Balthazar: a bakery in action

March 29, 2013 § 2 Comments

                    photo copy 19 SWEETTABLESCAPES just had the pleasure of taking a private tour of Balthazar ‘s bakery in Englewood, NJ.

Most of us in the area know and enjoy their restaurant in NYC for its brasserie-style menu and traditional French dishes, as well as…of course, its breads.

So it’s always lots of fun to get a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes, in this case, in the wholesale bakery space they’ve occupied since 2000 in Englewood.

I still remember my excitement the first time I passed their location and noticed their name on the door. I couldn’t wait to find out when they were opening and when I stopped a couple of times for an update, they gave me a gorgeous, warm and delicious loaf of bread!! Needless to say, I have been a faithful customer ever since.

I was led around the bakery by a friendly and knowledgeable baker, Mr B., a transplant from Colorado who showed and explained the ins and outs of their wholesale business. The bakery is primarily a supplier for about 450 clients in the area (restaurants, hotels) and also sells their baked goods in  the small bakery shop adjoining their production site. Here, you’ll be able to get any of their breads (rye, whole wheat, pecan-cranberry, baguette, ficelle, ciabatta, etc) as well as an enticing selection of desserts. Those are not the “fancy” kind but rather all things French you would find in a baker’s shop who usually also offers a few desserts also known as “viennoiseries” : tarts, brioches, canneles, croissant, pains au chocolat.

I learned that the bakery produces 40,000 kgs of bread per week; that’s about 80,000 lbs !!!  Everything is prepared on site, mixed, assembled and baked according to a very precise schedule. Over a 160 employees keep the business running 7 days a week, 365 days a year, around the clock in a carefully choreographed ballet of shifts. Before dawn, a fleet of trucks starts their delivery rounds in time for breakfast.

This mountain of butter greets us as we enter…

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Towards the back, some much needed help is provided by industrial-size mixers…

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Cranberries and pecans have just been added to the dough

Cranberries and pecans have just been added to the dough

Perfect mixing is provided mechamically. The dough rests when its pushed against the edge of the bowl and gets kneaded when in contact with the hook.

Perfect mixing is provided mechanically. The dough rests when its pushed against the edge of the bowl and gets kneaded when in contact with the hook.

Weighing a few containers of heavy cream..

Weighing a few containers of heavy cream..

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Ciabatta loaves are quickly weighted and shaped

Ciabatta loaves are quickly weighted and shaped

Left to rise...and shine!!

Left to rise…and shine!!

On the “pastry” side, smaller treats are prepared in an efficient way. For that, you require a work surface the size of your dining room table!

Assembling Apple...

Assembly line…

Shaping long logs..

Shaping long logs..

The logs are braided to make future Apple Danishes

The logs are braided to make future Apple Danishes

Croissant dough is flattened in a roller..

Croissant dough is flattened in a roller..

and quickly shaped into triangles...

and quickly shaped into triangles…

to be shaped into that appetizing "crescent" or croissant.

to be rolled swiftly into that appetizing “crescent” or croissant.

On the other side of the building lies the real heart of the bakery with ovens that are kept on 24 hours a day. Usually at about 500 degrees F, they produce the finished loaves in about 30 minutes.

2 human-size ovens. The deck ovens are on the other side...

Balthazar likes their breads dark. You can notice the deep brown color of the crust. The chief bakers believe that a slightly “caramelized” crust adds an extra layer of flavor and depth to the bread.

Beautiful crusty loaves...

Beautiful crusty loaves…

Baguettes

Baguettes

White bread

White bread

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I

These are shaped in special willow bowls like these.

These are shaped in special willow “proofing  baskets”like these.

As any self-respecting bread lover, I left with a bag full of goodies to enjoy at home..

a beautiful rye loaf with the B monogram...

a beautiful rye loaf with the B monogram…

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