I've been thinking about starting a boutique mail order dinner roll business.
Dough While I'd really like to ship dough and allow customers to bake (per roll) at their leisure, I'm beginning to think that is a far-fetched goal. Dry ice? It just seems risky. However, I have purchased live lobster by mail order before without trouble. Maybe it would work? They would probably have to be some expensive rolls to make that a profitable endeavor.
Baked That has lead me to think about ways to safely ship cooked rolls. I have lots of experience packing and shipping boxes, but not boxes of food. Would any special precautions need to be taken to protect rolls during transit apart from careful (food grade) wrapping?
Some Googling has lead me to the idea of par-baking, but I feel like that would negatively effect the quality of the food.
Does anyone have experience in this area, or can you point me towards any relevant resources on this topic?
I think you will get the 'best result' out of 'par baking' your rolls. I have done this myself, though not for shipping. It is simply easier to make a large batch and then store them for use as needed. IMHO rolls are best served hot and fresh, and while re-heating fully baked rolls can recapture some of the glory that is fresh baked bread, allowing your customers to finish bake a partially baked product will give them the convenience of truly fresh rolls on demand. The technique (and recipe, for my part) I picked up from Alton Brown, in the episode of Good Eats: Roll Call. Alton's recipe for Parker House Rolls includes a par baking option:
For Brown and Serve option:
Assemble rolls as above, but bake as follows.
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.
Bake until the outside of the rolls just begin to set but have not browned and the internal temperature is 185 degrees, about 30 minutes. Remove and cool on the pan for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove the rolls from the pan and place on a cooling rack until they are room temperature, 30 to 40 minutes. Place the rolls in bags and freeze for up to 3 months.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Thaw the rolls for 60 to 90 minutes.
Spray a sheet pan with nonstick spray. Place the rolls on the prepared sheet pan and bake until the rolls reach an internal temperature of 200 degrees F. Rotate the pan halfway through baking, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the pan to a cooling rack and cool for 2 to 3 minutes before serving.
The key 'take-aways' that you will want to apply are:
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