Why Cookies Crumble

An understanding of how ingredients affect the entire process helps improve quality

By Karen Langhauser, Chief Content Director

cleveland

Tablet manufacturing is like baking, explains Mike Tousey, as he demonstrates blend uniformity

I've always hated baking. Even when I attempt to carefully follow a recipe, I still end up with sub-standard cookies and a counter full of flour. Furthermore, it never ceases to baffle me that two batches of cookies coming from the same bowl of dough manage to fail in two totally different ways. Oddly enough, my ancestors were actually bakers from the small town of Maikammer, Germany. Niklaus Langhauser received his Meisterbrief certification for baking in 1924, which uniquely distinguished him as a baker possessing advanced, formal training.

Historically, however, bakers learned through apprenticeship rather than technical education. Knowledge was closely guarded and passed on from master to apprentice. It was actually a man from the medicine business — Abraham Edlin — who was the first to tackle the concept of a formally trained baker in his book, “A Treatise on the Art of Bread-Making,” in 1805. In it, he describes the apprenticeship system as “an illiterate practice which passes (skills) without improvement from one generation to another.”

Recently, myself and our senior editor, Meagan Parrish, were given the opportunity to travel to Cleveland and attend a solid dose training class taught by tablet and capsule manufacturing expert, Mike Tousey. Tousey has essentially been building and improving this course since the 1970s, officially starting his company, Techceuticals, in 1989.

Throughout the three-day course, there were many parallels drawn between baking and tablet making. Like baking, solid dose manufacturing has not changed drastically since its origin. But for both industries, a better understanding of science and technology has enabled advancements in quality and consistency. (Be sure to read more about this in our cover story.)

While there is still some “art” involved in tablet-making, developing this skill from experience alone in a regulated industry simply won’t work. Comprehensive technical training is necessary and this training requires more than just memorizing a process. A truly advanced plant floor technician understands the science behind the tablet — the behavior of active ingredients and how this, in turn, drives equipment and process choices.

Modern bakers and tablet pros alike know it’s about achieving the right mix of training and experience. Understanding the science behind ingredients can help elevate technical training to an art.

I learned many things from Tousey’s course, among them several potential reasons my cookies are failing friability tests (aka crumbling). I suspect that insufficient binders (egg size matters) or cookie weight variability (dumping random globs of dough on the sheet) are the culprits, but it’s also possible that in my case, the chip has simply fallen too far from the cookie-tree.

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