Bakers have embraced retarder-provers in recent years as the concept has developed dramatically, both in technology and the consistency of results.

The latest machines employ sophisticated microprocessors and refrigeration advances, for perfect production in a variety of situations and with almost any type of bread and baked product. The result has been more flexible production runs, the ability to plan for and iron out production bottlenecks, ease of use and control by staff, faster overall production, lower production costs and, above all, improved product quality.

The microprocessor revolution has allowed the ability to ‘bank’ temperature and humidity settings to create a smooth and controlled ‘microstep’ transition from cold to warm. This has been a revolution for bakers, allowing a better product than previously achieved with the erratic steps in temperature of older mechanical timers. If there’s one development in retarder-provers that has made the difference to the actual quality of baked product – as distinct from energy savings, staff training, running costs and administration – it’s the sharp and precise control and adjustment of humidity, temperature and airflow.

Modular reach-in and roll-in chambers are also a popular development as they enable retarder-provers to be installed almost anywhere. They can also be enlarged easily or even reinstalled elsewhere if production needs change. For smaller facilities, reach-in cabinets offer a cost-effective solution while incorporating all the essential airflow, humidity and temperature precision of modular chambers.

The latest retarder-provers also have an adjustable airflow pattern, checked and adjusted at the time of commissioning and whenever layout changes, to suit the working environment and production requirements of the baker. For perfect results, the air should be directed down the side of the chamber and drawn up through the centre.

With airflow and environmentally-friendly highly-effective insulation also helping to

make retarder-provers more efficient, recent models have seen a marked reduction in compressor capacity. This has meant less noise, lower energy consumption and, for the baker, potential tax rebates under the Climate Change Levy. Advances in microprocessor technology have also meant easier operation. Williams’ models, for example, are said to be as easy to use as ATM cash machines and this is a vital feature in a field where, while expertise in baking is as high as ever, operator training is increasingly expensive.

Seven-day timers are now a common feature, allowing the machine to switch automatically from retard to recovery and prove cycle. The most modern controllers also incorporate time-flexible features, such as holding after proving to await staff who are tied up or ovens still busy baking other products.

By selecting the right equipment bakers can be confident that they can deliver the best quality dough consistently and achieve the best results for baked products for many trouble-free years.