MASS QUANTITIES. Bulk bakery operations like this one at the University of Notre Dame require different kinds of equipment than smaller operations.
For operators, there are two ways to approach offering baked-on-premises goods. The easiest is with the "bake-off" concept, which uses fresh or frozen dough, sold mixed in bulk or preportioned into needed shapes. The bake-off concept is quite popular because of low capital expenditures on equipment and no need for a highly trained baking staff In fact, if you already have deck or convection ovens, you may not even need new equipment.
On the other hand, a "scratch" baking operation requires at least one trained baker. and a preparation space usually separate from other food prep areas. It should be well airconditioned for better product handling.
The amount and types of equipment needed for an in-house bakery are unique to each operation and varies depending on the size of the operation and the products being produced. The following outlines the basic types of equipment needed to produce various products.
The heart of every bakeshop is the oven. The major types used in baking are the rack oven, rotating oven, convection oven and deck oven.
The rack oven, used for largescale applications, accepts racks with 12 or more baking pans in its chamber. Hundreds of rolls are then cooked simultaneously, unloaded quickly and cooled in the same rack used to bake the product.
Rack ovens are not a good choice for small operators or those that offer a wide variety of product because they can only preparer one type of product in a given production run. Also, they require a minimum of about 25 square feet of floor space.
Even larger than a rack oven is the revolving oven, which uses decks, that are rotated like a Ferris wheel through the cooking chamber. Moving product through the various temperature zones in the unit rather than forcing convection produces even baking. Revolving ovens are not suitable for most small operators, though some newer models are as small as 42" wide.
Convection ovens have seen a number of improvements since their introduction in the late 1950's. Most now have a two-speed fan, with the lower speed used to prevent splattering cake batter or meringues. Some units offer an optional timer, which allows lighter products to set before the fan turns on.
Some convection ovens are available with steam injectors, used to produce a thick crust on breads. Some manufacturers have recently introduced steam ovens suitable for baking. Many baked items, especially pies, cookies, and pastries, are baked quite well in a convection oven. Typically, convection ovens cook at either a lower temperature or shorter time or both when compared to a standard deck oven.
The deck oven is the traditional baker's closest companion. After working with a particular unit, most bakers get to know baking patterns and irregularities on each deck and the proper settings to achieve optimum results. Inherent in the nature of the deck oven is some irregularity in baking from top to bottom and side to side. Since there is no air movement within the oven cavity, and heating elements must be located in certain area, there will inevitably be "hot spots."
Newer deck ovens produce betterregulated heat through insulation and improved thermostats. But for many products, baking pans will still need to be turned or shifted during baking. Historically, the finest temperature control ovens have been made in Europe.
These have high quality heated elements, low deck heights to minimize top-to-bottom temperature differences, and heating elements at the top and bottom with separate controls. An experienced baker familiar with the oven can set what sometimes seems like a maze of controls for the most evenly baked products possible.
The standard deck of a deck oven is built of steel and made to hold baking pans. Most units are also available with a stone hearth for cooking some breads and pizzas directly on the hot surface. Ovens made especially for pizzas are usually equipped with a special high temperature thermostat for temperatures needed to cook pizza quickly. A hearth deck acts as a heat sink to store heat, but its temperature is usually lower than the oven air temperature, so the food's bottom does not burn.
The typical kitchen mixer will suffice for lighter doughs but may not be powerful enough to mix heavy ones, necessitating a dough mixer. In large operations, specialty spiral mixers may be needed. A typical kitchen mixer is usually supplied with wire whip and paddle attachments for mixing different types of products. The paddle attachment will work fine for cake batters, but a dough hook will be needed to mix dough because it gives full mixing action even to the sides of the mixing bowl, while mixing the dough with a kneading action. A pastry knife attachment may be warranted if making piecrusts or flaky breads, which require shortening to be cut into the mixture.
A mechanical dough roller (or sheeter) consists of a series of motorized "rolling pins." Some larger, more deluxe models have cutter attachments that can automatically cut shapes, such as triangles for croissants, in the same pass that the dough is being sheeted.
If you are producing a lot of breads and rolls, a dough divider may be beneficial. The divider allows batches of dough to be divided into equal parts for products like dinner rolls. Mechanical dough dividers take a weighed batch of dough and automatically divide it into a set number of equally sized "balls" to be baked off as rolls. Available in various sizes and styles, a manual-tabletop divider is all that is needed for most operations.
Proofers are essentially warming cabinets with a thermostat to control temperature. Most have humidity control to keep the dough from drying out while it is being proofed.
For small operators, the ovensized proofer, which is mounted under a deck or convection oven, is a space-saver.
Since baking is a process involving a number of steps, it is essential that the equipment layout be geared to the workflow, even in a small operation. It's important to consider the relationships of the various groups of equipment, especially with other equipment in the kitchen, such as mixers or ovens when they are used for the general food production requirements as well. Production needs should be addressed as the facility is being planned. Don't forget to allow sufficient space for cooling product after it is removed from the ovens.
Standard mobile racks or butterfly racks, especially designed for cooling baked goods, are flexible and can be maneuvered around the kitchen. You will need to plan for the added load that the bakeshop will give your pot washer. Utensils and equipment are soiled at each step of the baking process.
Today, operators have seen the vision of offering their guests a fresh baked product, whether it is bake-off, scratch, or somewhere in between.
Dan Bendall is a principal of Food-Strategy, a Maryland-based consulting firm specializing in planning foodservice facilities. He is also a member of Foodservice Consultants Society International (FCSI).