How do commercial bread makers like Sara Lee and Pepperidge Farm get their loaves to turn out in a uniform size and shape every time?

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How do commercial bread makers like Sara Lee and Pepperidge Farm get their loaves to turn out in a uniform size and shape every time?

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Science and machines!

These companies most definitely have a research team on hand. They study everything about the product to make it the best they can. Chemistry, flour types, even yeasts and fermentation.This results in more controlled and better understood products.

The other half is factory bakeries. They mass produce their breads in machines. Because human hands have little to do with the bread making process, the product always comes out more consistent.

They use molds to define the shape and process controls to make every slug of dough as identical as possible. by doing exactly the same thing over and over, you can produce a very uniform product. In some cases there are some errors, but your quality control system keeps those from getting to consumers.

They have hundreds if not thousands of tins that all go through the ovens at the same time. Same temperature for the same duration. Additionally, their “dough” is probably more of a batter so they can accurately measure how much goes into each tin with an automated machine. They’ve done decades of testing to make sure the recipe they use limits air pockets while allowing right amount of rise and browning, etc.

Chemistry and mechanical engineering controlled by industrial instrumentation.

The ingredients are subject to tight control. Every batch of bread is weighed/measured to exact portions and all are subjected to the same tight controls in mixing and baking. These are achieved with mechanical precision equipment all controlled by highly calibrated controls and computers. A highly qualified team of operators and technical staff oversea the process. Failures would be rejected and probably wind up as bread crumbs or fillings elsewhere. Large runs keep the costs down and chemists continue to refine and reduce costly ingredients. Look at mainstream beer like coors et al for cheap ingredients.

Your mom and pop bakery also try to achieve this consistency but they usually have the human aspect and that is why artisan bread can cost a lot more because of the labour aspect and better ingredients.

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I worked in a bread factory one summer in college. The dough is made in large vats, those vats sit in a rising room for the proper amount of time(this was a dangerous room as CO2 is emitted from the rising process, so you had to be quick rolling the vats out to avoid breathing too much CO2 and passing out), when done rising those vats are fed into a machine that measures and rolls the dough into the proper form and drops it into the pans. The pans ride a conveyer through the oven (timed to cook perfectly), bread is dumped out of the pans by machine, the pans are stacked, the bread rides a conveyer designed to be long enough, so it is cool when it reaches the slicer/bagger,(slicer is just a bunch of band saws, air blows open bag and bread is pushed in), fed into plastic trays which are then stack and ride the conveyer where it is pulled from and loaded onto trucks for shipping. The worst job I had was the pan unstacking machine, because the pans were typically still hot from the last batch and would sometimes get stuck, so you’d have to manually break them apart, of course you would get burnt if your arm accidentally hit the pans. I spent one day breaking apart raisins by hand, opening 20lb boxes dumping them in vat the separating all the raisins so they didn’t stick together and could be added to the dough. Where we worked the hamburger bun bagging machine the bread cooling line would run overhead and sometimes, we could snag a loaf of raisin bread to eat.

Very carefully portioned ingredients out of very accurate machines being formed into very uniform shapes by more accurate machines and then being cooked in identical loaf pans that allow for very little rise over the confines of the form in huge ovens with very consistent and accurate temperature and moisture control. Basically everything is as controlled and repeatable as they can make it.

They’re not *exactly* uniform; sometimes you’ll notice weird folds and things like that. But using the exact same recipe, loaf weight, rising and baking times, same pans, etc. produces very consistent results.

The short answer is “batch processing”, and “quality control”.

Commercial bread makers bake dozens of loaves at a time from the same big batch of dough. Since it was the same batch of dough that was used, and the loaves are all being baked at the same time in the same oven, the loaves *should* be identical. A small handful of the them will be under- or over-sized, and they will just be discarded, so *the loaves that remain* are uniform.

I’m surprised no one has posted the “[How its made](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iv3BRGZS65I)” for industrial bread makers yet. I don’t recognize this brand but I’m sure it is similar for other bread makers. It could watch “How it’s made” all day.

Pepperidge Farms uses math and science but Sara Lee’s methods remain a mystery. She has her own unique style that cannot be imitated, hence “Nobody does it like Sara Lee.”

Other people are talking about the consistency of manufacturing, etc., and that’s all true. But there’s one more thing to consider:

Sometimes the loaves don’t turn out the “right” shape, and they don’t get shipped to a regular grocery store. They get sold at a bakery outlet, which sells under/over-filled loaves, or sometimes ones that are just weirdly-shaped for whatever reason. When product doesn’t meet quality control, but is still edible, then it’s sold as an irregular (usually at a discount).

When I was a kid, we used to drive to the Sara Lee outlet near us and buy irregular muffins that had been over-filled. Sure, they were ugly but it was a great value proposition.

What a lot of people don’t see is the waste semi trailer filling up with bad loaves destined for animal feed, dripping with egg and flour goop. Bakeries create a lot of waste and there’s plenty of non-perfect loaves all the time, just that they don’t get released to market.

Recipes and pans. You can do it yourself. Once you dial in your recipe and method, it will be consistent. It’s really that simple.

Baking is all about precise control over ingredients and environmental conditions. In a highly controlled factory setting, they can do that to an exact science and make every batch perfectly consistent.

Dude when you make money off bread for a living the only thing you can do to up your chances of making more money is A) putting food into your bread. B) making perfect bread.

Take a look at the ingredient list. The stabilizers are used to improve machinery possessing and add shelf life. I worked 25 years in a bakery called Automatic Rolls. It is chemically engineered.

If you made a million of them every day for years and years, you’d be pretty consistent at it too.

I’m a Computer Systems Engineer for a major bread manufacturer in the US and answer to this question is easy. But most people don’t realize how strict standards are which makes the real answer to this question very complicated

The ELI5 answer is they use the same ingredients in the same amounts on the same machines at the same speed and same temperatures always. Consistency at all parts of the process is how this is done at scale.

Nowadays there’s more than just getting your bread to be the same size and shape. Some vendors may require a certain height, color and weight of a hamburger bun for instance with a certain amount of sesame seeds per square inch on top. I deploy systems that integrate with the PLC’s on the machine and many other instruments like scales, cameras, and a wide array of sensors and that’s how we ensure that our product is at or above spec at all times. It’s actually pretty crazy!

[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pullman_loaf](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pullman_loaf)

The bread is standardized in bread pans. The Pullman loaf was the popular name for standardized bread during the age of rail. The dining car of the train was small and used these compact loaves.

A ‘diner’ that sells Pullman sized toast, eggs and coffee was originally just the train kitchen parked on the ground.