Making Bread

Processing FoodMaking bread involves many ingredients and advance preparation steps. Flour is received by bulk rail or truck and stored in 100,000 pound bins. All other raw materials are received by truck. Two hours before production begins, a liquid sponge or broth is prepared and allowed to ferment to ensure that the finished loaf will rise properly. The broth is a blend of flour, water, sugar, salt, yeast and yeast foods.

To combine the ingredients necessary for bread making, a scaler measures out the smaller increments of the mix, some as little as one ounce. A dough mixer operated by a control panel takes the ingredients from the scaler and adds the larger increments to the mix to create the proper dough consistency.

This mixture can weigh anywhere from 400 to 2,000 pounds. The dough is then 'kicked' out of the mixer into a trough and allowed to 'relax' and ferment. This is called floortime. Then it goes to a hopper and is divided into loaf-sized pieces, then to the rounder for shaping.

Once again the dough is set aside in an overhead proofer to relax and continue fermenting for approximately 10 minutes. The dough is then sent to the head rollers for flattening and removal of excess air. This is a key step in bread making. Removing excess fermenting gas helps ensure good inner structure and grain in the finished loaf.

The next stop is the moulder, where the bread is shaped for the final baking process. The moulder is also helpful in removing air from the dough. Once molded, the bread is dropped into a large pan divided into five separate loaf pans. These pans travel along a conveyor to another proof box. Here they will stay for 55 minutes. The temperature in the proof box is monitored closely to maintain 90% humidity level and 105º temperature level at all times.

Now the bread is sent to the ovens for baking. The oven temperatures and baking times will vary as to size and density of the loaf. The loaves bake for 22 minutes at approximately 400º. The baked bread is conveyed to a depanner. This is just what it sounds like; suction cups and vacuum pressure remove the baked loaf from the pan. The pan is sent back to storage to be used again, and the loaf is sent to cool.

The bread cools for about an hour and is then sent to be sliced. Once sliced, the bread is wrapped by an automatic bagging machine. Now that the loaf is in the bag, it is sent to be tied and fastened. The finished product is conveyed to where it is sorted and stacked for store distribution. Total production time for a loaf of bread is about three hours. The total lapsed time from the beginning of production to when the bread is on the shelf in the store is 24 hours.