This week I've been asked by the bakery I deliver for to help out in the bake house. I get asked from time to time to cover holidays etc. I've been working at the bakery as a delivery driver for about 3 years now and although I'm not a trained baker I've had the chance to work with the other bakers learning how to do some parts of the trade.
Normally they'd have me in on the night shift which is when all the fresh bread gets prepared and baked. This week I'm doing an evening shift because I need to to be awake in the day to look after my children, so at least I get some sleep. It means I'm finishing around midnight to get a few hours kip before the kids wake in the morning.
There are many jobs to be done in the evening including working the ovens, which strangely I find the hardest (physically) job to do there but at the same time the most enjoyable. The reason I find it really satisfying is because it's the final stage before production is complete, it's all down to me to get it perfect. Under or over baked bread is no good at home, so you can imagine what a customer would think which means it's not an option.
The ovens I work with are obviously industrial size to cope with the amount of bread to be baked. They are nothing like a domestic oven other than they have a temperature control. The bakers there tell me these are baby ovens compared to some companies, I'd love to see a 'who's your daddy' oven one day.
Using an oven like this teaches me a lot about how to use my oven at home. These ones have temperature setting, plus bottom and top element controls. So if you're baking the bottoms of the bread too quickly you can adjust accordingly and vice versa. They are also very old and do not heat uniformly. This means the only way to bake with them is no timer apart from a normal clock, instinct and regular checking. This is a good way to learn how to use an oven, because you start to 'feel' the time needed. It means now I rarely burn anything at home.
Each 'oven deck' has room for three baking trays, there are 10 ovens in total. As you can imagine there's a lot of concentration needed to remember what you've got baking where. Overall height of the ovens is over six foot so it can be quite a struggle to reach up to the top deck and also to reach down to the bottom deck. When I'm baking tinned bread I have to reach right into the oven to the back, this can sometimes result in a burn or two if I'm not careful. It's all good fun though
I know a lot of people don't get the opportunity to see a working bakery, let alone have the opportunity to work in one. Of course this only applies to those who find cookery and baking 'fun' which I do. It probably would be a profession I'd like to do all the time, unfortunately most bakers work at night which isn't very 'family friendly', especially with young children like mine.
I'll update this article with a few more photos over the week, just to show some of the produce and equipment I use there.
- Written by Stuart Edge
- Category: General News
- Published: 12 March 2013