Designed around the bread

Old World processes can be seen with the La Brea Bakery Reserve; the brand’s newest item is made on the original line (and not surprisingly, the bakery’s most versatile). After all, in the beginning, the bakery assumed it would be producing on just one automated line. But today, it relies on Rheon stress-free makeup systems for its multiple processing lines. The first can make any product La Brea Bakery creates, while the latest Rheon installation focuses on die-cut rolls and other smaller, high-volume items.

After primary fermentation, dough transfers via Peerless troughs and hoists to be loaded into the Rheon system. Here, it goes through several rounds of gentle sheeting, using gravity as a partner to maintain the gas from the primary ferment.

“We want to maintain that for our open-cell structure and end result,” Mr. Davis said.

Also in the spirit of maintaining that true artisan form, the bakery adheres to a patient retarding process. Products can enjoy anywhere from two to six hours of rest time.

“Everything we make gets a relatively long ferment,” Mr. Davis said.

For a number of years, the Van Nuys facility housed the largest retarder in the country … until the bakery’s New Jersey location opened up and took over that distinction. On the new side of Van Nuys, rolls and those other smaller items make their slow journey through a Capway retarder box, which towers over the production floor. The retarders were designed to accommodate this time-sensitive process, an aspect of La Brea Bakery’s breadmaking that makes no room for compromise. The systems then transport the dough and lift it onto the ovens’ preloaders.

When La Brea Bakery made the move to large-scale production, thermal-oil ovens were its only option — Daub tunnel ovens in the early installation and a Heuft multi-deck on the new side. According to Mr. Davis, thermal oil provides a high consistency of heat because it constantly circulates within sealed radiant-heat chambers above and below the product and continually cycles through its heater.

One might say that inside the oven is where the magic happens. Steam, introduced in the first stage of the baking process, enables optimum crust development. Further stages ensure proper ovenspring and volume, and finally, an even, golden crust color develops before breads exit the oven. Line workers give each item a thorough quality check and send it on to IJ White cooling and freezing towers.

Loaves receive about 30 minutes of ambient cooling before taking another half-hour trip back down a second tower, this one inside the blast-freezer at -15 to -30 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the product.

“We blast-freeze each piece individually because the staling process starts the minute food is out of the oven,” Mr. Davis explained. “We prevent it from happening as fast as we can.”

All Aryzta bakeries are certified under GFSI, and La Brea Bakery has a detailed training program with BRC status.