Introduction to wafers


Wafers are a very specialised type of biscuit requiring special equipment for production. The wafer sheets formed by baking between pairs of heated metal plates are typically thin and usually bear intricate surface patterns with deep relief derived from the baking plates. Wafers which are sold in biscuit markets are usually formed as large flat sheets which are rigid as they come from the oven and these are subsequently sandwiched with cream or caramel before cutting with saws or wires. They may be chocolate enrobed or included in moulded chocolate.

Wafer sheets are baked from a simple batter containing little or no sugar. They are rather tasteless and have a regular surface and a very open cellular structure within. These plain sheets are occasionally sold as a type of crispbread for eating with butter, cheese, meats, etc. or to be eaten with ice cream. The majority are used as carriers for some sort of cream, caramel or marshmallow by way of a sandwich. In North America these wafers are known as Sugar Wafers.

Sandwiched wafers are rich in filling with the filling being around 70% by weight as compared with 30% or less in sandwiched cream biscuits. When filled wafers are chocolate enrobed or form part of a chocolate moulded bar, the wafer component becomes even more subsidiary in terms of composition. The wafer is used as a crisp, but not hard, rigid support for the more flavoursome materials.

There has been a growth in interest for another type of wafer product, the hollow rolled wafer. This type of wafer is made from a fluid batter which is relatively high in sugar (40-70% sugar relative to the flour). The batter is poured in a narrow strip from a fish tail nozzle onto a revolving baking drum. The width of the strip is determined by the size of the nozzle. The drum is typically about 2000 mm in diameter and depending upon its width more than one strip of batter can be poured and baked at once. The drum is heated and at the completion of the revolution (baking time between 45 seconds and 2 minutes) the baked wafer, which at this stage is a plastic strip due to the sugar content, is stripped off onto a revolving mandrel which winds the strip into a spiral tube which moves progressively away from the stripping point. This tube is then cut into lengths of between 45-300 mm as desired. Often cream is injected, through the centre of the mandrel, into the tube before cutting.

Two different coloured batters can be baked side by side so that when rolled together a twin coloured tube is formed.

Up to the time of cutting the wafer is still warm and flexible so it is then possible to press the tube and convert it into a more flattened shape if desired before packaging.