Hudson Bread, North Bergen, NJ, has a footprint of 44,000 square feet, but as the bakery grew, Mariusz Kolodziej, founder and chief executive officer, has taken advantage of every square inch of vertical space. With all the mezzanine space that has been built in, the facility now has 60,000 square feet of manufacturing and storage space.

On one mezzanine sits the HB-Technik ingredient handling system. Two 64,000-lb indoor silos contain white flour while a 20,000-lb silo holds whole wheat flour. Three smaller silos hold liquid pre-ferments that are matured over 12 hours: polish, rye sour or white sour. There are also two liquid ice tanks and three tanks that hold eggs, yeast and liquid milk. The HB-Technik control panel shows all the products Hudson Bread makes and holds their formulas: now down to 125 from 250 SKUs since the company scaled back due to the pandemic.

Mixing starts at 4 a.m., and all doughs are produced a day before they’re baked. Once a product is selected on the control panel, the HB-Technik system scales all major and minor ingredients and the liquid pre-ferment into a mixing bowl below. Some ingredients are still scaled ahead of time to speed things up. As Ray Million, vice president of operations, explained, the system can discharge nine doughs per hour, but Hudson Bread needs 11 discharges an hour to keep up with demand. By hand-scaling some ingredients ahead of time, the bakery can squeeze in those two extra doughs.

Once ingredients are scaled and added to the mixing bowl, five Koenig mixers can develop the dough, including four Koenig DW-240 mixers and one Koenig SP-160 mixer. The DW-240 mixers are twin twist mixers that can reduce the mixing time while still delivering the same dough structure. 

“In fact, it’s so fast, there’s a learning curve around knowing when the dough is done and controlling the temperature, so training is important,” Mr. Million said.

Once dough is mixed, it rests at ambient temperature in the removable bowl for an hour or two. It then goes to one of six Koenig makeup lines. Each can run 4,000 to 5,000 lbs of dough per hour, depending on the product, but Hudson Bread runs the lines a bit slower so to not overwhelm the operator unloading the line at the end.

Line No. 1 is a Koenig Menes line and was installed in 2016. It produces baguettes, square cut rolls, ciabatta, hero rolls and was producing rustic square olive and sesame oil rolls on the day of Baking & Snack’s tour. The removable bowl is lifted to the hopper by a bowl hoist. After the machine creates a continuous dough sheet, twin-satellite rollers reduce the dough to the desired thickness in a shorter amount of time. This cuts the length of the makeup line by 10 to 12 feet.

After the dough sheet is reduced, it is cut into strips by a roller knife before the squares are cut by a guillotine. This line has the flexibility of two seed boxes so that Hudson Bread can either add multiple toppings to a product or have the redundancy of two boxes during changeovers. Once product is topped, it is manually off-loaded and racked and put in the MIWE proofer for its overnight cold-proof.

Line No. 2 is the latest investment on the production room floor: a Koenig KGN line installed in 2020 to add capacity for frozen products. It features an intermediate proof box that was oversized for a longer proof time, a custom feature Hudson Bread requested.

The French hero rolls the line was producing had only rested 30 minutes at ambient temperature before being hoisted and added to the hopper. The dough is divided and rounded before entering the intermediate proofer that will take 18 to 20 minutes to travel.

“We don’t add any strengthening on the formulation end, so we rely on time to build in that strength,” Mr. Million explained. “We use this 18-to-20-minute intermediate proof to help the dough relax after we shock it at the divider and rounder.”

In fact, that intermediate proof results in 10% more volume on the dough pieces than other makeup lines in the bakery. After proofing, the French hero rolls are moulded. Additionally, the KGN line produces brioche, vegan farmhouse, round rolls and other similar products.

Like Line No. 1, these products are then racked manually and placed in the cold proof boxes overnight. Product is then moved into the oven room that houses nine MIWE thermal oil ovens: two thermal express ovens, four thermal-static ovens and three Ideal ovens. The two MIWE thermal express ovens feature automated loading and unloading.

Products that are headed to the freezer are automatically transferred to an overhead conveyor for their extensive cool-down process. The four thermal-static ovens are manually loaded, and product destined for the freezer are cooled at ambient temperature before being put on an elevator to the overhead conveyor. The three Ideal deck ovens par-bake larger loaves.

After baking, fresh product is cooled at ambient temperature on racks before being sliced and packaged by a LeMatic packaging line and checked by a Mettler-Toledo metal detector. They are then boxed and await distribution by Hudson Bread’s fleet of delivery trucks.

Frozen product cools on overhead conveyors at an ambient temperature until it reaches 190F, a process that takes about 8 minutes. After that, it enters Hudson Bread’s two-stage freezing process it developed with MIWE.

“We worked with MIWE to develop a cooling and freezing process that wouldn’t dry out our product,” Mr. Million explained. “In a lot of bakeries, they will freeze the product quickly, and the shock cracks the crust. We were concerned about losing our crust, and that will also drive out some of the moisture in the product.”

To prevent this shock effect and preserve Hudson Bread’s signature quality, product first enters a MIWE enclosed spiral cooler, which brings the product temperature to 40F. Then it enters a spiral freezer that is set to -25F for the final freeze, which can take 28 to 60 minutes depending on the size of the product.

Once the product is frozen, it enters the Niverplast packaging system, another recent investment. A case erector builds the boxes that are filled by three employees. Then the Niverplast system vacuum seals, checks the weight, tapes and labels the box. Eventually, Hudson Bread hopes to install a robot to stack the boxes.

The frozen product is then stored in Hudson Bread’s new freezer warehouse, just finished in March. The frozen product line was so well-received by Hudson Bread’s customers that the bakery outgrew its original freezer storage within a year and had to find off-site cold storage. The new space triples the onsite freezer storage. Altogether, Hudson Bread will be able to store 260 pallets of frozen bread and rolls, equating to 11 trucks a week. In 2019, the company could only supply three trucks a week.

It seems clear that frozen is where the growth is, but Mr. Kolodziej isn’t giving up on his 27 years of fresh bread production quite yet.

“Our plan is to continue with our fresh business as we expand into the frozen,” he said. “The fresh business keeps you honest to your production because the feedback is immediate, and that keeps you on the pulse of the business.”

While frozen provides a lot of flexibility for both Hudson Bread and its customers, sales in fresh are coming back strong as the foodservice industry rebounds. Regardless of whether the product is fresh or frozen, it’s still Hudson Bread.

“Our position remains firm,” Mr. Kolodziej said. “Hudson Bread uses a unique European proofing process that creates truly delicious breads.”

This article is an excerpt from the April 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Hudson Bread Co., click here.