-72B are schematic perspective views of bread products produced according to exemplary and other embodiments.

FIGURES 73 and 74 are schematic perspective views of bread products produced according to exemplary and other embodiments. FIGURES 75A-75F are schematic cross-section views of bread products produced according to exemplary and other embodiments.

FIGURE 76 is a schematic top view of a pizza according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 77A-77C are schematic fragmentary views of a crust of a shell for a pizza according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 78A-78C are schematic perspective views of a shell for a pizza according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 78D is a schematic perspective view of a shell for a pizza according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 79A-79C are schematic diagrams of a system for producing a shell of a pizza according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 80 is a schematic side view of a fixture for the system according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 81A-81B are schematic top views step* for the system according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 81C-81G are schematic top perspective views of fixtures for the system according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 82A-82F are schematic cut-away side views of a fixture for the system in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 83A-83J are schematic cut-away side views of a fixture for the system in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 84A-84J are schematic cut-away side views of a fixture for the system in operation according to an exemplary embodiment. FIGURES 85A-85D are schematic cut-away side views of a fixture for the system in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 86A-86D are schematic cut-away diagrams of the crust of the shell of a pizza according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 87A-87F are schematic cross-section diagrams of a fixture for a system according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 87G-87H are schematic partial cross-section views of the fixture of FIGURES 87A-87F.

FIGURE 871 is a schematic cross-section diagram of a fixture for a system according to an alternative embodiment.

FIGURES 88A-88E are schematic cross-section diagrams of a fixture for a system in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 89A-89E are schematic cross-section diagrams of a fixture for a system in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 90A is a schematic perspective view of a shell for a pizza according to an alternative embodiment.

FIGURE 90B is a schematic top view of the shell of FIGURE 90 A.

FIGURE 90C is a schematic cross-section diagram of a fixture for producing a shell of the type shown in FIGURES 90A-90B.

FIGURE 91 A is a schematic perspective view of a port for the fixture of the system according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 91B-91G are schematic cut-away views of the operation of a port for the system according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 92A is a schematic perspective view of a port for the fixture of the system according to an exemplary embodiment. FIGURES 92B-92G are schematic cut-away views of the operation of a port for the system according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 93A is a schematic perspective view of a port for the fixture of the system according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 93B is a schematic cut-away view of the operation of a step for the system according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 93 C is a schematic perspective view of the operation of a port for the system according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 93D is a schematic cut-away view of the operation of a port for the system according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 93E is a schematic perspective view of the operation of a port for the system according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 93F is a schematic cut-away view of the operation of a port for the system according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 94 A is a schematic perspective view of a port for the fixture of the system according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 94B-94C are schematic cut-away views of the operation of a port for the system according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 95A-95B are schematic cut-away side views of a fixture for the system in operation according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 95 C is a schematic perspective view of a port for the fixture of the system according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 96A is a schematic system block diagram of the system for producing the pizza/shell product according to an exemplary embodiment. FIGURE 96B is a schematic process flow diagram of the system for producing the pizza/shell product according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 97 is a schematic process flow diagram of the mixing operation of the system according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 98 is a schematic process flow diagram of the mixing operation of the system according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 99 is a schematic process flow diagram of the forming operation of the system according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 100A-100F are schematic process flow diagrams of the forming operation of the system according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 101A-101B are schematic process flow diagrams of the finishing operation of the system according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURES 102A-102C are schematic process flow diagrams of the finishing operation of the system according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 103 is a schematic process flow diagram of the packing operation of the system according to an exemplary embodiment.

FIGURE 104 is a schematic top perspective view of a fixture for the system according to an alternative embodiment.

FIGURE 105 is a schematic cross-section diagram of a fixture for the system according to an alternative embodiment.

FIGURES 106A and 106B are schematic top perspective views of a pizza product according to an alternative embodiment. DESCRIPTION

Referring to FIGURE 1, a two-component baked bread product in the form of bread loaf B is shown. Baked bread loaf B comprises a central or interior portion or core shown as crumb M and an outer or exterior portion or layer shown as a crust S (e.g. a distinct surface effect formed at the exterior surface by the Malliard reaction at the time the bread product is baked). As shown in FIGURES 2A-2C, according to an exemplary embodiment, crust S may essentially encapsulate crumb M. As shown in FIGURES 3A- 3D, according to another exemplary embodiment, crust S may cover all but the bottom surface of crumb M (e.g. crust formation depending upon how the bread product is formed and baked). Bread loaf B is formed from two dough components (e.g. two formulations or types of dough). Crumb M is formed from a first dough component (e.g. the core or inner/interior portion); crust S is formed at the exposed surface of a second dough component (e.g. the layer or outer/exterior portion). According to an exemplary embodiment, the first dough component (for the crumb) and the second dough component (for the crust) can be individually selected so that the baked bread product (e.g. baked bread loaf) is a multi-component bread product that has a crust and crumb combination with desired characteristics that otherwise may be difficult to achieve by conventional production methods (e.g. individual/combined crust-crumb properties difficult to achieve with a bread product formed of a single dough type or component).

According to a preferred embodiment, the first dough component and the second dough component (which typically will be baked simultaneously in identical operating conditions of temperature, time, humidity, air movement, etc. when the baked product is produced) can be independently selected so that each of the crust and the crumb independently will exhibit desired characteristics and the crust-crumb combination will produce a desired composite characteristic for the multi-component baked bread product. According to a preferred embodiment, the baked bread product will comprise a multi- component bread product formed of dough components that together provide a desired effect or characteristic, e.g. texture, consistency, flavor, aroma, color, shape, size, mass/density, shelf-life, etc. According to particularly preferred embodiments, for example, a bread product of a particular form may be produced with one type of base dough component for the crumb and multiple different available options for the dough component for the crust, each crust-crumb combination of which can be selected for a purpose achieved in the baked bread product (e.g. to suit tastes of customers, to produce desired aesthetic affects, to enhance shelf-life, or to obtain other desired effects or combinations of desired effects in the composite baked bread product). As indicated, the ability to independently select separate dough components for the crumb and the crust of a baked bread product allows for production of as many different types of bread products as there are corresponding different compatible crust-crumb combinations available (e.g. through different combinations of dough components). According to exemplary and other embodiments, the system and method allows the selection of the respective dough components for the base and layer to be based on considerations and preferences of the persons who are designing or producing the bread product (and such persons may have widely-varying intent, tastes and preferences for the characteristics to be exhibited).

It is generally known to form a multi-layer effect in a dough-based product with application of a sheet layer or laminate. Such known principles are adapted and applied according to exemplary embodiments of the system and method for producing a bread product. For example, as shown representationally in FIGURES 4A-4B, 4A-5B, 7A-7B and 9, systems and methods to produce a bread product according to exemplary embodiments can be adapted from known configurations, such as disclosed in U.S. Patent No. 3,851,088, U.S. Patent No. 4,907,501, U.S. Patent No. 2,627,822, European Patent No. 1,720,414 and U.S. Published Patent Application No. 2003/0203094.

Referring to FIGURES 4A and 4B, a schematic diagram of a system 100 for producing a bread product of the type shown in FIGURES 3A-3D is shown according to exemplary embodiment. As shown schematically in FIGURE 4A, a dough base shown as dough ball D formed of a first dough component are deposited on a conveyor shown as belt 130 and transported to a station where a layer L formed as a sheet of a second dough component is deposited from a dispenser 120 to cover the dough ball D. As shown in FIGURE 4B, an apparatus shown as comprising rollers 132 operates to help adhere the layer L to the surface of dough ball D. When the bread product of the dough ball D and of layer L is baked (as indicated in FIGURES 3A-D) baked bread product B will have the dough ball D (of FIGURES 4A-B) to substantially comprise the crumb M (e.g. FIGURES 3 A-D) and the exterior of layer L (of FIGURES 4A-B) to substantially comprise the crust S (e.g. FIGURES 3A-3D) of the baked bread product B.

Referring to FIGURES 5 A and 5B, schematic diagrams of a system for producing a bread product of the type shown in FIGURES 2A-2C is shown according to an exemplary embodiment. As shown schematically in FIGURE 5A, a bottom layer L B formed of a dough component is deposited from a dispenser 120 as a sheet on a conveyor shown as belt 130. A dough ball D formed of a dough component is deposited from an outlet 114 of a vat 112 for a dispenser 110 onto sheet layer L B on belt 130. A top layer L T formed of a dough component is deposited from a dispenser 120 as a sheet to cover over the dough ball D. An apparatus shown as a forming or stamping tool 140 operates to compress and adhere layer L T over the top and sides of the surface of dough ball D and to compress and adhere layer L B at the bottom surface of dough ball D as to form a bread product that has a dough ball (of a dough component) encapsulated between a top layer (of a dough component) and a bottom layer (of a dough component). According to an exemplary embodiment, the top layer and the bottom layer may each be of the same dough component; the top layer and the bottom layer may be substantially the same thickness. According to other exemplary and alternative embodiments, the top layer may be of a different dough component than the bottom layer; the top layer may be of a different thickness than the bottom layer.

According to an exemplary embodiment, shown schematically in FIGURES 5 A and 5B, the forming or stamping tool 140 will have a tool or head 142 configured to operate in a reciprocating (up/down) action to form the bread product comprising dough ball D with top layer L T and bottom layer L B into a designed shape (shown as generally oval in profile). When the bread product of dough ball D and top layer L T and bottom layer L B is baked, as indicated in FIGURES 2A-2C, in the baked bread product B the dough ball D (of FIGURES 5A-B) will substantially comprise the crumb M (of FIGURES 2A-2C); the exterior surface of the top layer L T and the exterior surface of the bottom layer L B (of FIGURES 5A-5B) will together substantially comprise crust S (of FIGURES 2A-2C). As indicated in FIGURES 5A and 5B, residual dough component layer L R from bottom layer L B and/or top layer L T after application and/or encapsulation of the dough ball (e.g. residual material not adhered to or encapsulating the dough ball) can be recovered and reused (e.g. re -mixed with the residual material mixed into the dough component for the layer). As indicated, the forming tool may be configured to produce a bread product having any of a variety of forms and shapes according to other exemplary embodiments.

According to an exemplary embodiment, the dough component may be allowed a period of time to proof (e.g. ferment or leaven) prior to being dispensed for application or encapsulation with the layer. As indicated schematically in FIGURE 5A, after the dough base is dispensed, a period of time (of pause or delay) may be allowed for proofing prior to application of the layer as part of the operation of the system and method.

As shown schematically in FIGURES 6A-6E, the forming or stamping tool 140 can have a mechanism such as a circular head 142a that has edges configured in a claw- shaped form to develop a cutting and shaping action when applied to compress and adhere the layer L T to the dough base D. As shown in FIGURE 6C, the head 142a of tool 140 may be configured to rotate to separate or detach the portion shown as layer L T to attach the surface of dough ball D from the residual portion shown as layer L R (e.g. recoverable for recycle/reuse after the forming operation). As shown in FIGURES 6D-6E, when tool 140 is retracted the head 142a is lifted from the formed two-component bread product (shown as circular in profile) in which the surface of the dough ball D has been encapsulated or covered by the layer; the formed multi-component bread product can be conveyed for further processing at other stations (e.g. a station for baking or par-baking and/or freezing).

As indicated schematically in FIGURES 7A-7B and 10A, the forming station

(e.g. forming or stamping tool) can be installed as part of a production line between other stations or operations at a facility (e.g. with a mixing station before the forming station and a baking oven/finishing station and packing station after the forming station) to produce bread product or bread products in a batch or in a substantially continuous flow operation suitable for efficient high volume production. As also indicated, according to alternative embodiments, the forming station may comprise a forming or stamping tool with (or that is configured with) other apparatus or capabilities/fixtures (e.g. a mechanism in the head for gripping or shaping the bread product, a cooling or heating element to "set" or par- bake the bread product, etc.). According to another exemplary embodiment, the forming station may include an integrated dispenser configured to apply the (top) layer of dough component (e.g. as a sheet) or to deposit a liquid dough component (e.g. batter) to form as a layer adhered to the top and sides of the dough ball.

According to any preferred embodiment, the forming station/apparatus is configured to apply a dough component (layer) that will provide the exterior surface to become the crust of a baked bread product to a dough component (dough base or dough ball) that will become the crumb of the baked bread product in a suitable manner as to form a two-component baked bread product when baked that exhibits a desired characteristic or set of characteristics of crust-crumb combination (see FIGURES 2A-2C, 3A-3D and 8A-8B). As indicated, according to exemplary embodiments the form of the dough base or dough ball may be produced in any of a wide variety of shapes and sizes with the accompanying layer conformed to the shape and size of the dough base or dough ball.

As indicated schematically in FIGURES 9 through 12, the dough component of the top layer L T (providing an exterior surface that will form the crust of the baked bread product) can be applied to the surface of the dough base D (e.g. that will substantially form the crumb of the baked bread product) in a variety of different types of stations that may employ various other methods and apparatus according to exemplary and alternative embodiments. As shown in FIGURE 9, the station 150 comprises a dispenser 152 that applies as a sheet a dough component shown as layer L across the top and to drape over and along the sides of the surface of the dough ball D. As shown in FIGURE 10, the station 160 comprises a dispenser 162 that applies a dough component in a semi- liquid/semi-solid form of globules or particulates P in a sputtering process to deposit a layer L onto the top and side surface of the of dough ball D. As shown in FIGURE 11, the station 170 comprises a dispenser 172 that applies a dough component in a liquid (e.g. suspension or batter) form as a spray R from a spray head 174 (which can be arranged individually or in an array of multiple spray heads) as layer L onto the exposed surface of the dough ball D. As shown in FIGURE 12, the station 180 comprises a dispenser 182 that applies a dough component in a liquid (e.g. suspension or batter) form Q as a layer L across the top and side surface of the dough ball D by a brush 184; as also shown according to an alternative embodiment, the station may be configured to apply the supply of dough component as liquid/batter Q as a layer L on the bottom or underside of dough ball D by an apparatus shown as roller brush system 188 (or a spray head array or other apparatus).

As shown schematically in FIGURES 6 through 12, according to exemplary embodiments, a station may be configured to apply a layer that is comprised of any of a variety of components (e.g. mixed ingredients or formulation/recipe) and/or of any of a wide variety of thicknesses so as to produce a resultant baked bread product intended to provide a resultant desired crust. As indicated, according to alternative embodiments, the bread product may be produced in a multi-step or multi-station operation so that the multi- component bread product will have multiple applications or layers of dough component (or other treatments) deposited on the dough ball, for example, to produce a multi-layer effect as shown in FIGURES 24A-24B. As indicated, by the example configurations of the stations of FIGURES 9 and 10, a relatively thicker layer/component may be deposited on the surface of the dough ball (in comparison to a mean); as indicated by the stations of FIGURES 11 and 12, a relatively thinner layer/component may be deposited on the surface of the dough ball (in comparison). According to other exemplary embodiments, stations shown in FIGURES 5A-12 may be combined in a sequence to apply the layer as a composite built up in steps or to form a multi-layer bread product.

As indicated for example in FIGURES 9-12, according to other alternative embodiments, the dough component of the layer could be applied (or built up) in an operation of multiple steps and/or by multiple tools or stations (or at a single station with multiple tools). The operation may include application of a treatment or pre -treatment such as a batter or other liquid to promote adhesion of the applied top layer of more solid dough component; the sequence of operation could be configured so that a base layer is applied to the dough ball as a spray and a top layer is a sheet over the base layer or substance. As shown in FIGURES 24A-24B, according to an alternative embodiment, a bread product having a core base (dough component D) and multiple layers (shown as outer layer L 0 and inner layer could be created; when baked the corresponding baked bread product may have a crumb M and a crust S (shown as on the surface of outer layer Lo which with inner layer Li may provide an effect such as enhanced flakiness or better adhesion or supplemental flavoring, etc.) (see FIGURE 24B). According to another alternative embodiment, the dough component for the layer (e.g. a sheet) may be rolled or wrapped around the dough base or dough ball by a forming operation. As indicated, other variations of applying a layer to the dough base or dough ball may be configured according to alternative embodiments of the system and method.

Referring to FIGURES 13A-13B, a system and method of producing a bread product of a type shown in FIGURES 1, 2A-2C and 3A-3D is shown according to exemplary and alternative embodiments. As shown in FIGURES 13A-13B, the system comprises a mixing station to mix ingredients for the dough component, a forming station to form the dough base or dough ball with layer into the two-component based product (ready to be baked), a finishing station to finish the bread product into form for commercial use and/or consumption (e.g. baking or par-baking and/or freezing depending on the next intended use), and a packing station to pack the bread product as to facilitate commercial use and/or consumption (e.g. packaging the baked/par-baked bread product into packaging materials with labels and inspected for shipment and sale). The operation of the mixing station is shown according to an exemplary embodiment in FIGURE 14. As shown, ingredients for the dough components of the bread product are assembled and mixed (and allowed time for bulk fermentation if required, desired or suitable); each resultant dough component is worked and conditioned and maintained according to the respective recipe or formulation (e.g. by kneading or further mixing) and then dispensed at the forming station. Residual dough component from the forming station (e.g. residual portions of the sheet layer or residual matter from deposition of the layer material) can optionally be reused or recycled by recombination and re -mixing to supplement the dough component created by mixing of new/fresh ingredients.

The operation of the forming station is shown schematically in FIGURES 15A through 16C according to exemplary and alternative embodiments. As shown in FIGURE 15 A, for a bread product of a type shown (for example) in FIGURES 3A-3D and FIGURES 4A-4B, 6A-6E and 9-12 (for example) with a top layer on the dough base or dough ball, the dough component for the dough base or dough ball of the center of the bread product is dispensed and then the dough component for the layer is dispensed; the two-component bread product is formed upon application of the layer to the base as shown (for example in FIGURES 4A-4B, 5A-5B, 6A-6E, 7A-7B and 9-12). As shown in FIGURE 15B, for a bread product of a type shown (for example) in FIGURES 4A-4B and 6A-6E). As shown in FIGURE 15B, for a bread product of the type shown (for example) in FIGURES 2A-2C, FIGURES 5A-5B and FIGURES 19A-19K with an inner (interior) dough base encapsulated between or within the outer (exterior) layer, the dough component for the under or bottom layer is dispensed and then the dough component for the center forming the dough base is dispersed and then the dough component for the upper or top layer is dispensed; the multi-component bread product is formed upon completion of deposition of the top layer (for example as shown in FIGURES 19A-K or by additional steps or operations as in FIGURES 5A-5B).

The operation of a forming station is shown in FIGURES 16A-16B according to alternative embodiments. As shown in FIGURES 16A-16B, multi-component bread product of the type indicated in FIGURES 20A-23F can be produced by extrusion or co- extrusion of separately mixed and dispensed dough components for the layer and the center or base. FIGURE 16A shows schematically an extrusion process for a two- component baked bread product in which the dough component for the center is extruded through an outlet and then the dough component for the layer is extruded through an outlet and applied onto the dough component for the center (see FIGURE 22). FIGURE 16B shows schematically a co-extrusion process for a two-component bread product in which the dough components for the center (base) and the layer are substantially simultaneously co-extruded to form the two-component bread product at the outlet (see FIGURES 20A and 21). The two-component extruded bread product then can be formed to a desired size (e.g. cut) and/or shaped to a desired form (e.g. by a tool) so that the bread product is ready for the finishing operation and other operations.

According to alternative embodiments, the forming operation may comprise other steps such as proofing (e.g. allowing the dough product to leaven/rise, see FIGURE 16C) and/or the application of a thermal effect (e.g. heating or par-baking and/or cooling or freezing or ends of the product) to "set" all or some portion of the bread product to hold the desired form or closure at the end (e.g. FIGURES 23A-23F). According to exemplary embodiments, the dough component of the core or base may be "set" by other process operations or techniques to achieve the desired objective (e.g. heated or cooled by use of a thermal element, heated by microwave techniques or infrared, heated by par-baking, etc.) such as to retard or halt leavening prior to the application of the layer or to facilitate adherence of the layer to the surface of the dough base. According to other exemplary embodiments, a surface treatment (e.g. a batter or other/liquid composition to serve the treatment function) may be applied to the surface of the dough base or dough ball before the layer to facilitate adhesion of the dough layer (see, e.g., FIGURES 11 and 12).

According to an exemplary embodiment, the system including the forming station may be configured so that a variety of different forms and types of bread products can be produced at the production facility. The apparatus employed in the forming station (e.g. as shown schematically in FIGURES 5A-5B, 6A-6E, 7A-7B, 9-12 and 19A-19I) may comprise modular or interchangeable tooling/fixtures so that the system can be reconfigured and modified by interchanging tooling/fixtures to produce multiple different types of bread products with various different shapes, forms, sizes and layering or layers/layer effects at the forming station. As indicated, for example, one forming tool may be used at the forming station to produce a bread product having one form and another forming tool may be used at the forming station to produce a bread product having another form (see FIGURES 5A-5B); one mold fixture may be used at the forming station to produce a bread product having one form and another mold fixture may be used at the forming station to produce a bread product having another form (see FIGURES 19A-19I); one bread product may be formed by having the outer layer deposited as a sheet and another bread product may be formed by having the outer layer deposited by spray or sputtering (see FIGURES 9-12).

The operation of a finishing station is shown schematically in FIGURES 17A- 17C according to exemplary embodiments. As shown in FIGURE 17A, the multi- component bread product with layer L and center D can be baked and then made packaged or alternatively available for sale and/or consumption at the facility (e.g. as if at a bakery). As shown in FIGURES 17B-17C, the bread product may be finished into a form for commercial transport/delivery (e.g. by truck, train etc.) and stocking/sale (e.g. at a warehouse, storage, store, supermarket, retail outlet, restaurant, eatery, cafeteria, etc.) The bread product may be par-baked (set in form) and then frozen and stored and transported (see FIGURE 17B) or the bread product may be baked and readied to be stored and transported (see FIGURE 17C).

The operation of a packing station to prepare the product for commercial distribution is shown schematically in FIGURE 18 according to an exemplary embodiment. As shown, in the final steps of preparing the par-baked or baked product for shipment, additional steps may include inspection of the product (e.g. visual, x-ray, photographic, etc.), packaging the product in a package (e.g. in bag, box, etc.), labeling the package, storing and loading the product to be shipped/transported for next use.

According to exemplary and other embodiments, the system and method can be adapted (in whole or in part or parts) to be incorporated in improvements of any of a wide variety of known/conventional and other production systems and methods currently in use in the production of bread products. For example, apparatus of the system and method (e.g. including any fixture/tool or station as shown in the FIGURES) may be adapted and/or installed and included in improvements of existing/in-use or future-developed systems and methods of manufacturing bread products so that such bread products may be produced in an improved form and manner (e.g. including any bread product as shown in the FIGURES) according to exemplary and other embodiments. According to an exemplary embodiment, an existing or future system and method for producing bread products may be adapted and modified/improved to include an apparatus to deposit or form a layer on a dough base to produce a multi-component bread product that when baked has a crumb formed of one dough component (from the dough base) and a crust formed at the surface of another dough component (at the exterior of the layer). As shown schematically in FIGURES 19A-J, according to an alternative embodiment a sequence of steps can be employed to form a multi-component bread product in a mold or fixture that will have a form as shown in FIGURE 19K. It is generally known to form multi-component foodstuffs in a mold fixture in which the components are injected. Such known principles are adapted and applied according to exemplary embodiments of the system and method to produce a multi-component bread product. For example, as shown representationally in FIGURES 19A-19J, systems and methods to produce a bread product according to exemplary embodiments can be adapted from known configurations, such as disclosed in U.S. Patent No. 8,124,156. As shown, mold 200 has a section 202a and a section 202b that are closed and sealed together to create a cavity 210 (see FIGURES 19A-19C). Dough component for a bottom layer L B is dispensed into the cavity from a dispenser dough component for a dough center D and is then dispensed into the cavity atop bottom layer L B from dispenser 200 (see FIGURES 19D-19E). Dough component for a top layer L T is then dispensed into the cavity atop dough center D (see FIGURES 19F-19G). The bread product may be removed from the mold by separation of the mold sections (see FIGURE 191). As indicated, each dough component is liquefied sufficiently (e.g. as diluted into a batter) to facilitate flow into the cavity of the mold or fixture. The bread product may be allowed a period of time to proof (leaven or rise) while inside the mold (or outside the mold). The bread product may be baked or par-baked (set to form/shape) while inside the mold; according to another alternative embodiment, the bread product may be removed from the mold before being baked or par-baked (set to form/shape). According to a preferred embodiment, the baked bread product B will have a crumb M from the dough component of the center dough portion D, and crust S formed (in part) by the dough component of the top layer L T and (in part) by the dough component of the bottom layer L B . See FIGURE 19K. Referring to FIGURES 16A-16B and 20A-23F, a multi-component bread product may be formed from an extrusion process according to alternative embodiments. It is generally known to employ extrusion processes for producing multi-component foodstuffs (including from a dough components). Such known principles are adapted and applied according to exemplary embodiments of the system and method of producing a multi-component bread product. For example, as shown representationally in FIGURES 20A-23D, systems and methods to produce a bread product according to exemplary embodiments can be adapted from known configurations, such as disclosed in U.S. Patent No. 4,786,243, U.S. Patent No. 4,882,185, U.S. Patent No. 4,251,201, U.S. Patent No. 4,698,000, U.S. Patent No. 4,469,475, U.S. Patent No. 4,266,920, etc. Referring to FIGURE 20A, according to an exemplary embodiment (shown schematically) an apparatus shown as co-extrusion system 300 mixes and dispenses each dough component of the multi-component bread product. Co-extrusion system 300 comprises a vessel shown as mixing vat 310 with rotary mixing feeder arms 312 for the dough component for the center portion D of the bread product and a vessel shown as vat 320 with a generally cylindrical rotary screw feeder 322 for the dough component for the outer layer L of the bread product.

As shown schematically in FIGURE 20A, dough component L is mixed (from ingredients) dispensed from vat 320 into a generally annular outlet passage around the passage for dough component D mixed (from ingredients) and dispensed from vat 310 to a common passage and outlet; at the end of the passage dough component L is no longer separated from dough component D and a co-extruded form of bread product in which dough component L is applied around dough component D and is dispensed at the outlet of the co-extrusion system 300. As shown schematically in cross-section in FIGURE 20B, the bread product will have the dough component for the outer layer L encompassing the dough component for the center portion D of the co-extruded multi-component bread product. As shown in FIGURE 21, a co-extrusion system 300x may use a forming tool 392 (shown schematically) operating in a reciprocating cutting action at a specified interval to segment the co-extruded form into bread products of specified or intended lengths. An extrusion system 300e having a vat 310a for dough component D and vat 320a for dough component L is shown schematically in FIGURE 22. As indicated, the streams of the dough components for the center portion D and the layer L can be dispensed and then combined into the desired form of the multi-component extruded product. See FIGURE 13 A.

As indicated schematically in FIGURES 23A-23F, the extruded multi- component bread product can be selectively cut to length and formed at the respective ends by a mechanism comprising gate 350. The extended multi-component bread product cut to length is then finished, for example, baked to produce a baked co-extruded multi- component bread product B having a crust S (corresponding to dough component of layer L) and a crumb M (corresponding to dough component of center portion D as shown in FIGURE 23G).

According to other exemplary embodiments, the co-extrusion system or extrusion system may be of any type suitable for formation and handling of a multi- component bread product. As indicated, sizing and arrangement and configuration of the elements of the system can be adapted/modified or adjusted to form set bread products that have a desired overall shape and proportion and a desired thickness of the dough component for the layer applied to the dough component for the center portion as desired or designed for the purpose or requirements. According to any preferred embodiment, the ingredients for each dough component of the multi-component bread product may be selected and formulated so that the baked bread product exhibits desired characteristics of crust and crumb (as well as properties to facilitate the forming and finishing operations).

Ingredients for each dough component of the multi-component bread product may be formulated as suitable for the types of bread product as well as culinary considerations (of taste, texture, color, etc.) and to facilitate the efficient operations of forming process. According to exemplary embodiments, the operations of the forming process may be adapted for suitability to the dough components of the bread product; for example, a thick layer of dough component intended for a bread product to form a relatively thick crust may be applied to a dough base in a system such as shown in FIGURE 9 (sheet layer dispenser); a thin layer of dough component intended for a bread product to form a relatively thin crust may be formed and applied to a dough base in a system such as shown in FIGURES 11 or 12 (spray deposition or brush application of a liquid batter).

According to a preferred embodiment, the layer providing the exterior surface forming the crust will be of a thickness in a range between approximately 1 and 3 mm. According to any preferred embodiment, the layer forming the crust will be formulated to produce an intended effect and result in terms of the characteristics of the crust upon baking (e.g. through the Malliard reaction or other effect). As indicated, according to other exemplary embodiments, the thickness of the crust, and the intended effect achieved through the Malliard reaction (or other reaction or effect), the formulation of the dough composition for the layer can be modified or adapted over a wide range of types, shapes, tastes, purposes, etc. of bread products. As also indicated, the crust may form at or through some or all of the layer depending upon the thickness of the layer and the operating conditions of baking (e.g. temperature, time, humidity, air movement, etc.) as well as upon the formulation of the dough component for the layer (e.g. the crust may form only at an outer surface but not entirely through the entire layer).

Dough components may also be selected and combined by other characteristics intended to facilitate the forming operation (such as viscosity, flow-ability, density, adhesion, etc.). Operating conditions for baking or par-baking in the finishing operation (e.g. temperature, time, humidity, air movement, etc.) may also be adjusted or adapted to facilitate or establish characteristics of the dough components (e.g. to facilitate adhesion of the layer to the surface of the dough ball). Surface treatments or other preparations may be employed at or upon the interface of the dough base to the layer to facilitate the forming process (e.g. other ingredients may be applied to the surface of the dough base before deposition of the dough component for the layer).

Referring to FIGURES 25A-25C, a bread product Be is shown schematically according to an exemplary embodiment. The bread product Be has a base made from a dough component and is formed by being baked. As indicated in FIGURES 25B and 25C, the baked bread product comprises an exterior layer with a surface shown as crust S and an interior portion shown as crumb M; the bread product Be also comprises a generally central distinct cavity C established within the crumb M. As indicated, the size/volume and configuration/shape of the bread product and the cavity may vary according to exemplary and alternative embodiments of the bread product.

Referring to FIGURES 26A-26C, a bread product B F is shown schematically according to an exemplary embodiment. The bread product B F is made from a substrate or core dough component providing a dough base and a fill component. When baked, the bread product comprises an exterior layer shown as crust S and a multi-component interior portion shown as crumb M and fill F. As indicated in FIGURES 26B and 26C, according to an exemplary embodiment, the fill component is also a dough component and the bread product B F comprises a multi-component bread product. As indicated, the type and relative size/volume of each dough component and therefore the configuration/shape of the entire bread product and relative size/shape of the fill material relative to the dough base may vary according to exemplary and alternative embodiments of the bread product.

A system and method for producing bread products of a type shown in

FIGURES 25A-25C (bread product BC with cavity) and FIGURES 26A-26C (multi- component bread product BF with fill) according to an exemplary embodiment is shown in FIGURES 27 A (system) and 27B (method). The system and method comprises a set of stations to perform process steps and operations: ingredients for the components are mixed at a mixing station (see FIGURE 28); the dough component of the bread product with cavity (see FIGURE 25 C) and/or fill with component (see FIGURE 26C) is formed at a forming station (see FIGURES 30 to 33D); the bread product is finished (e.g. by baking) at a finish station (e.g. comprising a baking oven or the like, see FIGURES 34A to 35B); the finished bread product is prepared, packed and/or packaged for commercial distribution, shipment, transport, sale, consumption, use, etc. at a packing station (see FIGURE 36). At a production facility for the bread product, each station or operation may be programmed, directed, controlled and/or monitored by a control system (e.g. a computer-based or programmable control unit or the like) and connected to a network (such as a LAN with data links, storage) (see, e.g., control system 110 in FIGURE 31G).

An exemplary embodiment of the mixing process for a dough component of the bread product is shown schematically in FIGURE 28. Ingredients for the dough component (e.g. flour, water, other ingredients, etc. to suit the intended recipe or formulation) are mixed and (optionally allowed time for bulk fermentation/proofing) then worked (e.g. by conventional methods such as kneading) into condition for the next station/process operation of forming. As indicated, portions of the dough component remaining from subsequent process operations or stations may be recovered and recycled/reused by recombination with the dough component newly mixed from ingredients. The fill component (if any) can be mixed from ingredients and prepared for dispensing at the forming station, as indicated in FIGURE 29.

Exemplary embodiments of the forming process for the dough component of the bread product are shown in FIGURES 30 to 33D. As indicated in FIGURE 30, the dough component for the base of the bread product may (after mixing and working) be dispensed and then formed/shaped initially; as indicated, the bread product may be formed with a cavity and/or with fill component. As indicated, the forming process may include suitable adaptations of any of a wide variety of production operations that may be for forming a product from a plastic (dough-like) material (e.g. such as by a blow-molding operation or injection molding operation or other molding operation). The product may be formed without a cavity but in condition to facilitate subsequent processing including forming and/or filling of a cavity; after the cavity is formed and/or filled (e.g. with a fill component such as a dough component for the fill material) the bread product may be completed to form and shaped for subsequent final processing during formation (and/or optionally prior to finishing the product may be allowed time to rise for leavening through proofing). After the formation operation the product is ready for the finishing operation (e.g. including baking of the bread product into a baked bread product).

As shown in FIGURES 31A-31F and 32A-32B, the forming operation may comprise various steps and combinations of steps in various sequences according to exemplary and other alternative embodiments. For example, a bread product with a cavity can be formed initially as the base dough component is dispensed (and then optionally filled with a fill component) (see, e.g., FIGURES 30 and 38A-38J or 39A-39J); after the base dough component of the bread product has been dispensed, the fill component may be supplied directly (e.g. injected under pressure) to the form a multi-component bread product with a filled cavity (see FIGURES 26C and 31 A); a cavity may be formed in the dough base to form a bread product with cavity (see FIGURES 25B and 3 IB); a cavity may be formed and then filled with a fill component to form a multi-component bread product with a filled cavity (FIGURE 31C); a cavity may be formed and then filled with a first fill component and a second fill component to form a multi-component bread product (FIGURE 3 ID); a cavity may be formed and then pre-treated (e.g. by application of heat or with an additive or ingredient to produce a desired effect such as a "set" to and within the cavity) and then (optionally) filled with a fill component (FIGURE 3 IE). The forming process may according to an alternative embodiment include the formation of multiple cavities and/or fill segments within the dough base of the bread product (see, e.g., FIGURES 53A-53G and 54A-54G) or may include variations in the sequence of steps or operations to dispense the dough component and to form and/or optionally to fill at least one cavity in the bread product. As shown in FIGURE 3 IF, according to an alternative embodiment, the dough component may be pressed (in a tool or fixture) for application of an imprint to provide a desired visual or aesthetic effect in the surface of the bread product (see, e.g., FIGURES 57E and 57E). As indicated, according to other exemplary and alternative embodiments, there may be a wide variety of adjustments and adaptations to the forming process for the bread product.

According to other exemplary embodiments as indicated in FIGURES 32A and

32B, a multi-component bread product may be formed by an extrusion process combing streams of separately dispensed dough components such as for a generally center (interior/inner) portion and exterior (outer) portion to form the bread product (see FIGURE 32A) or by a co-extrusion process where streams of separate dough components are combined and dispensed together to form the extruded bread product (see FIGURE 32B). As indicated, after the dough components have been dispensed through the extrusion/co-extrusion process, the dispensed dough components are formed into a bread product of a desired size and/or shape (e.g. cut and closed into a designated length). As indicated schematically in FIGURES 60, 61A-61C and 62A-62L, other forms of bread products may be created/formed in an extrusion operation.

According to other exemplary embodiments shown in FIGURES 33A-33D, the dough component dispensed and formed into the dough base may be heated and/or cooled during the forming/filling operation. The application of heat may facilitate the formation of the cavity by enhancing relevant properties of the dough component (e.g. flow-ability of the dough component into a fixture such as a mold) and/or by causing the cavity to be "set" into the dough component (i.e. gelatinization of the starch in the dough component adjacent to the cavity so that the dough component maintains the form or shape of the cavity after formation, see FIGURES 33A and 33C). The application of cold (e.g. to freeze the dough component at a localized area) may facilitate the maintenance of the cavity after it is formed (e.g. retarding fermentation/leavening or holding a physical form and shape in the dough component). As indicated, heat or cold can be selectively applied at a designated time for the intended purpose and/or according to a control program and/or generally for thermal control to enhance the workability or state of the dough component at the desired step of the cavity formation (see FIGURES 33A and 33D); heat or cold may also be applied in a cycle or according to a control program that may periodically or continuously monitor or control the workability of the fill component at the step of filling or to "set" and maintain the form of the cavity (see FIGURES 33B and 33D).

As indicated in FIGURES 30 to 33D, according to an exemplary embodiment, the forming station may comprise an apparatus that allows the use of a set of modular interchangeable fixtures (e.g. mold fixtures) configured to form bread products of various forms, shapes, and sizes. Referring to FIGURE 31G, a forming station 120 is shown schematically according to an exemplary embodiment to comprise an apparatus with modular interchangeable fixtures 200a, 200b and 200c (installed) each configured to form a pre-selected bread product. A wide variety of different fixtures may be designed/built and installed/used to produce a wide variety of different bread products in the forming station. The forming station can be configured and then reconfigured as needed by selection and installation of a fixture designed to produce each of a wide variety of preselected forms of bread products. The forming station can be configured so that fixtures can quickly and easily be interchanged as to allow multiple different bread products to be made at one production facility. According to an exemplary embodiment, fixtures for the forming station/apparatus can be designed for each of the types of bread products intended to be produced at the production facility. As shown, forming station 120 is connected to a control system 110 configured to operate a control program for the formation of each preselected bread product (e.g. including the cavity-forming operation). According to an exemplary embodiment, control system 110 is coupled to a network through an interface and can communicate with and/or operate other stations in the system (see FIGURE 27A) to perform the steps of the method (see FIGURE 27B) according to a control program to manage the operating conditions for the bread product in production.

As shown in FIGURES 34A-34C and 35A-35B, according to exemplary embodiments, a finished bread product for use, sale and/or consumption can be produced after the dough component (single or multi-component) has been formed. According to an exemplary embodiment, the formed bread product will be finished by baking (e.g. under designated operating conditions such as temperature, time, humidity, air movement, etc. and/or after allowing time for proofing) and then stored or transported as the baked bread product (e.g. a baked bread loaf) as intended for commercial distribution, sale, and consumption (see FIGURE 34A). According to other exemplary embodiments, finishing the bread product may comprise other steps or combinations and sequences of steps. For example, the bread product may be baked and then filled and stored and/or transported for the next operation or use (see FIGURE 34B), baked and frozen for storage/transport (see FIGURE 34C), par-baked (e.g. set into form) and frozen for storage/transport and subsequent use (see FIGURE 35A), par-baked (e.g. set into form) and filled with a fill component and then frozen for storage/transport and subsequent use (see FIGURE 35B). As indicated, according to exemplary embodiments, the finished bread product may be a frozen product intended for subsequent baking into a baked bread product at a later time by a customer or another person or entity; the finished bread product may be a baked bread product ready and included for use and consumption; or the finished bread product may be a variation of product (e.g. ready to bake) or other type of product as desired or as required for the intended purpose. According to an exemplary embodiment, some or all of the finishing operations may be performed with the bread product in a fixture used in the forming operation.

Referring to FIGURE 36, according to an exemplary embodiment, the final/finished bread product can be completed for commercial distribution, sale and use by further operations at a finishing station. Finishing operations may comprise inspection (e.g. visual, mass properties, x-ray, photographic, etc.) in an attempt to identify defects of any kind, packaging and labeling, storage and loading for transport and shipment or delivery to the intended user or outlet. As indicated, the steps to prepare or complete the bread product for commercial distribution may vary with the type of product and the desired characteristics of the product, the dough component of the product, and/or aspects of the intended use or uses of the product (including, for example, the proximity of the end customer to the production facility). According to one exemplary embodiment, the system can be implemented at a commercial/institutional or retail facility such as a supermarket/superstore, restaurant, food service facility or cafeteria, institution providing food service, etc. where the finished bread product is sold or served for consumption. According to another exemplary embodiment, the system can be implemented at a facility such as a production plant or facility and the finished bread product can in preparation for commercial distribution be packaged and shipped to a commercial/institutional or retail facility for sale and use.

According to exemplary and other embodiments, the system and method can be adapted (in whole or in part or parts) to be incorporated in improvements of any of a wide variety of known/conventional and other production systems and methods currently in use in the production of bread products. For example, apparatus of the system and method (e.g. including any fixture/tool or station as shown in the FIGURES) may be adapted and/or installed and included in improvements of existing/in-use or future-developed systems and methods of manufacturing bread products so that such bread products may be produced in an improved form and manner (e.g. including any bread product as shown in the FIGURES) according to exemplary and other embodiments. According to an exemplary embodiment, for example, an existing or future system and method for producing bread products may be adapted and modified/improved to include an apparatus to form a cavity or cavities and/or a filled cavity or cavities or to form a variety of different molded bread products.

Systems and methods for producing a bread product with an empty cavity and/or filled cavity are shown schematically according to exemplary embodiments in FIGURES 37 through 54. As indicated, the system and method can be implemented using a forming station/apparatus configured to produce bread products in a variety of different forms and types shown schematically in the FIGURES. As indicated schematically in FIGURES 37A-37D, a bread product B is formed in a fixture shown as mold 200; the mold fixture 200 comprises two mold sections 202a and 202b that when closed form an open volume shown as mold cavity 210. See also FIGURES 55 and 56A-56B. The mold fixture has an inlet 280 through which the dough component D can be supplied (e.g. dispensed or injected under pressure) into mold cavity 210 to form a dough base (see FIGURES 37A-37B). The dough component D can fill or substantially fill the mold cavity 210 as the dough base for the bread product takes the intended form (subject to expansion during leavening for certain types and formulations of dough components); as the operation continues for the bread to be baked, the dough base will generally take the form of the mold cavity (see FIGURE 37C). According to an exemplary embodiment, the bread product can be par-baked (e.g. "set" in form or shape) or baked within the mold fixture; the bread product can be formed in the mold fixture and baked or par-baked in a separate station (e.g. oven). The mold sections are separated to remove the bread product (e.g. formed dough component) from the mold fixture (see FIGURE 37D) to provide a bread product B generally conformed to the shape of the mold cavity 210 (see FIGURE 37E). As indicated, the molding operation for a bread product may generally follow a process similar to processes used for molding of plastics (e.g. blow-molding or injection molding) or other materials. As indicated the fixture (e.g. tooling and equipment) and operating conditions of the forming steps can be adapted for variations in the material properties such as the fragility and/or extensibility of the dough component and for production requirements for processing commercial foodstuffs (e.g. health and safety rules and regulations).

It is generally known to use a blow molding operation to form (from a plastic material) a part with a cavity. Such known principles are adapted and applied according to exemplary embodiments of the system and method for producing a bread product. For example, as shown representationally in FIGURES 38A-38H, 39A-39D, 40A-40D and 55, systems and methods to produce a bread product from according to exemplary embodiments can be adapted from known configurations, such as disclosed in U.S. Patent No. 3,941,542, U.S. Patent No. 3,635,632, U.S. Patent No. 3,399,424 and U.S. Patent No. 2,285,150.

Referring to FIGURES 38A-38J, as indicated schematically, the mold fixture may be configured for a blow-molding operation in which the dough component D is supplied (e.g. dispensed or injected under pressure) as a dough base into the mold cavity 210 through a port 282 of inlet 280 that is inserted into the mold and then retracted so that the dough component is expanded by supply of a fluid or gas (e.g. air or another gas) to conform to the interior walls of the mold cavity 210 while developing an interior cavity C in the forming bread product (see FIGURES 38B-38E). The bread product formed from the dough base within the mold fixture can be finished (e.g. baked or par-baked) and/or temporarily allowed to ferment or rise (see FIGURE 38F). The bread product can be released from the mold fixture when the operation is completed by separating the mold sections 202a and 202b (e.g. mold halves, as shown schematically). (As indicated, the interior surface of the mold cavity may be treated with a suitable release agent or lined with a sheet or material to facilitate separation of the bread product from the opened mold fixture.) The bread product B formed from the dough component D will have an interior cavity C and generally not conform to the shape and form of the mold cavity (see FIGURE 38H). As shown in FIGURES 381-38 J, according to an exemplary embodiment, the baked molded bread product B upon finishing will have an exterior crust S and an interior crumb M as well as the interior cavity C. As shown in FIGURES 38A-38J, the baked molded bread product is formed from a dough base of a single dough component D. Referring to FIGURES 38A-38J, the mold fixture may be configured for a blow-modeling operation by the supply (e.g. injection under pressure) of a first (base) dough component D to form a dough base with a cavity C (see FIGURES 37A-37D) followed by the supply (e.g. injection under pressure) of a second (fill) dough component F into the cavity C tending to urge the dough component D to conform to the form of the mold cavity of given by the shape of the interior walls of the mold fixture as the fill component F fills and enlarges the cavity C in the dough base (see FIGURES 39E-39G). The two-component bread product can be finished (baked or par-baked) in the mold or removed and baked at a separate station. The mold sections of the mold fixture are separated to release the two-component bread product generally formed to the shape of the mold cavity (see FIGURES 40G-40H). As shown in FIGURES 40I-40J, the baked molded multi-component bread product B upon finishing will have an exterior crust S and a two-component crumb formed of a crumb portion M D of the first dough component D and a crumb portion M F of the second (fill) dough component F. As indicated schematically in FIGURES 38A-38J and FIGURES 39A-39J, the relative respective volume and proportion of the first dough component and second (fill) dough component of the bread product may be adjusted according to exemplary embodiments. As shown in FIGURES 40A-40D and 40E-40H, the volume and resultant size (i.e. relative thickness) of the first dough component D may be reduced and the volume and resultant size (i.e. relative volume) of the second (fill) dough component F injected into cavity C may be enlarged so that the baked molded two-component bread product B has a generally thin crumb portion M formed of the first dough component D and a generally thick crumb portion of the second (fill) dough component F.

Referring to FIGURES 41A-41H, a molded baked bread product B with an internal cavity C may be formed in the mold fixture by partially filling the mold cavity with the dough component D to form a dough base and then deploying an inlet or port 280 into the dough component D and inflating a bladder or balloon 240 to expand the dough component D toward and into the side walls of the mold sections to conform to the shape of the mold cavity; the balloon 240 is then deflated and the port 280 retracted. As indicated, the balloon may be inflated and deflated in one or more cycles to more fully establish the cavity C within the dough component D (see FIGURES 41B-41D). The dough base may be finished (into a baked molded bread product or par-baked product) in the mold fixture or after release from the mold fixture; if the bread product is baked in the mold fixture, the balloon may be made of a heat-resistant material and may be deployed during the finishing operation (at an interval or in a cycle or maintained) to maintain the cavity C. As shown, after the cavity C has been established in the dough base, the dough component D is prepared to be finished (e.g. baked in the mold and/or released from the mold and baked at another station) (see FIGURES 41E-41G). The finished baked molded bread product B with crust S and a cavity C in crumb M (see cut-away view in FIGURE 41H) is then ready for commercial distribution, sale, use and/or consumption.

As shown in FIGURES 42A-42H, according to another exemplary embodiment, a baked molded bread products (formed from a dough (base) component D of the type shown in FIGURE 42H) can be formed where the cavity C in the dough (based) component is filled with a separate dough (fill) component F. As shown, inlet 280 is used to supply the dough (fill) component F after balloon 240 has been inflated to form the cavity C and retracted from the dough (base) component D (see FIGURES 43A-43F). The cavity C provides a space or volume into which the dough (fill) component F can be supplied or injected. The two sections of the mold fixture can be separated to release the resultant two-component molded bread product B. If the bread product is according to one exemplary embodiment finished/baked in the mold fixture the baked bread product will be released in a form ready for packaging and/or sale and use; according to another exemplary embodiment, the mold fixture will release a formed two-component product to be finished/baked at a subsequent station. See FIGURES 43G-43H.

It is generally known to inject air into a dough mass to form or inflate a cavity within the dough mass. Such known principles are adapted and applied according to exemplary embodiments of the system and method to produce a bread product. For example, as shown representationally in FIGURES 43E-43G and 44A-44D, systems and methods to produce a bread product according to exemplary embodiments can be adapted from known configurations, such as disclosed in U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2006/0060865. As shown schematically in FIGURES 43A-43L, a two-component baked molded bread product can be formed according to an exemplary embodiment where the cavity is formed in the (base) dough component D by a supply of a gas G (e.g. air, nitrogen/nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, etc. under pressure) through a port or inlet shown as nozzle 280 to expand the dough (base) component D (see FIGURES 43B-43F) and form a cavity C. As shown, a dough (fill) component F may be supplied (i.e. dispensed or injected under pressure) into the cavity C through an inlet 280 to fill the cavity C and to conform the two-component product to the shape of the mold cavity 210 of the mold fixture (see FIGURES 43G-43J). The mold fixture can be opened to release the two- component molded baked bread product (if finished/baked in the mold fixture) or a two- component molded dough/bread product (to be finished/baked at a separate station). See FIGURES 43K-43L.

As shown schematically in FIGURES 44A-44E and FIGURES 45A-45E, according to alternative embodiments, the cavity C in the (base) dough component D in the mold fixture 200 can be formed by supply (e.g. injection) of a hot vapor such as steam T through a port or inlet shown as nozzle 280 which will have the effect of heating the dough component in the location of the formed cavity C; starch in the dough component at the location interior of cavity C may be gelatinized to "set" or establish the form of the cavity into a semi-rigid condition which is then more likely to be maintained in form (e.g. not as likely to collapse) during subsequent operations, for example, in handling after release from the mold fixture and transport to a separate station for finishing/baking. As shown schematically in FIGURES 45A-45E, according to an alternative embodiment, the steam may be supplied into the dough component D through a tool shown as spray head 270 configured to distribute steam T in a designated pattern to form and maintain/enlarge and establish the cavity C for the bread product. According to an alternative embodiment, the system may be configured to supply or spray a fluid to freeze the dough component adjacent to the cavity to achieve a "set" of the cavity in the dough base.

As indicated, according to an alternative embodiment, other methods of using heating or cooling/freezing to "set" the form of the cavity and/or the form of the dough component may be employed using conventional heat exchange technique. Thermal management of the mold fixture using heating or cooling elements (e.g. on or in the walls of the fixture or mold sections) may allow for management of material properties of the dough component (or dough components) to facilitate the efficient formation and production of the molded bread product; for example, initial heating of the supplied dough component in the mold fixture can be employed to enhance flow-ability (i.e. reduce viscosity) followed by cooling of the dough component to reduce flow-ability and reduce the degree of deformation (or to retard or suspend leavening) prior to finishing the molded baked bread product. For example, the system may include thermal elements 290 (e.g. representative of heat exchangers) shown schematically in mold fixtures 200 in FIGURES 64D, 65D and 66D; such elements may be shaped and installed and operated by a control program to facilitate thermal management of the process including the even and uniform baking of the molded bread product in the fixture. According to other exemplary embodiments, variations of the operations, sequencing of operations and operating conditions (e.g. time, temperature, humidity, air movement, etc.) may be managed as desired to produce particular baked bread products or particular characteristics in baked bread products including to adapt for variations in the dough component (or dough components) and to the physical form of the dough base formed into the bread product. According to a particularly preferred embodiment, each station comprises a control system (e.g. process control system or programmable controller) configured and networked to control the operation and operating conditions of the steps of the production process to achieve desired results for the resultant bread products.

Referring to FIGURES 46A-46I, 47A-47G, 48A-48H and 49A-49G, according to other exemplary embodiments, mechanical tools or elements of various types may be used in the fixture to facilitate the formation of a distinct established cavity C in the dough component D of the dough base as to form a bread product with a cavity C or to form a two-component (or multi-component) bread product with a fill dough component F. For example, as shown schematically in FIGURES 46A-46I, the cavity C in the dough component D may be formed by insertion of a forming tool/member or mechanism shown as a mandrel 260; the tool or member or mandrel 260 may be inserted and removed in multiple cycles in the dough component to establish/form and maintain the size and shape of the cavity (see FIGURES 46C-46F). As shown schematically in FIGURES 47A-47G, the tool or mandrel may comprise a heating element configured to "set" the form and shape of the cavity C (e.g. by gelatinizing the starch at least partially at the dough component at the interior walls of the cavity C); after the cavity has been "set" the mandrel is removed. As shown schematically in FIGURES 48A-48H, after the tool or mandrel has been inserted to initially form the cavity C in dough component D a supply of fill component F can be injected into the cavity C (see FIGURES 48A-48E); excess fill component may be supplied to enlarge the initially formed cavity more fully so that a larger size of the filled cavity is formed in the bread product B (see FIGURES 48F-48H), As shown schematically in FIGURES 49A-49G, the forming tool may comprise a rotary drill apparatus configured to expel the portion of the dough component D of the dough base in the fixture that occupies the volume of the intended cavity C.

As indicated schematically in FIGURES 70-73, 74, 75-78, 79-80, 81-82, 83, 84 and 88-90, according to other exemplary and alternative embodiments, the fixture used to form the dough base into the molded bread product may be provided in a variety of forms (e.g. shapes, sizes, etc.) so as to produce a molded bread product generally in a corresponding variety of specialty and other/alternative forms (e.g. shapes, sizes, etc.). For example, the fixture may comprise a base or pan 202x into which the base dough component D (see FIGURES 57A-58D) or a two-component product with base dough component D and fill dough component F (see FIGURES 58A-58D) is dispensed or deposited; the fixture has a lid 290 so that the dough base for the bread product when proofed and/or baked can be formed to a designated shape. As indicated, the shape or shapes of the bread product or product produced in the system according to exemplary and alternative embodiments may vary according to the configuration of the fixture/apparatus and corresponding product design. Available shapes and forms may include various novelty shapes not particularly common at present for bread products in mass commercial distribution, see FIGURES 64A-64C (ball/sphere), 65A-65C (heart), 66A-66C (star), or other shapes. As also indicated in FIGURES 64A-64C, 65A-65C, and 66A-66C, after a cavity-forming operation on the dough base, the resultant bread product may have a cavity or filled cavity with a selected or corresponding shape. As shown schematically in FIGURES 63A-63C, the fixture may be configured with a base or pan that is formed of an expandable structure (e.g. a metal or elastomeric material) able to expand as the dough component (shown as a base component D with fill component F) is loaded or deposited and expands as proofed or baked to define the desired resultant form of the mold baked bread product (e.g. indicated as a ball/sphere in FIGURE 63D). As shown representationally in the FIGURES, the mold fixture can be provided in a form corresponding to the intended form of the molded baked bread product; as indicated, any of a wide variety of conventional, artistic, decorative, novelty, specialty, alternative, custom, etc. forms may be provided for the fixture and the resultant bread product. As indicated schematically in FIGURES 64D, 65D and 66D, a mold fixture 290 may be configured with heat exchange or thermal elements 290 (e.g. within the mold sections) in the form of internal heating and/or cooling elements or flow passages, etc. adjacent the open mold cavity created when the mold sections are closed). With thermal elements the dough component can be thermally managed and/or finished (e.g. cooked or baked or par- baked and/or cooled/frozen) into a set (or final baked) form in a generally even manner to provide consistency and uniformity/evenness in the resultant finished/baked molded bread product notwithstanding the form or shape.

Referring to FIGURES 57E, 58E and 63D (as shown schematically) the mold fixture may be configured to impart an ornamental or referential or other visible designation to the exterior of the dough base forming the bread product. An embossment or design element may be provided in a mold section (see element 292 in FIGURE 80A and element 294 in FIGURE 80B) or lid of the mold fixture (see element 292 in FIGURES 81C-82D, element 294 in FIGURES 82C-82D and element 294 in FIGURE 97C) that presents a resultant form or design in the bread product, for example, see form/letter 292x in the bread product B in FIGURE 57E, form/design 294x in the bread product B in FIGURES 58E and 63D, etc. According to other exemplary embodiments (as indicated), the designation or design element can be provided in any of a wide variety of forms and shapes (e.g. designs, logos, trademarks, symbols, letters, words, etc. of different types and sizes) that could serve any of a wide variety of purposes (e.g. ornamental, artistic, informational, reference, commercial, personal or combinations of purposes).

As shown in FIGURES 50A-50D, according to an alternative embodiment, the forming tool 264 may provide an expander mechanism 266 that is deployed to form and expand cavity C. As shown schematically (see FIGURES 50A-50H), the fixture used is wedge-shaped with sections 202a and 202b and produce a wedge-shaped molded bread product B (see FIGURES 50I-50J); as indicated, the wedge-shaped bread product B is a multi-component bread product formed of a base dough component D and a fill component F. As shown schematically, after the dough base of dough component D has been supplied within the mold cavity a tool is used to form the wedge-shaped cavity C; the tool 264 initially forms an initial cavity in the dough component but also comprises a mechanism with arms or flaps shown as elements 266 that extend outward when actuated to create an enlarged wedge-shaped cavity C from that initial cavity as shown schematically in FIGURES 50A-50E; the tool also conforms the shape of the dough base to the shape of the cavity within the mold fixture. The fill dough component F can then be supplied into the cavity C in the base dough component D through a port or inlet 280 inserted into the mold fixture 200 as shown schematically in FIGURES 50F-50G. (According to an exemplary embodiment the tool may be configured to provide the port or inlet for the dough components and/or gas or steam/vapor to assist the formation and establishment of the cavity.) After the fill dough component has been supplied into the cavity the multi-component product may be released from the mold fixture by separating the mold sections and then transported to a finishing station to be finished (e.g. baked or par-baked and/or frozen) or the multi-component product may be finished within the mold fixture (e.g. baked or par-baked and/or frozen). See FIGURES 50H-50I. As shown schematically (in cut-away/cross-section) in FIGURE 50 J, the resultant baked bread product B is a multi-component wedge-shaped bread product having a crumb portion formed of the fill dough component F and a crumb portion of the base dough component D.

Referring to FIGURES 51A-54G, systems and methods of forming a baked molded bread product in a mold fixture 200 having sections 202a and 202b from a dough base of a dough component D are shown schematically according to alternative embodiments. Example two-component bread products formed of a dough component D and having multiple sections of fill material are shown in FIGURE 53G (two sections) and FIGURE 54G (four sections); according to alternative embodiments, bread products may be formed with multiple cavities (e.g. two, three, four, etc., or a combination of the filled cavities F and open cavities C as shown in FIGURE 53H); as indicated, the system may be configured to produce a variety of bread products with a wide of differing arrangements of fill sections and/or combinations of multiple fill material types and/or combinations of fill sections and open cavity sections.

As shown schematically in FIGURES 51A-51D and FIGURES 52A-52D, according to an exemplary embodiment, the bread product may comprise multiple cavity sections C in the dough base formed by dough component D filled from inlets 280 using a bladder or balloon 240 (FIGURES 51A-51D) or a supplied fluid G (e.g. gas or vapor injected under pressure) (FIGURES 52A-52D). As shown in FIGURES 53A-53G and FIGURES 54A-54G, the bread product may comprise multiple fill sections F in the dough component D each formed by supply through inlet 282 of fill component F. The resultant multi-component (multi-fill and/or multi-cavity) bread product may be finished at a separate station (e.g. baked or par-baked and/or frozen) while in the mold fixture or released from the mold fixture to be finished (e.g. baked or par-baked and/or frozen).

It is generally known to form multi-component foodstuffs in a mold fixture in which the components are injected. Such known principles are adapted and applied according to exemplary embodiments of the system and method of producing a bread product. For example, as shown representationally in FIGURES 59A-59I, systems and methods to produce a bread product according to exemplary embodiments can be adapted from known configurations, such as disclosed in disclosed in U.S. Patent No. 8,124,156. As shown in FIGURE 59A-59J, a sequence of steps can be employed to form a multi- component bread product in a mold or fixture 200 that will have a form as shown in FIGURES 59 J- 59K. Mold 200 has a section 202a and a section 202b that are closed and sealed together to create a cavity 210 as shown schematically in FIGURE 59A. Dough component D B for a bottom layer L B is dispensed from dispenser 200 into the cavity 210 (see FIGURES 59B-59C); dough component F for a fill in the center is then dispensed from dispenser 200 into the cavity 210 atop the dough component D B forming the bottom layer L B (see FIGURES 59D-59E) from dispenser 200. Dough component D T for a top layer L T is then dispensed from dispenser 200 into the cavity atop the 210 dough component for the fill at center F (see FIGURES 59F-59G). As indicated, each dough component is liquefied sufficiently (e.g. mixed, treated, diluted into a batter etc.) to facilitate flow into the cavity of the mold or fixture (while suitably retaining segregation of the fill dough component). The multi-component bread product may be removed from the mold by separation of the mold sections (see FIGURE 591). The resultant bread product B is a multi-component baked bread product where the fill dough component F is finished/formed into the crumb M and the top layer dough component D/L B at the exterior finished/formed into a crust S, as shown in FIGURES 59J-59K. According to an exemplary embodiment, the forming station may be configured to operate under a non-atmospheric pressure (elevated pressure or reduced pressure) to produce an intended effect on the dough base (and/or fill material) used to form the bread product. For example, the forming operation or other steps in production may occur under attenuated pressure (e.g. in vacuum and/or with headspace pumped with nitrogen or oxygen or another gas). Variations of the crumb structure of the corresponding baked bread product may result from variations of pressures or variations in the gas/vapor used in operation of the fixture and forming station. As indicated, the apparatus of the forming station (e.g. fixtures/tooling, mold fixtures/sections and/or other components) may be configured to allow use of such techniques in production or operation as may otherwise be difficult to employ in the production of a bread product (e.g. for the process of filling in the mold fixture, forming the cavity, filling the cavity, etc.); resultant variations in the form and characteristics of a baked bread product produced under variations in operating conditions can be tested/evaluated as to allow identification of potential improvements/modifications in bread products available to be produced through such techniques.

Referring to FIGURES 86A-86J, a wide variety of representational forms of fill and/or cavity arrangements that may be produced according to exemplary embodiments are shown schematically. Representational types of example bread products that may be produced according to exemplary embodiments are shown in FIGURES 91A- 91. Known forms and textures of bread products now produced that may be provided in products produced according to exemplary embodiments are shown representationally in FIGURES 75A-75F.

It is generally known to employ extrusion processes for producing multi- component foodstuffs (including from a dough components). Such known principles are adapted and applied according to exemplary embodiments of the system and method of producing a bread product. For example, as shown representationally in FIGURES 60 and 61A-61C, systems and methods to produce a bread product according to exemplary embodiments can be adapted from known configurations, such as disclosed in U.S. Patent No. 4,786,243, U.S. Patent No. 4,882,185, U.S. Patent No. 4,251,201, U.S. Patent No. 4,698,000, U.S. Patent No. 4,469,475, U.S. Patent No. 4,266,920, etc. Referring to FIGURE 60, according to an exemplary embodiment (shown schematically) an apparatus shown as co-extrusion system 300 mixes and dispenses each dough component of the multi-component bread product. Co-extrusion system 300 comprises a vessel shown as mixing vat 310 with rotary mixing feeder arms 312 for the fill dough component for the center portion F of the bread product and a vessel shown as vat 320 with a rotary screw feeder 322 for the base dough component for the outer portion D of the bread product.

As shown generally in FIGURE 60, base dough component D is mixed (from ingredients) and dispensed from vat 310 into an outlet passage while fill dough component F is mixed from ingredients and dispensed from vat 312 into an outlet passage. The outlet passage for the fill dough component has an annular form around the passage for the base dough component F; the dough components flow to a common passage and outlet at the end of the annular passage where dough component D is no longer separated from dough component; the resultant bread product has a co-extruded form in which dough component D is applied around dough component F as dispensed at the outlet of the co-extrusion system 300. As shown schematically in two separate cross-section views in FIGURE 36, according to one exemplary embodiment, the bread product will have the dough component for the outer portion D encompassing the dough component for the fill portion F in the resultant co-extruded multi-component bread product. The co-extruded multi- component bread product can be cut to length and formed at the respective ends by a mechanism comprising gate 350 as indicated schematically in FIGURE 60 and then baked to produce a baked co-extruded multi-component bread product B having a crust S (corresponding to the exterior of the dough component of outer portion D) and a crumb M (substantially corresponding to the dough component of fill portion F). As schematically shown in FIGURE 36, a gate or forming tool such as cutting element 350 may operate in a reciprocating cutting action at a specified interval to segment the co-extruded form into bread products of specified or intended lengths.

As indicated schematically in FIGURES 61A-61C, according to other exemplary and alternative embodiments, the system may be configured (e.g. by arrangement of the flow paths for the dough components) to form a wide variety of extruded bread products that have any of a wide variety of forms and patterns of combination of the dough components. For example, as shown in FIGURES 6 IB and 61C, the bread product may have a striped or striated pattern of the fill dough component F within the base dough component D.

According to other exemplary embodiments, the co-extrusion system or extrusion system may be of any type suitable for formation and handling of a multi- component bread product. As indicated according to known principles, sizing and arrangement and configuration of the elements of the system can be adapted/modified or adjusted to form extruded bread products that have a desired overall shape and proportion and a desired thickness of outer portion D around to center fill portion F for the purpose or requirements. According to any preferred embodiment, the ingredients for each dough component of the multi-component bread product may be selected and formulated so that the baked bread product exhibits desired characteristics of crust and crumb. According to other exemplary embodiments as indicated, the extruded bread product may be provided in any of a wide variety of forms and shapes (e.g. designs of different types and sizes) that could serve any of a wide variety of purposes (e.g. ornamental, artistic, informational, reference, commercial, personal or combinations of purposes).

Dough components may also be selected and combined by other characteristics intended to facilitate the forming operation (such as viscosity, flow-ability, density, adhesion, etc.). Operating conditions for the forming operation (e.g. temperature, time, humidity, air movement, etc.) may also be adjusted or adapted to facilitate or establish characteristics of the dough components (e.g. to facilitate release at the surface of the mold fixture). Surface treatments or other preparations may be employed to facilitate the forming process (e.g. other compositions may be applied to the mold fixture or as ingredients in the dough component before supply or injection of the dough component).

As indicated, the system and method is intended to facilitate the commercial production of bread products that have characteristics and features/attributes that consumers will appreciate and find appealing, for various reasons. For example, bread products formed with a distinct cavity can be given any of a wide variety of uses by consumers in that form (e.g. as a bread bowl, for sandwiches, etc.); bread products formed with a cavity may have the cavity filled with any of a wide variety of fill materials (during production or after the bread product has been finished into a product for commercial distribution) for any of a wide variety of uses. Multi-component bread products formed from different dough components may be provided in a variety of forms that enhance appeal and/or usefulness to consumers. As indicated, bread products produced according to embodiments of the system and method may be provided in a variety of different forms, shapes and sizes, including with adaptations to facilitate usefulness and appeal to particular groups of consumers. For example, bread products according to exemplary and other embodiments may be produced in sizes and shapes suitable for use and consumption by a single person (e.g. as a bread bowl for a serving of soup or as a sandwich) or in a sizes and shapes suitable for use and consumption by groups of people (e.g. for families, parties/gatherings, restaurant/commercial food service, institutional/cafeteria service, etc.).

According to exemplary and other embodiments, the bread products produced by the system and method will have a flavor and taste (among other characteristics) is appealing to consumers. According to the exemplary and other embodiments, the bread products produced by the system and method will exhibit characteristics such as form and texture (among other characteristics) that are generally exhibited by bread products that are found to be appealing by consumers. For example, notwithstanding that the system and method allows for bread products to be produced in a high-volume operation, the bread products may exhibit the characteristics commonly exhibited by artisan breads that many consumers find to be appealing and attractive. According to exemplary and other embodiments, the bread products produced by the system and method may gain enhanced consumer appeal from the form and shape that is given the bread product. Consumer appeal for the bread products may be enhanced, for example, by that such bread products are available in forms and shapes that consumers find to be aesthetically-pleasing, that consumers find to be attractive and unique/novel, that consumers can order or select by theme for particular holidays and other occasions and events, that consumers find to be more useful or suitable for particular uses, etc. As contemplated according to exemplary embodiments of the system and method, the characteristics, features/attributes and available uses of bread products produced by the system and method will be found to have appeal to a wide variety of consumers for a wide variety of reasons, general and specific.

Referring to FIGURE 76, a pizza P is shown schematically according to an exemplary embodiment. Pizza P comprises a base or shell H in the form of a flat shape (shown as a disk) made from a dough component (e.g. mixed from ingredients including flour, water, etc.); shell H provides a base or substrate area for toppings T (e.g. tomato sauce, cheese, meat segments, vegetable segments, fruit segments, mushrooms, anchovies, etc.); as indicated, shell H also provides an exposed edge or perimeter segment (not covered by toppings) of the dough component that when the pizza is baked (or otherwise cooked) forms a crust S.

As shown in FIGURE 76, according to an exemplary embodiment, the crust S provides a distinct edge or rim around the exterior perimeter of the pizza P (which may be upraised relative to the flat base of the shell H). As indicated schematically in FIGURES 78A-C, the base of the shell S for the pizza is generally flat and can be provided in any of a wide variety of shapes and forms such as circular (FIGURE 78A), square (FIGURE 78B), rectangular (FIGURE 78C), etc.; the edges of the shell (forming what will be the crust of the pizza when baked) will have the general shape and form of the perimeter of the shell according to an exemplary embodiment. Referring to FIGURES 77A-77B, the crust S of the shell H for a pizza is shown according to exemplary embodiments. As indicated in FIGURE 77A, the segment of the dough component of the shell that will form the crust of the pizza is given a distinct thicker form (e.g. upraised and thickened relative to the center portion or base/substrate of the shell); as indicated in FIGURES 76 and 77A, the distinct (thicker) form of the segment for crust S provides (among other functions) a visual and physical barrier to the toppings T of the pizza P and allows for the more convenient handling of the pizza or a slice or segment of the pizza (e.g. a place for persons to grasp so as to avoid contact with sauce or of toppings). The edge or crust of the pizza when baked/cooked will typically have a different taste and texture (e.g. crisp or chewy and crunchy) than the other portions of shell (e.g. under the toppings and moist, doughy and thin); some persons when consuming a pizza may chose not to eat or may only partially eat the crust of the pizza. According to one preferred embodiment, the pizza is made by formation of the shell (with crust segment) from a dough component, addition of the toppings and then cooking (e.g. baking) of the combined shell with toppings into a hot pizza where the dough component is baked (set) into the form of a baked bread product and the toppings are simultaneously heated and cooked/melted (e.g. so that the hot pizza can be sold and/or consumed shortly after preparation either as a whole pizza or by the slice or portion). According to another preferred embodiment, the formed shell of the pizza may be par- baked or set into form prior to application of the toppings; after the toppings are added or applied, the combined shell with toppings (e.g. uncooked pizza) may be maintained for later use (e.g. refrigerated or frozen); a pizza assembled with shell and toppings can subsequently be prepared. According to a common preferred embodiment, the combined shell with toppings is frozen into the common "frozen pizza" product that can be sold at retail outlets such as supermarkets, convenience stores, etc. or to commercial or institutional outlets. The frozen pizza may be purchased and stored (e.g. kept frozen) until later finished by heating (e.g. cooked by microwave oven) or baking (e.g. in a conventional oven, toaster oven, etc.) or otherwise into a hot pizza by or for persons who are prepared to consume the pizza. According to another preferred embodiment, a refrigerated pizza product assembled from shell with toppings (but not baked or frozen) can be sold at retail outlets or to commercial or institutional outlets to be finished by the consumer (e.g. cooked/baked) ultimately at or near the point of sale or consumption (e.g. a concession stand, cafeteria, home kitchen, etc.).

According to another exemplary embodiment, the formed pizza shell can be finished (e.g. par-baked or set) and packaged into a product (e.g. a "pizza shell" product) that is sold to commercial or institutional outlets (e.g. for bulk use) and/or to retail outlets. The pizza shell product can be provided with toppings at or near the point of end use and cooked/baked into a pizza for sale and/or consumption (e.g. at a restaurant, cafeteria, home, etc.).

Referring to FIGURES 77A-77C, configurations of the crust of the shell of a pizza are shown schematically according to exemplary embodiments; the crust S of the pizza shell H can be uniform with no intentional variation of the dough component between the crust and the shell (FIGURE 77A); the crust S of the pizza shell H may be provided with at least one internal open (e.g. air-filled) space shown as cavity C (FIGURE 77B); the crust S of the pizza shell H be provided with at least one internal cavity including a separate component shown as fill material F (FIGURE 77C). According to exemplary embodiments, the component for the fill material may be any of a wide variety of materials, for example, cheese, tomato/pizza sauce, a separate dough component, a mix of materials, (processed) topping materials, or various combinations of materials. As indicated schematically in FIGURE 78D, the pockets C/F (e.g. cavities and/or fill segments) may be provided in a set spaced around the perimeter of the edge or crust of the pizza shell (e.g. so that when the pizza of shell and toppings is cooked/baked, melted, etc. or an open cavity (if any) defined and established). As indicated, the fill material in a cavity may be concealed or only partially visible or exposed within the crust of the shell of the pizza.

Referring to FIGURES 79A-79C, a system and apparatus for making a pizza shell of the type shown in FIGURES 77B-77C is shown schematically according to an exemplary embodiment. The ingredients for the dough component of the pizza shell are mixed and worked into form to be dispensed by a dispensing station 10 comprising a vessel or vat 12 and an outlet 14 by which the dough component can be dispensed onto a conveying system shown as comprising a belt 20 as a dough ball D. As indicated in FIGURE 79B, a forming tool shown as a reciprocating plate 30 works (e.g. forms, flattens and/or cuts) the dough ball into a generally flat shell H. According to an exemplary embodiment, the shell is conveyed to a filling station 100. As indicated, station 100 comprises a fixture 110 into which the shell H will be positioned; station 100 comprises an apparatus/system 200 for forming a set of cavities or at least one cavity (see cavity C in FIGURE 77B and cavities C/F in FIGURE 78D) or a set of cavities or at least one fill (see fill component F in FIGURE 77C and cavities C/F in FIGURE 78D) at the edge of the shell. The system comprises a compartment 102 with a plenum 104 (e.g. chamber or manifold) that supplies gas (e.g. air) and/or fill material through a system of outlets or ports 202.

As shown schematically in FIGURES 81A-81B, the size and shape of the fixture may be adapted to the size and shape of the shell; the fixture may be circular (FIGURE 81 A) or rectangular (FIGURE 8 IB); according to other exemplary embodiments, the fixture may have any of a variety of different shapes (and sizes) matched to the shape (and size) of the desired pizza shell. According to exemplary and other embodiments, the apparatus to form the pizza shell (e.g. including fixtures and tooling) may be designed and configured or reconfigurable (e.g. with interchangeable components) to allow the production of a pizza shell having various selected forms and shapes/sizes at the facility where the pizza product is produced.

As indicated, the fixture may be provided with a lifter plate 120 that is retracted (see FIGURES 81C and 8 IE) and extended (see FIGURES 8 ID and 8 IF) to allow the pizza shell H to be seated in the fixture and filled (e.g. when retracted) and to be separated from the fixture (e.g. when extended) and sent to another station or operation. As shown in FIGURE 81G, according to an alternative embodiment, a filling station shown as system 60 may comprise multiple fixtures 110a (e.g. as to allow mass production of pizza products as in a commercial or institutional facility). As shown, for example, each fixture may provide a lifter plate 120a; as shown, the lifter plate can be configured with a set of holes or apertures to fit substantially over the corresponding ports (e.g. as to have the plate provide a more complete support structure beneath the shell and to reduce or prevent deflection or drooping of the edges of the shell); as shown, the ports 202 project through the holes of the plate 120a.

Referring to FIGURES 82A-82F, operation of the station forming the dough component of the shell with air to form each cavity of the set of cavities is shown schematically according to an exemplary embodiment. The shell H is placed within the fixture 110 of the station (FIGURE 82A) and fitted onto the ports 202 within the side walls 112 of the fixture 110 as the ports 202 enter (e.g. penetrate or puncture) the bottom surface of the shell (FIGURE 82B). A supply of gas (e.g. pressurized air or equivalent) from a plenum and manifold (see, e.g., FIGURE 79C) is provided through ports 202 which begins to inflate the shell to form cavity C in the exterior edge of the shell H (FIGURE 82C) at each port and the effect of continuing supply of the gas is the inflation in the shell H at each port with a pocket of gas that forms and expands the cavity C-(FIGURE 82D); as indicated schematically, as inflation of the shell H and expansion of the cavity C continues, the edge of the shell is enlarged and bulges outward into side walls 112 of the fixture 110 while also bulging upward (FIGURE 82E) to form the segment of the shell that (when the final product is baked) forms a crust S with a cavity C at the location of each port 202 of the fixture 110 (FIGURE 82F) .

Referring to FIGURES 83A-83 J, the operation of the station forming the dough component of the shell intended to provide the crust segment with each cavity filled with fill component of the set of filled components is shown schematically according to an exemplary embodiment. The shell H is placed within the fixture 110 at the station (FIGURE 83 A) and fitted onto the ports 202 within the side walls 112 of the fixture 110 as the ports 202 enter (e.g. penetrate or puncture) the bottom surface of the shell (FIGURE 83B). An inflatable bladder shown as balloon 240 initially contained within each port 202 is inflated with a gas (e.g. air) and expands out of an outlet of port 202 and inflates within the dough component of the shell to form and enlarge a cavity C at each port (and to establish the enlarged form and shape of the crust segment S in fixture 110) (see FIGURES 83C and 83D); the balloon 240 is then deflated and retracted into port 202 leaving the cavity C in the shell (see FIGURES 83E and 83F). The fill component F is then supplied (e.g. injected under pressure) into the cavity C through an outlet in each port 202 (see FIGURES 83G-83I). When the cavity C at each port has been suitably filled with fill material F the shell H with crust segment S is removed (e.g. lifted) from the fixture 110 (FIGURE 83J).

According to an alternative embodiment shown in FIGURES 84A-84J, the station can be configured so that the cavity within the dough component of the shell intended to form the crust segment is formed with a gas (e.g. compressed air or nitrogen) or vapor (e.g. steam). As indicated in FIGURES 48C-84D, after the shell has been seated within the fixture 110 on ports 202, the vapor or gas G is injected through an outlet in each port 202 into the dough component to form the cavity C at each port, as indicated in FIGURES 84F-84G, each cavity C is then filled with the fill component F by injection through an outlet in each port 202. According to an exemplary embodiment, the station may also comprise a thermal element 290 (shown schematically) to facilitate the sealing or a "set" in the dough component after formation of the cavity (e.g. if no fill material is to be added) and/or after fill component has been provided (e.g. to at least partially close or seal the opening in the dough component formed by the puncture of the port.) As indicated (schematically) in FIGURE 841, the thermal element 290 is configured as a heat exchanger operating adjacent to the bottom of the dough component of the shell that is penetrated or punctured by each port 202. According to one exemplary embodiment, the thermal element applies heat to "set" the dough component and/or fill material at the localized area (e.g. by par-baking); according to another exemplary embodiment, the thermal port element is a cooling element configured to "set" the dough component and/or fill material at the localized area (e.g. by quick-freezing). According to a preferred embodiment, the shell with the "set" dough component and/or fill material will tend to retain shape and hold fill material (if any) as transported or processed into a product at subsequent operations and stations (e.g. to prevent or reduce deformation or leakage). As indicated, a pizza product with the shell formed to have set cavities may have the cavities filled at or just before the time the pizza product is finished for consumption (e.g. with empty cavities being filled with a fill material of choice by a consumer preparing the pizza product to be baked and consumed).

As shown schematically in FIGURES 85A-85D, according to an exemplary embodiment, the dough component of the shell H intended to form the crust segment S may be filled and formed directly with the fill component F supplied through an outlet in each port 202. According to an exemplary embodiment, the station may comprise a lifter plate 120 that fits over each port 202 and under the edge of the shell to provide support for the shell to be removed (e.g. lifted) from the fixture (see also FIGURE 81G).

As indicated in FIGURES 86A to 86D, according to exemplary embodiments, the fill and cavity arrangement for the shell and crust may vary in type and form. According to alternative embodiments, the station may be configured to provide a set of cavities and or filled cavities in a specified pattern or arrangement (e.g. of differing fill materials, sizes, etc.) For example, as shown in FIGURE 86A, multiple (or all) cavities may be open (e.g. as empty or air-filled pockets); as shown in FIGURE 86B, the shell and crust may have a designated pattern of open cavities and filled cavities; as shown in FIGURE 86C, multiple (or all) cavities may be filled (e.g. each with the same fill material or with different fill materials in a pattern). As shown in FIGURE 86D, cavities may be "overfilled" (e.g. enlarged in size) in a manner that will establish in the dough component continuity between multiple cavities (e.g. with some or all individual cavities no longer discrete or separate from each other). According to other exemplary embodiments, the cavities may be provided in different sizes (and/or at different spacing) and/or filled with different fill components (e.g. alternating pizza sauce and cheese or other material) or with different mass/volume of fill component within a shell or for various types of configuration of shells. As indicated, according to alternative embodiments, the station may be configured to produce a shell that has any of a wide variety of fill/cavity arrangements; various other alternative embodiments of the station combining some or all of the indicated features and mechanisms may be provided as suitable for particular uses and applications (e.g. at the station different tools and fixtures may be adapted or interchanged to produce different arrangements and/or products as desired).

As shown schematically in FIGURES 87A-87I, the station may be configured so that the ports for the fill/injection are moveable to engage and disengage the dough component of the shell within the fixture. As shown in FIGURES 87A-87B, a dough component shown as a dough ball for the shell may be dispensed into the fixture 110 within side walls 112 on top of the lifter plate 120 (FIGURE 87A) and then flattened/formed by a tool 160f into the shape (e.g. desired form) of the shell H. As shown in FIGURES 87C-87E, outlets of ports 202 are on a mechanism 280 (shown schematically) that initially is retracted but then is deployed to puncture the surface of the dough component of the shell intended to be the formed crust S; when deployed, the outlets of the ports may supply a gas or vapor to form a cavity C and/or a fill component F (e.g. into or to form a filled cavity); the mechanism 280 then retracts (e.g. as at the start of the operation). See also FIGURES 87G and 87H. The shell H with the formed and/or filled cavity arrangement of the crust segment S can then be removed from the fixture (e.g. lifted by plate 120). As shown schematically in FIGURE 871, according to an alternative embodiment, the fixture for the station can be configured so that the mechanism 280 deploys the ports 202 through the side walls from a side or lateral direction (for the forming and/or filling operation to have a side entry into the dough component of the shell). (As indicated, the tool and fixture configuration may be interchanged in the station and the operating program or protocol adapted in the production facility depending upon the product or arrangement to be produced.)

According to alternative embodiments shown schematically in FIGURES 88A-

88E and 88A-88E, the station can be configured so that the mechanism with ports 202 (and outlets) for forming/filling cavities in the dough component of the shell H as intended for the crust segment S is on a tool (e.g. forming tool) that engages (e.g. flattens/forms and punctures) the dough component of the shell from the top. As shown in FIGURES 88A- 88C, the mechanism 240 can be configured to engage the dough component (and supply gas/vapor) to form a cavity C in the shell; as shown in FIGURES 89A-89C, the mechanism 260 can be configured to engage the dough component and supply a fill component to form/fill a filled cavity F. The tool with the mechanism can then be retracted and the formed and/or filled shell can be removed from the fixture of the station (e.g. lifted by plate 220) as shown schematically in FIGURES 88D-88E and 89D-89E.

As shown schematically in FIGURES 90A-90C, according to an alternative embodiment, the station can be configured to produce a shell H for a pizza in which the dough component is segmented by internal crust segments S in addition to external crust segments S. A system (e.g., fixture and tool arrangement) configured to form (and fill) a dough component the shell H with multiple segments of crust S (internal and external) is shown according to an exemplary embodiment in FIGURE 90C. The system comprises a fixture 100m with a tool 160m. As indicated, ports 202 with outlets for forming/filling cavities C/F in the crust segment S of the dough component of the shell H are positioned in a pattern or array on the tool 160m (e.g. in an arrangement configured to provide the desired spacing and pattern of cavities in the shell). (According to an alternative embodiment, the ports or array of ports can be provided on the fixture base rather than on the tool, see, e.g. FIGURE 81G.) The dough component for the shell is formed in the fixture by tool 160 lowered into the dough component to establish the form (e.g. imprint) the segments for crust S (see FIGURES 90A-90B) and then at each port 202 according to the specified process gas/vapor (to form cavity C) and/or fill component (to form filled cavity F) is supplied into the dough component at the segment for crust S. The tool 160 is then raised and disengaged (e.g. separated) from the shell; the shell is removed from the fixture by plate 120 (e.g. lifted from the fixture). The shell with formed/filled cavities in the crust segment is then conveyed to the next station for further processing. As indicated in FIGURES 90A and 90B, the resultant pizza product will provide external and internal crust segments that are configured to facilitate convenient handling and division (e.g. slicing or breaking/tearing) at the time of preparation and consumption of the pizza product.

Configurations of the port and outlet arrangement for the station are shown schematically according to exemplary embodiments in FIGURES 91A-91G, 92A-92G and 93A-93F. As shown in FIGURE 93 A, the ports 202a may be provided with a generally frusto-conical shape having a base 206 and a top 204 and a central outlet 210 through which the forming/filling operation may be executed, for example, by deployment of an inflatable bladder or balloon 240 from a mechanism 242 (see FIGURES 91B-91C), by supply of a fluid shown as component F pumped or injected under suitable pressure from a chamber or reservoir shown as plenum or tank 230 (see FIGURES 91D-91E), by a tool shown as a mandrel 260 deployed from and retracted into a mechanism 262 (see FIGURES 91F-91G). As shown schematically in FIGURES 92A-92G, according to an exemplary embodiment, the station may provide the port 202b in a generally cylindrical form. (As indicated, according to alternative embodiments the ports may be provided on interchangeable tools and fixtures or other apparatus in any of a wide variety of forms or combinations of forms and patterns and arrangements with or without associated mechanisms.) As shown schematically in FIGURES 93A-93F, according to an exemplary embodiment, the station may provide a port 202c having multiple outlets shown as outlet 210a and outlet 210b. As shown in FIGURES 93A-93F, the outlets may be configured to perform different or sequential operations or functions at the station (e.g. under the direction of a control system, controller or network-based system, etc.). For example, as shown in FIGURE 93C, outlet 210a may be configured to deploy the bladder or balloon 240 from a mechanism 242 to form a cavity. As shown in FIGURE 18E, outlet 210b can be used to supply fill component F from a chamber shown as plenum 230 to fill a cavity. As indicated in FIGURES 93D and 93F, according to an exemplary embodiment, the port with multiple outlets may operate in a sequence in which one outlet is used to form a cavity and the other outlet is used to fill the cavity with a fill component. As shown in FIGURES 94A-94C, according to an exemplary embodiment, each of the outlets of a port 202z may be provided in a circular cross-section; the outlets may be configured to deploy a tool 260 (shown as a mandrel) to form or start a cavity or a gas or vapor G (e.g. air, nitrogen, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide or another gas under pressure or vapor such as steam) to form or start a cavity (which then can be filled with a fill component or left open/empty). See also FIGURE 95C. As indicated, the sequence of operations in the production of the shell can be modified as desired in the forming/filling of the cavities according to various exemplary and alternative embodiments.

Referring to FIGURES 95 A and 95B, a tool 160 may be configured to facilitate the formation of the dough component of the shell H for the crust segment S from the top direction with port 202x into a rounded form (FIGURE 95A) or into notched form (FIGURE 95B). As indicated schematically, the tool 160 may include a plenum (tank 200x) chamber for supply of the fluid (e.g. gas or fill component) or mechanism used to form and/or the supply of fill material to fill the cavity in the shell H for crust S. As indicated in FIGURE 95C, the port 200x may be configured to provide multiple outlets to form and/or fill a cavity or filled cavity. As indicated, tools or fixtures may be modified or interchanged (and/or operated in a different manner or sequence) at the station to produce different arrangements, shapes, forms, patterns effects etc. in the product.

Exemplary embodiments of systems and methods to produce the pizza/shell product are shown schematically in FIGURES 96A to 103. Referring to FIGURES 96A and 96B, the system and method comprises a set of stations: ingredients for the dough component of the shell (and the fill material) are mixed at a mixing station (see FIGURES 97 and 98); the dough component is formed into the shell with cavities or filled cavities at a forming station (see FIGURES 99 and 100A-100F; the shell is finished into a product (e.g. a pizza shell product, a pizza with toppings, etc.) at a finishing station (see FIGURES 101A-101B and 102A-102C); the finished product for commercial distribution is prepared, inspected/photographed, packed and/or packaged for shipment, transport, sale, consumption, use etc. at a packing station. According to a preferred embodiment, the system may be configured so that the stations are computer-controlled and networked (see FIGURE 96A) and the system and method can be implemented in a commercial production facility. According to a particularly preferred embodiment, the forming station can be configured and controlled so that a variety of different products can be produced at the station (e.g. having a variety of different arrangement of cavities and/or filled cavities, etc.) as directed by a control program. According to any preferred embodiment, the system will facilitate the efficient production of pizza products for commercial sale and distribution.

An exemplary embodiment of the mix process for a dough component of the pizza shell product is shown in FIGURE 97. Ingredients for the dough component (e.g. flour, water, etc. to suit the intended recipe or formulation) are mixed and (optionally allowed time for bulk fermentation/proofing) worked (e.g. by conventional or other methods such as kneading) into condition for the next station/process operation of forming. As indicated portions of the dough component recovered from subsequent process operations or stations may be recovered and recycled/reused by recombination with the dough component newly mixed from ingredients. The fill component (if any) can be mixed from ingredients and prepared for dispensing at the forming station, as indicated in FIGURE 100.

Exemplary embodiments of the forming process for the dough component of the pizza/shell product are shown in FIGURES 99 and 100A-100F. As indicated in FIGURE 99, the dough component for the shell may after mixing and working be dispensed and then formed and shaped initially for subsequent processing including the formation and filling of the cavities which may bring the shell into the final form or shape.

As shown in FIGURES 100A-100F, the forming operation may comprise various steps and combinations of steps in various sequences according to exemplary embodiments. For example, after the dough component of the shell has been dispensed, the fill component may be supplied directly (e.g. injected under pressure) to the form the multi-component bread product (FIGURE 100A); a cavity may be formed to form a shell with cavity (see FIGURE 100B), a cavity may be formed and then filled with a fill component to form a shell with filled cavities (FIGURE lOOC), a cavity may be formed and then filled with a first fill component A and a second fill component B to form a multi-fill component shell (FIGURE 100D); a cavity may be formed and then pre -treated (e.g. provided with application of heat or with an additive or ingredient to produce a desired effect such as a "set" to the cavity) and then filled with a fill component (FIGURE 100E); to produce the shell; a cavity may be formed and filled with a fill material and then treated to "set" the dough component to retain the shape (and to prevent leakage of the fill) for example by application of heat or freezing the dough component/fill material at the localized are (FIGURE 100F). As indicated, according to other exemplary and alternative embodiments, there may be a wide variety of adjustments and adaptations to the process, for example, including the formation of multiple cavities and/or fill segments within the pizza/shell product. As indicated, according to any preferred embodiment, the system can be configured with adaptable and/or interchangeable tools and fixtures and operated with a control program that will conveniently and efficiently facilitate the production of a variety of different products and arrangements having a variety of different forms at the same facility or station.

According to an alternative embodiment, the pizza shell product may (after cavities have been formed) be par-baked and then fill component may be supplied and then the pizza shell product with filled cavities can be frozen and prepared/stored for transport and use (to be used to prepare a pizza). As indicated, variations of the process steps may be implemented according to exemplary and alternative embodiments.

According to other exemplary embodiments, the dough component may be heated during the forming/filling operation. The application of heat may facilitate the formation of the cavity by enhancing the relevant properties of the dough component and/or by causing the cavity to be "set" into the dough component (i.e. so that the dough component maintains the cavity after formation). As indicated, heat can enhance the workability of the dough component at the step of the cavity formation and/or the workability of the fill component at the step of filling.

As shown in FIGURES 101A-101B and 102A-102C, according to exemplary embodiments, a finished pizza/shell product for use, sale and/or consumption can be produced after the dough component (single or multi-component) has been formed. According to an exemplary embodiment, a finished pizza/shell product will by formed by par-baking and then and then storing or transporting the product (e.g. pizza shell as intended for use, sale and consumption (see FIGURE 101 A).

According to other exemplary embodiments, finishing the product may comprise other steps or combinations and sequences of steps. For example, the product may be topped and baked and stored and/or transported for the next use (see FIGURE 102A), topped and baked and frozen for storage/transport (see FIGURE 102B), or topped and baked for use and consumption (see FIGURE 102C). As indicated, according to exemplary embodiments, the finished product may be a frozen (or refrigerated) product for subsequent baking into a baked pizza product at a later time by a customer or another person or entity or may be a baked pizza product ready for use and consumption (or any variation as required for the intended purpose). Referring to FIGURE 103, the final/finished product can according to an exemplary embodiment be completed for use and sale by inspection for defects of any kind, packaging and labeling, storage and loading for shipment and shipment or delivery to the intended user or outlet. As indicated, the steps to complete the product will vary with the type of product (e.g. pizza/shell, baked pizza, frozen pizza, refrigerated pizza, etc.) and the intended use or uses of the product (including, for example, the proximity to the production facility). According to one exemplary embodiment, the system can be implemented at a commercial/institutional or retail facility such as a supermarket/superstore, restaurant, food service facility or cafeteria, institution providing food service, etc. where the finished pizza/shell product is sold or served for consumption. According to another exemplary embodiment, the system can be implemented at a production facility and the finished pizza/shell product packaged and shipped to a commercial/institutional or retail facilities.

According to exemplary and other embodiments, the system and method can be adapted (in whole or in part or parts) to be incorporated in improvements of any of a wide variety of known/conventional and other production systems and methods currently in use in the production of pizza products. For example, apparatus of the system and method (e.g. including any fixture/tool or station as shown in the FIGURES) may be adapted and/or installed and included in improvements of existing/in-use or future-developed systems and methods of manufacturing pizza products so that such pizza products may be produced in an improved form and manner (e.g. including any pizza product as shown in the FIGURES) according to exemplary and other embodiments. According to an exemplary embodiment, an existing or future system and method for producing pizza products from a pizza shell may be adapted and modified/improved to include an apparatus to form cavities/segments and/or filled cavities/sections in the pizza shell so that the pizza products when finished have filled crust segments (see, e.g., FIGURES 77A-77B and 86A-86D) or interior crust segments (see, e.g., FIGURES 90A-90B) or a filled interior section (see, e.g., FIGURES 106A-106B).

Referring to FIGURES 104-106B, a system and method of producing a pizzalike product Ps is shown according to an alternative embodiment. As shown schematically in FIGURES 105 and 106A-106B, the product is formed from a dough component or shell and comprises a center section that has a plurality of cavities which can be filled with various types of fill components (and/or can be empty cavities) in a designated pattern or arrangement. (The edge (or crust) of the product as shown schematically in FIGURES 106A and 106B according to exemplary embodiments does not include the cavities that are in the center portion.) The product can be filled at a station with an apparatus as shown in FIGURE 103 (e.g. from the bottom) or as shown in FIGURE 105 (e.g. from the top) or according to an alternative embodiment (e.g. a combination or other arrangement). As shown in FIGURE 104, the apparatus may comprise a base 60w with multiple fixtures 1 lOw shown with ports 202w (for forming/filling cavities) and plates shown as lifter plates 120w having holes that fit over ports 202w. As shown in FIGURE 105, the apparatus may comprise a fixture HOw with a forming tool 160w providing ports 202w (for forming/filling cavities) and a lifter plate 120w. As indicated in FIGURES 104 and 105, the lifter plates 120w are used for removing the shell H after forming/filling into the product.

As shown in FIGURES 106A-106B, the pizza product Ps has an arrangement of cavities and/or filled cavities in the center area and can be provided in a round shape (FIGURE 106A) or rectangular shape (FIGURE 106B) or according to alternative embodiments in various other shapes. Toppings T may (optionally) be applied to the product in the finishing operation as indicated in FIGURE 106A. The resultant product may be commercially produced and sold as a baked pizza product or as a frozen pizza product or as a refrigerated pizza product according to exemplary embodiments. See generally FIGURES 96A-103.

As indicated, according to alternative embodiments, the system and method may be configured to produce any of a wide variety of types (e.g. shapes, sizes, patterns) of pizza products having a wide variety of types (e.g. shapes, sizes, patterns) of cavities within the dough component of the shell. For example, according to alternative embodiments, the apparatus to form the pizza shell may be configured so that the size of the cavities within a specific pizza product may be varied in size or form (or fill) within the shell; one apparatus may be configured to form cavities of a first size and another apparatus may be configured to form cavities of a second size (e.g. larger or smaller than the first size); the apparatus maybe interchanged based on a determination as to the size of cavities to be formed. According to another alternative embodiment, the apparatus maybe configured to form different patterns or arrangements of cavities (e.g. different locations, spatial relationships, spacing, size, shape, etc.) as suitable for the type of pizza shell and/or type of crust intended to be formed. The dough component of a pizza crust may be formed into the shell in a pan or fixture in which injection sites or injectors (ports) may are provided as to protrude into the dough component of the pizza shell. The sites of the injectors or ports may be (for example) located around the perimeter of the dough component of the shell or within an interior region of the dough component of the shell or in another pattern or combined form. The fluid (such as air) to form or maintain the cavities air may be injected through the injectors or ports into the interior of the dough component at the edge of the shell where the crust would form thereby creating a cavity within which may be stored any of a variety of fill materials. The forming and/or filling of the cavities may be performed at any time during the production including during finishing (baking) of the pizza product.

Example Formulations of Dough Components

Specific formulations of the dough component (or dough components) for a bread product according to exemplary embodiments, can be determined by the type of bread product intended to be produced and desired characteristics intended to be obtained in the bread product. According to any exemplary embodiment, formulations of a dough component may be adjusted or adapted for particular purposes as determined by the situation or need. As also understood to those of skill in the art, independent of the specific formulations of the dough components, other factors can affect the texture or flavor of a baked bread product, for example, mixing techniques, fermentation time, and the operating conditions of the baking/cooking procedure. According to any preferred embodiment, each dough component may be formulated to produce desired effects in the baked bread product, such as flavor, aroma, texture, consistency, color, shape, size, mass/density, shelf-life, nutritional value, etc.

Formulations for the dough components are expressed (by weight) in what is called a "baker's percentage" where the flour (or type of flour) that makes up the bulk of the formula is expressed as 100 percent (one unit) and all other ingredients are scale-based (by weight) on the unit of flour of the formulation of the dough component. As an example, a formulation for a baguette or a rich, dense pizza product may be expressed as shown in TABLE 1. As indicated, the percentages of each ingredient may be adjusted within ranges and to suit the operating conditions for baking the bread product; suitable substitutions may also be employed for certain ingredients as or if necessary or appropriate.

Flour and water with a suitable amount of salt mixed to a suitable consistency will generally formulate a dough component suitable to produce bread products using the processes outlined in the exemplary embodiments. Other functional ingredient such as improvers and additives and garnishes, etc., may also be included in the formulation of the dough component for a bread product. Prehydrated starches and flours and flavorful liquids (instead of water) could be used according to other exemplary embodiments of a dough composition. According to any preferred embodiment, the dough component will be formulated to withstand the processes while yielding a baked bread product that is flavorful and functional for the intended purpose. Other tools and techniques could be employed to affect and alter the flavor and texture of the end (baked) bread product made from the dough components. For example, according to exemplary embodiments, part of the mix of ingredients of the dough components could be pre-gelatinized; additives and garnishes (e.g. nuts, cheese, dry fruit, etc.) could be used; other known means for adjusting or improving the blend of flour and ingredients in a dough component could be used. As known to those of skill in the art, there are a wide range of ingredients and options for formulating a suitable dough component or dough components; no suitable formulation of dough component for a bread product is intended to be excluded according to the exemplary embodiments.

Example A

To provide a rich or dense enriched dough component for the dough component (to which the outer layer would be applied) as the crust of the baked bread product an example formulation may comprise the formulation shown in TABLE 2.

As indicated, the percentages of each ingredient may be adjusted within ranges and to suit the operating conditions for baking the bread product; suitable substitutions may also be employed for certain ingredients as or if necessary or appropriate.

Composition of batter (liquid) that could be deposited into a mold to form the baked bread product may be formulated from ingredients. A composition or formulation of a batter or slurry that could be applied to the dough (e.g. by spray or sputtering or brush or rollers, etc.) may comprise flour 100 percent and water 500 percent.

According to other exemplary embodiments, the variation of proportion of water to flour may be adjusted according to the apparatus and operating conditions for the process/procedure. As indicated, the percentages of each ingredient may be adjusted within ranges and to suit the operating conditions for baking the bread product; suitable substitutions may also be employed for certain ingredients as or if necessary or appropriate.

Example B Composition of batter (liquid) that could be deposited into a mold to form the baked bread product may be formulated according to various exemplary embodiments. A composition or formulation of a batter or slurry that could be applied to the dough may comprise flour 100 percent and water 500 percent (or in any event a higher proportion to enhance flowability for the forming process, see, e.g., FIGURES 59A-59I).

According to other exemplary embodiments the variation of proportion of water to flour may be adjusted according to the apparatus and operating conditions for the process/procedure.

As indicated, the percentages of each ingredient may be adjusted within ranges and to suit the operating conditions for baking the bread product; suitable substitutions may also be employed for certain ingredients as or if necessary or appropriate.

Other Ingredients/Improvers/V ariations

According to other exemplary embodiments, as indicated, the formulation of ingredients for the dough component of bread products (including the type or source of flour) and various other ingredients may be varied widely to suit the intent and/or other needs or requirements for a particular application or bread product such as to enhance rise (leavening) and extensibility (e.g. workability of the dough component for the process/procedures). Ingredients and additives may be included in a dough component for any of a number of reasons, including for enhancement of foaming, structure/stability, flavor, appearance, shelf life, nutritional value, or content/composition, etc. of the resulting bread product.

According to any exemplary embodiment, improvers for the dough components that serve a functional role in the preparation or manufacture of a baked bread product may be employed. Such improvers may comprise the additives and ingredients listed in TABLE 3.

Composition of an example dough component used (for base or fill) in the bread product may comprise any of a wide variety of ingredients and flour types (e.g., wheat flour, rice flour, etc.), along with sugar, yeast, salt, water, oil, etc. in suitable percentages, according to various exemplary embodiments selected and formulated to provide suitable characteristics for the bread product.

As indicated, any ranges provided for ingredients of any dough component according to various exemplary embodiments are approximate; percentage ranges of ingredients could be varied (even widely) according to other exemplary and alternative embodiments. According to various exemplary embodiments, in the formulation of a dough component, bread flour could be replaced with and all-purpose flour or "00" durum flour or other functional flour for the system/method or product. For example, the flour for the dough component could be a blend with constituents/ingredients mixed in a range; for example, approximately 50 percent bread flour and approximately 50 percent all- purpose flour would provide a more tender consistency; small percentages (e.g. around 10 percent of the flour) could include whole wheat flour or other whole grain flours (e.g. quinoa, etc.), in formulations of the dough component that can be adapted according to cultural/popular tastes or other appeal. Such formulations may be developed for the system and method to give the final product distinct texture and flavors (or as part of a marketing strategy targeting certain customer desires, such as for a product that can be considered or perceived as healthier, etc.).

According to various exemplary embodiments, water could be provided in any of a range of percentages; for example, according to one exemplary embodiment, water may be in a range of between approximately 60 and 75 percent (as workable). Other formulations may alter combinations of water and improvers; for example, a wetter dough component (approximately 75 percent hydration) would be more workable if it included approximately 5 percent (vital) wheat gluten, flavorful liquid could be substituted for water (in some form); for example, a tomato-water stock or a mushroom stock may be used to flavor the dough component; other desired flavors may also be put into the dough component through ingredients or other ranges of other additives that are flavorful. According to an exemplary embodiment, tomato/mushroom powders (e.g. approximately 3-5 percent) could be added to the dough component; additions of dried powders (e.g. tomato, mushroom, etc.) would start to build flavors into the dough component before other ingredients are mixed into the dough component. According to various exemplary embodiments, salt could be in approximately a 1-2 percent range. Sugars or other sweeteners may be added to the dough component.

According to various exemplary embodiments, instant yeast concentrations could range up to approximately 1 percent (e.g. depending on how quickly one is trying to manufacture the product). According to an alternative embodiment, fresh yeast may be used (e.g. usually used at about three times the weight of instant yeast, and thus approximately 1-3 percent). Other leavening agents could be used in conjunction with the yeast; for example, encapsulated leavening agents (e.g. in concentrations of approximately 0.25-0.75 percent) may be provided to aid in rise during baking (e.g. will not activate until the dough component reaches a certain temperature). According to other exemplary embodiments, the dough component for the dough base could be produced using any number of proprietary blends commercially available from suppliers (for example, including various combinations and blends of the ingredients in TABLE 3). According to another exemplary embodiment, the system and method could be implemented and/or adapted to produce non-gluten bread products; for example, gluten-free flours such as rice, oat, amaranth, potato, sorghum, and tapioca could be used in various formulations of a dough component. Gums such as xanthan or carrageenan could be provided as improvers/ingredients for the dough component according to exemplary embodiments. According to an exemplary embodiment, esters (in powder/granular form) may be added as an improver/ingredient to the dough component (e.g. to add fermentative flavor).

It is important to note that the construction and arrangement of the elements of the inventions as described in system and method and as shown in the figures above is illustrative only. Although some embodiments of the present inventions have been described in detail in this disclosure, those skilled in the art who review this disclosure will readily appreciate that many modifications are possible without materially departing from the novel teachings and advantages of the subject matter recited. Accordingly, all such modifications are intended to be included within the scope of the present inventions. Other substitutions, modifications, changes and omissions may be made in the design, variations in the arrangement or sequence of process/method steps, operating conditions and arrangement of the preferred and other exemplary embodiments without departing from the spirit of the present inventions.

In the description, reference is made to the accompanying drawings, which form a part of the specification. In the drawings, similar symbols typically identify similar components, unless context dictates otherwise. The illustrative embodiments described in the description, drawings, and claims are not meant to be limiting. Other embodiments may be utilized, and other changes may be made, without departing from the spirit or scope of the subject matter presented in the application.

While various aspects and embodiments have been disclosed in the application, other aspects and embodiments will be apparent to those skilled in the art. The various aspects and embodiments disclosed in the application are for purposes of illustration and are not intended to be limiting, with the true scope and spirit being indicated by the claims as presented and/or amended.

TABLES

TABLE 3

TYPE ADDITIVE AMOUNT INTENDED OR DESIRED

(approximate unit percent) EFFECT

Proteins Gluten 3-10 % of flour (depends Strengthens dough

on type of flour)

Bean flour (fava, Fava 0-0.2 % of flour Strengthens flour

soybean, etc.) Soybean 0.2-0.3 % of flour

Whey to suit Minor addition of protein;

strengthens dough; sugars help browning

Enzymes Transglutaminase 1 % (iterate) Larger holes; increased volume up to certain concentration; reduces allergenicity of gluten

Amylase (malt) 1-10 % of flour Breaks down starch to sugars;

increased caramelization

Fungal a-amylase to suit Sugar for caramelization and feeding yeast; breaks down starch;

degrades/softens gluten; useful for producing liquid doughs (crackers, flatbreads)

Protease to suit Reduce mixing time (protease)

Yeast Non-rising yeast to suit

Inactive yeast to suit Add flavor

Gums Guar gum up to 1 % Tolerance to over mixing; increased water absorption; stronger dough (more resistant to mixing)

Xanthan 0.1 -0.5 % Better crumb structure

Carboxylmethyl 0.1 -0.5 % Increase bread volume cellulose

Locust bean gum to suit Extend shelf-life

Alginate 0.1 -0.5 % Anti-staling agent; affects crumb hardness, staling time; increases dough volume

K-Carrageenan 0.1 -0.5 %

Acids Ascorbic acid 20-80 mg/kg flour (max Improves dough strength; increase

(Vitamin C) 300 mg/kg flour) loaf volume (e.g. ~20 %); decreases length of fermentation, with possibly less organic acid formation and less flavor; oxidation

Lecithin 0.1 -1.0 % of flour Reduces dough stickiness

L-Cysteine 0.1 % Improves dough extensibility

Citric acid 0.5 % of flour Less sticky dough

Other Oxygen to suit Bleaches dough

Potassium bromate to suit Strengthens dough; increases dough volume

Potassium iodate to suit Oxiding agent

Azodiacarbonamide to suit Oxiding agent

Datem 0.375-0.5 % Strengthen gluten network