Cookie, sweet-treat goodness
Janey Lou’s Inc. was already bustling when Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery arrived at the bakery’s Orem, Utah, production facility in November. Hundreds of freshly baked loaves of stollen—a bread-like fruitcake made with candied fruit and nuts—were cooling on racks. Nearby, the company’s bakers were busy mixing, weighing and placing more stollen dough on lined baking trays to age for a day. Elsewhere in the 15,000-sq.-ft. plant, thousands of its handmade Crispy Treats (made with marshmallows and that snappy, crispy rice cereal) were being automatically packaged on a horizontal wrapper and boxed by employees at the end of the line.
As with most wholesale bakeries, the upcoming holidays have kept the eight-year-old company’s production lines and its employees working overtime for weeks on end. “For the past three weeks, we have been at six [12-hour] days, and are looking at six 12s for a few more weeks,” explains Ryan J. Fillmore, president/CEO of Janey Lou’s, which sells frozen, ready-to-bake bagels, cinnamon rolls, cookies, Danish, dessert bars and donuts; muffin batters; icings; specialty breads; and individually wrapped Crispy Treats, Flavored Crispy Treats, dessert bars and brownies. “Typically, we run five 10-hour shifts.”
This time of year is also spurring demand for certain product categories. “People seem to want to eat more in the winter, and we get more demand for the frozen dough products,” says Fillmore. “They really skyrocket. The individually wrapped Crispy Treats are more retail-driven and get a good jump in spring and summer—traveling time. A lot of people hit convenience stores in the travel season. In the winter, people really want to eat hardier, warm foods. So we produce 90,000-120,000 cinnamon rolls a week.”
Cinnamon rolls, a staple that the company makes in a variety of ways and sells frozen to retailers to bake in-store, is what Janey Lou’s does best, according to Fillmore. “It’s our winner,” he says, adding that the company is projected to produce more than 4 million cinnamon rolls next year.
Bread, on the other hand, is a more recent addition to Janey Lou’s offerings. The company currently makes about 15 bread varieties.
As for the stollen, Janey Lou’s makes the tasty, bread-like fruitcake, which is based on a 200-year-old recipe from Dresden, Germany. It was brought to Janey Lou’s by vice president of production and head baker Jared Westercamp, who joined Janey Lou’s two years ago from Zehnder’s Bakery in Frankenmuth, Mich.
Made by hand
When it comes to its Crispy Treats—among the first products made and sold by company co-founders and sisters Rebecca Jane Barney and Angela Lou Fillmore (Ryan’s mother)—Janey Lou’s makes 100,000 to 125,000 units a month…by hand. In fact, the day before Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery visited the company, employees made 8,000 units by hand.
“They’re hand-folded,” says Fillmore, explaining that the company opted to hand-make the treats because conventional mixing equipment and extruders crush the small rice cereal nuggets.
To make a pan of Crispy Treats, employees combine marshmallows and real butter. “That’s key for us,” says Fillmore. “We bring our real marshmallow back down. We don’t use a cream base. That’s why our Crispy Treats are softer and taste like toasted marshmallow.”
This mixture is poured onto the rice cereal and worked in by hand. Depending on the recipe, inclusions such as candy-coated chocolate pieces or flavors are added. Next, the mixture is hand-pressed into a pan and cut into large (4.5- to 5-oz.) or small (3.2-oz.) bars. The bars are then machine-wrapped.
Says her son of the wrapper, “It’s the very first piece of equipment that we bought. We have a half-million dollar production line, but that wrapper is still my favorite thing. When we have a big building and retire it, I’m going to bronze it and put it in the lobby. It packages our brownies and some of the small Crispy Treats. Most of our products are wrapped on a high-speed model, though.”
After the Crispy Treats are wrapped and cartoned, the boxes run through a metal detector, which the company purchased about a year ago. “That was a huge edition for us,” says Fillmore. “We metal detect everything. We can detect contaminant sized at 3.5 mm.”
The scanned boxes then head to the freezer, where they’ll stay until they’re picked up and distributed by local grocers, convenience-store chains and foodservice companies in the West and Southwest. The company typically has a two-week ordering cycle.
When it comes to its dough products, Janey Lou’s is equally committed to quality. “The way you would make it at home, that’s the way we make it here,” says Fillmore.
Producing thousands of cinnamon rolls, donuts, bagels and other goods requires more than hand-mixing, though. “We’re trying to find the best equipment possible that will handle all of the dough in the same way,” says Fillmore. “We really try to fit equipment to products rather than products to equipment, which is typically backwards.
“We are very committed to not horizontally developing our dough, so we have Italian spiral mixers. Their action is more of a fold and less of an actual mix, so it’s less aggressive on the dough and develops it more gently. That way, the glutens don’t overdevelop and make the dough chewy.”
Fillmore knows that some of the horizontal systems can produce a great amount of dough, but it’s not worked in a really artisan fashion. “We’re not Hostess; we’re not trying to be,” he says. “We’re trying to give our customers something unique that sets them apart from Hostess and Little Debbie and all the other snacks, so the Italian spiral mixers are a pretty big commitment that we’re going to stay with.”
On the day of Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery’s visit, Arturo Martinez, a master baker with 15 years of experience, was using one of the Italian spiral mixtures to create donut dough for donut rounds and triangles, which are sold to grocery stores frozen. Once there, the stores’ employees proof, fry and, if they desire, decorate the donuts.
After adding potato flour, raised donut base and live yeast to the mixing bowl, Martinez carefully metered the water to ensure that the active yeast wouldn’t move too quickly. “Our water heat is critical,” explains Fillmore. “We control it from 40 F deg. to 110 F deg.”
After mixing the dough, Martinez used a bowl lift to empty the dough from the mixing bowl onto a nearby table. The dough, a 330-lb. batch that makes approximately 2,400 donuts, was then cut into pieces that Martinez fed into the feeder of a fully automated, computer-controlled dough band production system. The dough worked its way through a series of rollers, multiple dusting stations and a calibrator before dies cut the first batch of dough into rounds and the second into triangles.
“The reason [the system] is so long is that it gently sheets [the dough] down,” Fillmore explains. “It starts at a certain thickness, goes through a set of rollers, another set of rollers and a calibrator, so it’s gentle on the dough.”
As the rounds and triangles conveyed down the system’s belt, Martinez removed one and weighed it, something Janey Lou’s bakers do with each batch of dough, Fillmore says. “We’re very, very picky about our weights,” he stresses. “Weights and measures are a huge concern with us. With our cinnamon rolls, our goal when we brought in this line about nine months ago, was to get a cinnamon roll to a 4.8- to 5.1-oz. weight range, instead of having a 4.8- to 5.4-oz. weight range. We’ve narrowed that to 0.2 oz.”
Once the dough triangles and rounds reached the end of the production line, two employees placed them on lined trays. Filled trays were moved to a blast freezer, where the products were flash-frozen.
“All of our doughs are flash-frozen,” Fillmore adds. “Everything is held [here] until it’s shipped. We turn our freezer about every two weeks.”
Cookies with personality
Janey Lou’s large, inclusion-filled cookies include Walnut Chocolate Chewy, Chocolate Chunk, Oatmeal Raisin, German Snicker Doodle, White Chocolate Mac and its signature cookie, the Choc-O-Mac, a mixture of three inclusions. Their doughs are extruded and cut in three different ways, depending on the formula.
“Most cookie manufacturers try to stay with one cream formula and only change the inclusions for flavor,” says Fillmore. “When you only have one cream formula, it makes the consistency or the elasticity of the dough always the same, so you can extrude it from the same machine at the same settings every time. Where we’re different is that we want every cookie to have a personality, so all of our cream formulas are different, and we extrude them in three different ways.”
Janey Lou’s uses a standard drop cookie depositor to make cookies with a looser batter. It uses a cookie dough depositor with a guillotine cutoff attachment to make cookies with big inclusions, like large nut pieces.
“A typical cookie depositor can’t cut through them,” says Fillmore. “When a wire cookie depositor hits the nut, it goes over or under and throws the weight off. On the [units we use]—we have two of them—we guillotine cutoffs, so the knife actually slices through the nuts. That way, we can use those Grade A macadamias.”
Sanitation and quality control
When it comes to sanitation and quality control, Janey Lou’s is also committed to doing things “right,” says Fillmore. “We’re pretty meticulous about cleaning the machines. We tear everything apart between uses.”
Fillmore adds that the company maintains a variety of before-and-after production logs. It records the water temperature of every batch of dough and the time it was taken. It also weighs and notes sample sizes taken from each batch of dough. Pans are never used twice and are always cleaned before use.
It’s not surprising, then, that the bakery received high marks during its recent audit by the American Institute of Baking (AIB) International in Manhattan, Kan. “On our cleanliness, specifically, we got a 195 out of 200,” says Fillmore. “We’re pretty proud of that one.”
As for quality control, Fillmore says it will be the next big hurdle for Janey Lou’s as the company grows. “It’s a huge thing because when you’re smaller, you treat [quality control] more like a retail bakery would, where you have someone like Jared’s or my eyes on everything,” he says. “As we get bigger and bigger, having that type of machinery and the ability to produce consistency are key for us.”
And having the right equipment and product consistency will even more important to Janey Lou’s in the coming months, thanks to two “substantial” foodservice contracts, says Fillmore. “I think we’ll be out of here in nine months,” he says, looking around the Orem facility. “We’ll always stay in the Orem and Provo area, though.”