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Wednesday
Feb112009

Sweet Factory: Behind the Scenes at Little Rae's Bakery in Seattle

Glitter Heart Cookie
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:
Hobart!James with a big cookie/scone machine

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.
JUST out of the big oven!Coming out of the oven

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.
Cookies being frosted and sugaredJust frosted cookies
Professional cookie decoratorsBefore and after cookiesMaple sconesJust frosted scones
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.
Cookies just packaged!Packaging the cookies
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:
Booty from the tour!
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.

Want to learn more about Little Rae's Bakery? Visit their website at littleraesbakery.com. Not in Seattle? Don't despair--you can still enjoy their baked goods via mail order.

 

Reader Comments (11)

I really couldn't work there, because I would totally lick the spoon.

I wonder if the process is more automated for places like Starbucks and stuff.

February 11 | Unregistered CommenterMeaghan

I just love that color pink. This is the only place where pink of this hue is soooo acceptable.

February 11 | Unregistered CommenterDawn

I was also obsessed with that segment of Sesame Street - loved it!

Oh and love the look of those baked goodies too.

February 11 | Unregistered Commenterthereddeer

This Pie Obsessed Woman's secret is that 50% of the time I'd turn down a slice for a Little Rae's Ginger Twinkle Cookie!!! I LOVE those cookies. On that tour, did you happen to see them pouring narcotics into the batter?!?!? 'Cause I'm addicted. I like to crumble two up in a bowl, pour milk on them and snarf them with a spoon. My boyfriend and I even have a secret hand signal for when we need a ginger twinkle cookie break. It involves putting your thumb and forefinger together (like you have a single sheet of paper held between them) and then putting that hand to the edge of your eye and turning your wrist back and forth two or three times, ever-so-gently, to signify "twinkle". That's right. Viva Lil' Raes!

February 12 | Unregistered CommenterSeattlePieLady

Can that Pink Heart Cookie look any more scrumptious?!?!
I soooo want one right now!

February 12 | Unregistered CommenterJaimee

Meaghan, you'd totally get fired for licking the spoon here! Ha! And I am not sure. I now live near a more mass-market wholesale bakery so I would be curious to see how they do things too!

Dawn: You're so right. Pink cookies are the bomb!

Reddeer: Glad I am not the only one!! :-)

PieLady: Actually, yes, I didn't make a big fuss about it in the writeup but there is a crack conveyor belt before the cookies are baked--obviously that is the secret! :-)

Jaimee: Aw, I wish I had one to give you!

February 12 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

I want to shellac that pink heart cookie and put it on my wall as a decoration. So gorgeous!

February 12 | Unregistered CommenterDallas

WOW just look at that gorgeous pink heart cookie!! Oh I love this...

Rosie x

February 13 | Unregistered CommenterRosie

ohmygosh, that looks like so much fun. I love factory tours - pretty much seeing things mass produced fascinates me which is ironic (?) considering I'm all for the handmade movement. oh well, I'm a modern girl. :)

February 14 | Unregistered CommenterBanana-head Pancake

Ooo! Factory tours are so interesting and that big pink heart cookie is gorgeous! I used to watch a kid's program called Polka Dot Door, it was Canadian and broadcast out of Ontario. They had food factory videos like the Sesame Street crayon one that were my favorite thing to watch.

February 14 | Unregistered CommenterMaggie

I bought the heart cookie for my husband last week and he still won't stop talking about it.

I'm beginning to feel like my sugar cookies have been bumped to second place.

February 16 | Unregistered CommenterBrittany
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