Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Recently, our Head Spy Jessie was invited to take a tour of Little Rae's Bakery, a wholesale bakery here in Seattle (and, one of the nation's few completely nut-free bakeries). If you live in the Seattle area, you're undoubtedly familiar with their natural, organic baked goods--they're sold at nicer supermarkets and coffee shops all throughout the city, and even made national headlines with their recent First Family Cookies.
Having grown up fascinated with that spot about how crayons are made on Sesame Street, and as an avid watcher of Unwrapped, there was no doubt about a response--the word "YES!" couldn't be uttered quickly enough.
So, what goes on at a factory of sweetness? Here's what she saw:
First off, everything is big. Big, big, big. From an enormous Hobart mixer to a big machine which divides dough into individual portions, the machinery is heavy-duty (see Little Rae's owner James next to one of the machines for a size comparison).
They're also baked in ginormous ovens, which trays are loaded into and rotate in a circular motion to bake evenly.
Of course, the most magical part (to me) was the point at which they were out of the oven--when the aroma of fresh, sweet baked goods was rich in the air, and the employees set to frosting and decorating them. Several employees were delegated to these tasks, and moved at warp speed, icing, frosting and adding sprinkles to the cookies. Really, I could have watched them do this all day.
Finally, once allowed to dry or set, the baked goods are packaged--all of the packaging has fun pictures of the employees-- and put out for deliveries.
Of course, I'd be lying if I didn't mention that one of the best parts of the tour was the box of free goodies I got at the end of it, including my favorite, their iced shortbread cookies:
Moreover, I was impressed by the fact that even though they are baking these treats in larger quantities, the process isn't really all that different than baking at home--just a lot more sterile (no licking the spoon here!) and with a lot bigger machinery. It was especially exciting to see that even at a larger scale, this company isn't adding anything scary to their baked goods--it's all fresh and organic, and it's clearly a labor of love for owner James, who oversees all daily operations. And of course, having seen the process, it made the cookies all that much more delicious to eat afterward.