Victor Litinetsky looks at his bakery from a dual perspective in what he describes as the “artisan world of Banneton.”
In conversations about his products, the president and founder of Banneton Bakery often turns to his younger days as an Italian tour guide and waxes poetic about remaining true to the art of baking much like the masters da Vinci and Michelangelo had done with their paintings and sculptures.
Switch the focus of the discussion to operations, and Victor Litinetsky will compare the facility’s carbon dioxide refrigeration system to a Rolls Royce and other equipment to a Ferrari. However, he always emphasizes that the production lines run slower to ensure that automation doesn’t compromise quality.
“It costs us more to make each item because we make them in small batches, and we follow the artisan process, which requires much more labor and time to create the products,” he said.
Overall, the Swedesboro, NJ-based facility allocates 65,000 square feet for processing, 16,000 square feet for packaging, 7,000 square feet for warehousing and 2,000 square feet for office space. About 250 people work on three shifts, five days a week.
Along with Victor and his son Alex Litinetsky, the company’s executive vice president, operations are overseen by Roman Maslak, plant manager; Mohammed Khazal, plant supervisor; Sam Khazal, plant supervisor; Dmitry Besar, chief engineer; and Robert Rittershausen, quality control manager. Mr. Rittershausen developed the bakery’s sanitation and food safety programs that resulted in an SQF Level 2 certification.
Mr. Rittershausen noted the kosher-certified bakery relies on strict front-end controls, including training employees on labeling and storing allergens separately for lot-tracking and minimizing cross contamination. If possible, products with common allergens are made toward the end of the week right before the lines are thoroughly cleaned and verified as food safe by Neogen Reveal 3D test kits.
As a part of its food safety program, products are regularly baked off by quality control specialists.
Currently, the bakery uses bagged flour and other ingredients, although the company is exploring automatic material handling systems, including bulk flour silos, and a possible rail spur for delivery.
However, Victor Litinetsky is searching for a system that can replicate its current process for storing chilled flour that’s brought up to ambient temperature for mixing.
Overall, the bakery is kept at about 64˚F or cooler to prevent the delicate, laminated dough from prematurely rising during the protracted process.
In all, the bakery has about 5 miles of conveyors, including the production lines that average 200 feet long along with spiral coolers, freezers and more. The original facility houses one Canol slab line and two similar Canol makeup lines that can create different laminated products.
Flour and other ingredients are mixed in three Mfitaly spiral mixers to create 400- to 800-lb batches of dough. After resting, the dough is initially sheeted and laminated with 100% butter; it’s then cut into 3-foot slabs before they’re racked and receive extensive fermentation time in the chilled retarder. Victor Litinetsky pointed out that it often takes a full day to go from mixing to packaging.
“We do it like in the olden days — the way it used to be done to create authentic, artisan-style Danish and croissants,” he said. “We give the dough the time it needs to age and temper to provide its flavor and texture.”
After retarding, the dough slabs are manually placed and partially overlapped on the makeup line to create the initial sheet, using a series of reduction stations, flour dusters and a cross roller to achieve the desired width and thickness.
On one line during Baking & Snack’s visit in December, employees deftly created the bakery’s signature hand-twisted Danish that’s swirled into a concentric circle with a dimple in the center for its customers to later add a topping of their choice.
The pieces then enter a Tecnopool spiral proofer before heading to a continuous Tecnopool spiral freezer set at -20˚F for about an hour.
Depending on their sizes, 84 to 200 frozen products are then counted and receive metal detection before case packing, checkweighing, tape sealing, palletizing and storing in the computerized, warehouse freezer.
The newly expanded facility with 45-foot ceilings houses two larger, more versatile Rademaker makeup lines that can turn out 20% to 30% more FTO products, including filled sweet and savory croissants and other pastries as well as artisan breads in the near future.
Two Diosna wendel mixers rely on multiple bowls to create batches that are about twice the size as ones in the original bakery. After sheeting and applying butter, the dough is folded over and sealed before passing through a reduction station toward the first laminator.
After folding, the sheet is flour-dusted and reduced again before receiving a second lamination at a reduction station prior to being cut into 20-lb slabs by a guillotine.
Mr. Rittershausen noted the racks of dough are then labeled for lot tracking prior to retarding.
After the slabs are manually overlapped on the makeup line, the sheet passes through a series of reduction stations, flour dusters and a cross roller to form the dough sheet. Here, the company also has modular Form & Frys Maskinteknik makeup equipment that can be rolled onto the line to form, fold and fill Danish, pizza shells, puff pastries and a host of other filled, specialty products.
For cheese and fruit Danish, small Hobart mixers create the fillings. After a circular cutter turns the initial sheet into individual strips, an eight-nozzle depositor applies the filling before the dough is rolled into continuous tubes that are guillotined, then shaped and aligned manually for the proofer.
The pieces then enter a Tecnopool spiral proofer and freezer, each with 10 inches of spacing between the tiers to accommodate both pastries and other future products.
The other line turns out croissants using a similar sheeting process. Here, the sheet is sliced into four finger strips, then cut into triangles and separated by conveyors before being automatically rolled into loosely formed croissant dough pieces.
“We like to keep the dough more open to allow it to expand and create the light and airy texture that we prefer with our croissants,” Victor Litinetsky said.
About a dozen employees then manually shape and bend the curled dough pieces before they go through automatic egg washing, proofing, freezing and case packaging.
“We’re exploring how to automate this part of the process,” he noted. “I’m told it could be done, but it has to be exactly what we now do by hand, and I still need a little more convincing that the technology will work up to our standards.”
In the coming months, Banneton Bakery will roll out a new line of FTO artisan breads. Developed by Victor and Alex Litinetsky, the dough is made with premium ingredients and a European-style starter — no commercial yeast — and follows a time-intensive fermentation process that’s compatible to what the company uses for its croissants and laminated pastries.
During Baking & Snack’s visit, the bakery provided a sneak preview and shared samples of freshly made crusty multigrain loaves baked in one of three Heuft thermal oil rack ovens.
FTO breads seem like a natural fit, especially given the bakery’s name. Alex Litinetsky said a childhood friend who specializes in marketing suggested “Banneton” after the round, rattan baskets that craft bakers use to proof sourdough and other Old World breads.
“The baskets allow the air to flow not only from the top, but also from below, and they’ve been used for hundreds of years,” he explained. “We’re carrying on with this age-old tradition of extended fermentation and combining it with new freezer-to-oven technology.”
For Victor Litinetsky, he’s expecting the artisan breads to become another masterpiece to add to the bakery’s collection of freezer-to-oven products.
This article is an excerpt from the March 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Banneton Bakery, click here.