Slideshow: A behind-the-scenes look at Mile Hi English muffin production

by Joanie Spencer
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Baking at 5,280 feet is tricky, and it presents its own set of challenges like higher temperature requirements. But muffin production at that elevation is a whole new gig.

To address these challenges and create high-quality English muffins at high altitude, AMF Bakery Systems helped Mile Hi Bakery by also commissioning Campbell Systems and LeMatic in addition to Sugden for a turnkey production line. 

Mile Hi relies on a three-stage mix for the high hydration required for English muffin dough, which actually resembles batter a bit. After initially combining flour, water, oil and yeast, more water is added at stage two. The third stage of mixing is when the sour flavor is added. 

The high-water level is great from a baking stand point, but such a sticky dough creates challenges with cornmeal enrobing. Temperature — a big factor in baking at elevation — is critical to this. To maintain its dough between 60 and 65° F during the mixing process, Mile Hi relies on a glycol system.

“The water must come in as chilled as possible,” said Toni Marie Taddonio Brenzikofer, bakery relationship manager for Mile Hi Bakery and president of the Mile Hi Foundation. “That way, you’re heating as minimally as possible through the mix.”

Every 18 minutes, the dough is mixed in a 1,300-lb AMF horizontal mixer and dropped into a hopper for the dough pump. Timing is critical to maintain its optimal condition.


“The more you reduce the amount of transfer time from the mixer into the dough ball, the more consistently the dough will hold its temperature,” Ms. Taddonio Brenzikofer said. AMF took this into consideration in the design of its equipment package that pumps the dough and stretches it across a conveyor before dropping it into the hopper of the 6-across extrusion divider. 

After rounding, the dough pieces tumble down a Sugden zig-zag board to enrobe them in a cornmeal blend.

“The zig-zag board is critical for the dough pieces to roll down and get completely enrobed,” Mr. Taddonio said. Those sticky dough pieces must be completely covered to successfully travel through the griddle after proofing.

After about 25 minutes in the Sugden proofer at just above 100° F and 35% humidity, the pieces are transferred into the griddle cups. In the 40-foot Sugden griddle, energy-efficient “super burners” help maintain Mile Hi’s LEED Gold status by using 23 burners instead of the average 60. 

After baking for about 10 minutes, the muffins travel on a reconditioned IJ White ambient spiral cooler for about 45 minutes until they reach an internal temperature of around 85° F.  

The muffins then are separated by a forking method. On this LeMatic system, two arms simultaneously spin around while v-shaped blades, or “forks,” penetrate the sides of the muffin rather than slicing it. This way, when the end user pulls the muffin apart, the porosity — those signature nooks and crannies — get toasted more evenly and provide optimum texture. 

The forker then shoots those muffins out as they tumble down into two UBE packaging lines. At the time of Baking & Snack’s visit, muffins were being placed into 12-count penny packs. In the packaging area, an operator — one of six total workers on the line — performs quality checks before the muffins are stacked six-on-six into the bag. 

Penny packs then travel around the corner, are heat-sealed with equipment designed in-house and run through metal detection before being manually cased and palletized. 

Cases then head to an onsite freezer, which can hold 634 pallet positions, or across the street to the distribution center, which holds 750. Pallets are sent to each freezer based on the product variety, customer and geographical range of distribution.
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