Automating artisan

by Joanie Spencer
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Despite consumer misconceptions, bakers commercially produce high-quality artisan breads.

Despite the fact that today’s consumers are more educated about food than ever before, bakers still have an opportunity teach them a thing or two, especially about bread.

The term “artisan” might mean one thing to a consumer, but in reality — the bread baker’s reality — it means something very specific. When it comes to artisan breads, it’s all about the process.

Greg Acerra, owner of Fireking Baking Co.

“An important part in the artisan process is the retarding, the resting of the dough,” said Greg Acerra, owner of Fireking Baking Co., Braintree, MA, who retards his artisan doughs for anywhere from 8 to 24 hours. “That’s what really gives our product its flavor, appeal and definition. It’s what sets us apart.”

Mr. Acerra noted that when he started his bakery in the mid-1990s, he specifically set up operations to accommodate the artisan process. “I got into the business at the birth of the whole artisan trend, and I was fortunate enough to understand the process and the importance of retarding the product,” he remembered. “A lot of it was just good timing — I first designed the bakery to use a rested product, and as I’ve grown through three different locations, I’ve always incorporated the retarding process.”

Through automation, proper equipment and formulation adjustments, Mr. Acerra has been able to continue the artisan process.

Mr. Acerra first started baking bread after opening his second of three restaurants, which he still operates today, in the Boston suburbs. Over the years, he has graduated from hand-forming and hand-shaping doughs; however, through automation, proper equipment and formulation adjustments, he has been able to continue the artisan process.

Hear more from Mr. Acerra  in the February issue of Baking & Snack.
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