Producing perfectly baked goods requires attention to detail and the right equipment. Here's how to outfit your kitchen.
In-house baking is a sure way to differentiate your restaurant from your competition. Would adding in-house baking capabilities make sense for your operation? Here's a brief overview of the equipment you would need.
Let's first talk about the equipment to make rolls and breads. These pieces may already exist in your kitchen. Bread making is essentially a series of four processes — mixing, scaling, proofing and baking — using the raw ingredients of flour, water, yeast, butter or shortening. You will need at least one piece of equipment for each of these baking functions.
A mixer is the key item needed to mix doughs, batters and other ingredients for baked goods. Often your typical kitchen mixer will suffice, but it may not be powerful enough to mix heavy doughs, necessitating a purpose-designed dough mixer or spiral mixer, named for the way the mixing and kneading action is done. In large operations producing a lot of rolls or bread, a specialty spiral mixer may be needed.
Mixers range in size from 5 to 80 quarts and larger. Better machines made for heavy dough have capacities of 60 quarts or larger. A typical kitchen mixer is usually supplied with a wire whip and paddle attachments for mixing different types of products. The paddle attachment will work fine for cake batters, but a dough hook attachment may be need for mixing dough. The dough hook will give full mixing action, even to the sides of the mixing bowl, while mixing the dough with a kneading action. A pastry knife attachment may also be warranted if making piecrusts or flaky breads, which need shortening cut into the flour mixture. A large heavy-duty 60-quart mixer may set you back more than $12,000 new, although there seems to be a large supply of used models readily available at a discount.
Once the dough is prepared, the next step is scaling or dividing the dough into portions before it's baked. You'll need a good baker's table to prepare the product. The table should be entirely stainless steel or stainless steel with a stainless wood top. Wood tops are good for cutting and reduce dough sticking to the surface. You'll need a scale to measure equal pieces of cut dough. Usually a small tabletop scale is sufficient.
Another way to scale out dough, especially if you are producing a lot of rolls, is a dough divider. It 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. They're available in a variety of sizes and styles. For most restaurants, a manual tabletop divider is all that is needed.
If you expand beyond just rolls and bread, the sheeter is another item that will replace the scaling process when preparing piecrusts, pastries and croissants. The sheeter does just as its name implies — it rolls the dough into a sheet to be cut into the needed pieces. In small quantities, a rolling pin may suffice for this operation, but in a larger restaurant, rolling dough by hand can be labor-intensive and not as consistent as mechanical dough rollers.
Sheeters come in a variety of sizes, including small, chute-fed tabletop units that deliver the rolled dough onto a worktable to machines with landing conveyors five or more feet in length. Some larger, more deluxe models have cutter attachments that can automatically cut shapes, like triangles for croissants, in the same pass that the dough is being sheeted. Keep in mind that the more sophisticated the machinery, the more training the staff will need to use it effectively.
Yeast breads require “proofing,” which is the process of warming the dough to allow the yeast to activate and cause the bread to rise. Dough will rise most rapidly at temperatures of about 100°F to 110°F. Proofing bread at home is often done with the dough in a bowl covered by a towel set in a warm place. The same principle is used in a commercial proofer. These cabinets are essentially a warming cabinet with a thermostat to control temperature. Most have humidity control, basically a water pan in the unit. Humidity is needed to keep the dough from drying out while it's being proofed.
For the small restaurant operator, the oven-sized proofer, which is mounted under an oven, is a space-saving idea that might be useful. These proofers, offered by several manufacturers, use the otherwise wasted space beneath the oven as well as keeping the proofer in close proximity to the oven.
Baking is the final process and your oven is the heart of any baking program. Make your purchase count by matching the right size equipment to your operation. Remember, don't try to use the same oven for roasting that you're going to be baking in or you'll likely have unwanted taste transfers.
A deck oven is a must for any serious baking. Newer, quality ovens can provide even heat because of good burner design, insulation and precise thermostats.
The standard deck of a deck oven is built of steel and made to hold baking pans. Most of these ovens are also available with a stone hearth for baking breads and pizzas directly on this special oven deck. A hearth deck acts as a heat sink to store heat, but its temperature is usually lower than the oven air temperature, so the bread or pizza does not burn on the bottom. Getting a good deck oven is important, but can be costly. Oven cost depends on size and features, but can run from several thousand dollars to well over $20,000.
A convection oven is the other important unit to have for baking. Many baked items, especially pies, cookies and pastries, can be produced 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. For higher production, convection is the best oven choice for many products. Expect to pay around $6,000 for a single-deck convection oven.
Since baking involves a number of processes, it is essential that the equipment layout be geared to the work flow, even in a small operation. Consider also that plenty of table space will be needed for the different processes to prepare many of the pastry and specialty breads you may wish to make. And don't forget to allow sufficient space for cooling product after it is removed from the ovens. Now enjoy some of your delicious baked items!
Dan Bendall is a principal of FoodStrategy, a Maryland-based consulting firm specializing in planning foodservice facilities. He is also a member of Foodservice Consultants Society International. He can be reached at 240-314-0660 (email@example.com).