Thanks to their new 22,000-sq.-ft. production facility in Cudahy, Wis., the folks at Angelic Bakehouse now have the room, additional equipment and the structure they need to efficiently produce sprouted whole-grain breads, buns, rolls and flatbread/pizza crusts using an unusual process.

Angelic Bakehouse’s roomy, new 22,000-sq.-ft. production and headquarters facility, built by owners Jenny and James Marino in Cudahy, Wis., is equipped for the bakery to shine.

Opened in December 2013, the plant has a climate-controlled baking area, three production lines featuring some new makeup equipment, new packaging machinery and two bread makeup lines from the former facility in Waukesha, Wis. The bright, open design includes a large, windowed production area; about 3,500 sq. ft. of office space; 2,200 sq. ft. of refrigerator/freezer space; an ample warehouse; and an inviting test kitchen/conference area with all of today’s bells and whistles. Sitting on four acres of land, the office/plant complex is expandable, in case the Marinos want to add on.

“We’re still getting organized, unpacked and settled in,” says Angelic Bakehouse president/CEO Jenny Marino. “We designed the building so we could perhaps quadruple its size, if we need to. The plant is set up so that we can remove a wall and add right on. But for now, we’re glad to be moved in. It feels fantastic.”

With a brightly windowed production floor, the new Cudahy plant is staffed with 32 employees. It’s a welcome change from the bakery’s original location in Waukesha, Wis., which was becoming too small and cramped to accommodate the growing bakery’s demands, Jenny says. “The move here is changing the whole way we work for the better,” she says. “There’s room for all of our lines, ingredients, packaging machines and everything we need. And the building is much more inviting. We can entertain guests to our test kitchen, and our employees really enjoy it, too.”

The bakery makes sprouted whole-grain breads, buns, rolls and flatbread/pizza products using a rather unusual process that involves allowing whole-wheat berries to sit in water for 24 hours, or until they sprout. After the wheat sprouts, it’s removed from the vat of water and put through a grinder to create a mash.

Sprouted grains are whole grains in their purest form, explains James, vice president and COO. “Our proprietary sprouting process involves soaking unprocessed whole grain in water at the perfect combination of time and temperature,” he explains. “The result is a natural product that tastes great…we use the mash that we create in lieu of traditional flour to make dough. The sprouted seven-grain mash that we grind is our core competency. When we began to understand the taste and nutritional advantages of sprouted wheat, we felt we could apply it toother exciting products and go beyond sliced bread and rolls.”

The couple now believes in the sprouting process. “Sprouted-wheat products get more exciting as you go down the line,” James says. “We think baguettes, flatbreads, pizza crusts and other products in the spectrum will be a major focus for us going forward. Sprouting wheat is a totally different science than making conventional bread dough, however. We brought in a master baker who agreed to help us, but it turns out he learned a lot here. The fermentation occurs at different times and at different temperatures, than regular dough made with regular flour. So there’s a pretty big learning curve at first.”


Busy schedule

Production of the sprouted whole-grain products is ongoing, Jenny adds. “We run simultaneous shifts and grind the sprouted grain at staggered times,” she explains.

“There’s activity here nearly 24 hours a day. And staff is here, one way or another, every day of the week.”

Route drivers for Angelic’s five truck routes arrive by 2 a.m. “We bake four days a week and sprout the grain every other day,” Jenny adds. “Eventually, we’d like to bake in shifts, where we have more time to bake.”

Able to generate fresh, par-baked and frozen products, the bakery ships locally and across the country. “We can also ship frozen dough,” James says. “About half of our product is shipped frozen, but that will increase. We’re going to offer a lot more frozen products in the future, as we’re limited geographically as far as how far we get fresh product to market from just the one bakery location.”

At this point, the production lines aren’t all yet dedicated to certain products, but going forward, they probably will be, James says. “One new bun line branches off—one for small-cut rolls, one for buns, and then we do have a dedicated pizza press line that produces flat crusts from dough balls,” he explains. “The two older bread lines run the 16-oz. bread loaves, and we run them one at a time. Then we package everything in a separate room and warehouse in a separate cold-storage area.”

The breads are baked and shipped the same day to ensure freshness. Depending on what’s being made, most procedures are performed automatically, but there’s a lot of manual product handling at this point. “The investments we make from here on out will start with automating material handling,” James points out. “We went from a one to a five in terms of the level of automation we have, where level 10 is a completely automated facility. But we get the biggest return on our investment (ROI) on the front-end forming and makeup equipment. And we also acquired new mixers and lifts that were built for us, which gives us a lot of versatility. My favorite saying is, ‘We can’t build a rocket ship to go to the grocery store.’ We need to take one thing at a time, having just moved into this facility. We need to grow into all of its capabilities.”

A different science

Production runs aren’t extremely long yet, but James says he knows they will be longer down the road. Additional makeup lines will most likely be added in time. “Once the production processes were more organized and controlled, the product became much more consistent, run-to-run, so we can move more quickly,” he says.

The sprouting process is the first step in Angelic’s production process. It wasn’t simple arriving at the right combination of ingredients and timing, and they vary with the weather and changing seasons. The red wheat berries are provided by a co-op. After they sprout in a vat (about 300 lb.) of water for 24 hours, the sprouted grains are then shoveled into the grinder. Once the mash is made in batches, other ingredients are added, such as honey, one of the main ingredients.

“We use only pure, unprocessed honey from a local farmer,” Jenny says. “Honey really helps these grains taste great. What we use is unheated and unfiltered. It makes a huge difference in our end product.”

Other ingredients, including molasses and flour, are also added to the mixing bowl. Then, a special lift is used to bring the batch of dough to one of several stationary spiral mixers that turn it into dough. Each batch weighs about 500 lb. The resulting mixture is moved to one of three production lines—a pizza crust press, a bun/roll line or the bread loaf line, which features two loaf makeup machines.

“To get some scale, we made some test doughs on our new bun line, and when you use regular bread flour versus sprouted grain, it’s just a different science,” James notes. “Production planning is so different. Today’s production will go out the door for delivery tomorrow, so we must really take care to forecast just what we need to make and what our orders will be 24 hours earlier than everyone else does. That’s because the die is cast the day before product is baked.”


Makeup, proof and bakeup

The bread makeup machines round dough into balls that will become 16-oz. loaves of bread. The dough balls are then loaded into pans and the pans are placed by hand on racks. Line workers then move the racks of loaves to a large proofing box that proofs bread at high humidity for 45 minutes (proofing times vary depending on the specific product being proofed) at 105 deg. F.

After proofing, the loaves of bread are moved into a bank of walk-in deck ovens and baked to an internal temp of 206 deg. F for about 25 minutes. Then, they’re removed from the pans by hand and placed on racks to cool before they’re brought to a slicer/bagger in the packaging room. There are three new high-speed bread slicers in the room that run 4,500 loaves an hour.

After the bread bags are automatically filled, they’re twist-tied closed, and the packaging staff loads them into large bakery trays, 15 bags per layer, five to six layers high, for local delivery. The bags can also be case-packed in corrugated shipping cases for traveling longer distances.

The sliced breads are shelf-stable for eight to nine days, and the fermentation almost acts as a preservative, James says. A lot of the sprouted breads are sold in freezer cases. Angelic’s 12-oz. seven-grain baguettes bake for eight to 10 minutes at 410 deg. F. “The baguettes are our only par-baked, heat-and-serve product,” Jenny notes. “We want to give consumers a crunchy, crispy product, so we include instructions to finish it off at home.”

Burger buns and dinner rolls are produced on a new bun line that forms dinner rolls six-across. After the dough is rounded into small balls, the dough balls are loaded into pans that line operators place on racks, ready for the proofer, and later, the rotary deck ovens. After baking, buns are also removed from their pans, placed on racks and bagged automatically in the adjoining packaging room before the bags are closed by a clip applicator.

The bakery’s newest product, Flatzza combination flatbread/pizza crust [see Cover Story] comes in a resealable zippered barrier pouch that has a two-month shelf life and stays fresh refrigerated for several days. “The Flatzza combination flatbread/pizza crust is a new product category for us,” says Jenny.

Created the same way as the other sprouted doughs, the flatbread/pizza crust dough runs on a new press. The dough balls are placed on the infeed of the press two-across and flattened into large round pieces before entering a tunnel oven two across. They bake at 500 deg. F for a mere 72 sec. After the golden brown, flat crusts emerge for the oven, they cool on a mesh belt and are checked by line operators for size, color, quality and assorted other criteria and chill in a tunnel chiller that brings them down to about 60 deg. F.

Next, the flatbread/pizza crusts convey out of the room and into a large packaging room where they’re bagged automatically and gas-flushed with nitrogen (packed under modified atmosphere). “We bag about 75 loaves of bread a minute, and do about the same on the flatbread system,” James adds.

Bagged for retail customers in clear, resealable, zippered film, the barrier Flatzza package is designed to reduce the flow of oxygen to the product. The Flatzzas can also be stacked in large counts by hand and bulk-bagged for wholesale customers. They’re then case-packed in corrugated shippers and palletized manually. The Marinos are looking forward to installing a four-high pallet racking system in the space.


Factoring in food safety

All of the products run through a metal detector at the front end of production and in the packaging room, which is part of Angelic’s Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) program procedures. The bakery has also instituted a food-safety certification via the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) and installed GFSI-compliant systems at the new facility. Waiting until the move was complete to receive its Food Safety System Certification (FSSC) audits, one of the six approved GFSI schemes, Angelic is currently in its first phase of certification, James explains. “Everything we did in terms of plant design factored in the GFSI requirements,” he says. “It’s a comprehensive program, and we continuously swab equipment surfaces, monitor the air quality and validate the processes we’re executing every day. We also take sample weights on the front and back end of the lines among other steps, to validate the procedure.”

In addition, the couple would like to automate some of the panning/depanning steps on the bread loaf line. “Eventually, we’d like to do that or get the equivalent of oven infeeds and outfeeds,” he adds.

Jenny says another item on the purchasing list is a silo for the sprouted wheat. “But it will depend on how much we expand and how big volumes become,” she acknowledges. “That has been our philosophy—to take one step at a time.”

Did the Marinos ever think they’d own a bakery? “Never, ever,” Jenny says. “We’re working like crazy, but we purchased a quality business at exactly the right time. We hit every bucket out there in terms of what consumers want, and we’re having fun.” That’s a true recipe for success.