Key changes improve New Season’s bread
| New Seasons Market produces 1,300 lbs. of organic dough daily, and all loaves are hand-formed. |
New Seasons has grown to five stores, with its baking division employing 75 people. An 18-hour production schedule produces an average of 1,300 lbs. of dough a day, with organic sourdough and organic French the top selling loaves.
Jesse Dodson, head baker and merchandiser for the store’s certified organic bread bakery, is commited to using only top quality ingredients to create the market’s hand-formed artisan bread, made from scratch every day.
“All our bakers are passionate about their bread,” Dodson says. “The greatest challenge is always consistency.”
Although formulas were in place for the bakery’s two dozen varieties of bread, Dodson made some key changes that bumped up quality across the board when he joined the company 18 months ago. He switched to an organic flour that is grown and milled in Canada.
“I find it’s more consistent, absorbs more water, and that the higher hydration lengthens the shelf life of the bread and gives it a more open crumb. The flour also withstands slower fermentation without breaking down,” he says.
With that fundamental change in place, Dodson reworked New Season’s formulas, tweaking them to deliver fuller, deeper flavor or eliminating them when necessary.
“To satisfy the growing demand for whole wheat bread, and in the interest of both time and quality, I went from using a 40 percent whole wheat dough to a 60 percent whole wheat levain dough, which I can use for four varieties of bread,” Dodson says. “We can manage the product better that way, having one big dough, with various adjunct ingredients folded into it, depending on the variety of bread.”
Another change was moving away from baguette moulders to hand forming the loaves. “We did some intensive training on hand forming, and it really improved the crumb on our baguettes,” he adds. “Certain pieces of equipment do save time and labor. For instance, we use a hydraulic dough divider. But the baguette moulder was having an effect on our quality, so we stopped using it. Hand formed is just better. We aren’t interested in replacing our skilled and passionate bakers with machines.”
His efforts in quality control have paid off, with weekly bread sales jumping from $8,700 last year to $9,600 this year. Next, Dodson plans to concentrate on bringing more consistency to the merchandising scheme across all five stores. “Consistency coupled with passion is our goal,” he says.
La Mascota keeps with the times
| La Mascota Bakery’s breads, cookies and other sweets create lasting customers, often spanning three generations of the same family. |
“We stay up with the times,” says Victor Salcedo, who manages sales and quality assurance. “We listen to our customers. In response to the ongoing migration of Salvadorans and other people from Central America, we’ve added recipes that make them think of home, like slightly sweet cheese bread or a corn bread. Here in Southern California, we have a taste for chilies, so we developed a jalapeno cheese bread that is now one of our most popular items.”
Adding more whole wheat and whole grain breads, as well as reduced sugar desserts, is another way La Mascota has kept up with trends. “In many families, we have three generations of people who are our customers. We try to be health conscious, and also serve our customers who are diabetics.”
After doubling the size of the bakery with a renovation in 1999, the Salcedos now have 4,500 sq. ft. of production space. “We upgraded, and added more equipment, including spiral mixers, and rack ovens,” Salcedo says. Depending on the time of year, the bakery can produce between 3,000 and 7,000 loaves of bread, rolls, cookies and pastries a day.
About 90 percent of La Mascota’s sales are from bread, with the crusty bolillos the number one seller. Bolillos are a French-style dough that is baked in four sizes: small/chico, medium/medio, large/grande and extra large/grandoso.
“People line up for our bread and our tamales,” Salcedo says, both of which will be available on-line by the end of this year. “We hear from our customers who move away how much they miss us,” he adds. “Soon, they won’t have to.”
Salcedo and his siblings follow in their father’s footsteps, taking great pride in pleasing their customers and meeting their demands. “My father always used the best ingredients, and he taught us that too. After he retired, he still came in once a week to taste the bread until the very end. We honor his memory by keeping our standards high.”