A hard, crispy, and cinnamon-coated piece of bread for dunking - sounds simple enough to make, right? You might be surprised to learn the number of steps, bakers, machines, and techniques that go into making the bag of Cinnamon Toast in your pantry!
This series will offer you an inside look at the process and creation of Trenary Toast - which we have been baking up since 1928.
Early Morning at the Toast Factory
2:00 AM in downtown Trenary, Michigan is not as quiet as you might think. While most of the world is sleeping, our morning baker is busy mixing away the first batch of dough we will later use to make Trenary Toast. He loads our horizontal-style mixer with 600+ pounds of flour, water, sugar, yeast, and more.
The original Trenary Home Bakery mixer (pictured below), which was purchased in 1938 by the bakery, was used every day up until February 2020. The arrival of this cast iron machine was big news back in the day, and it even made the papers (see below article clipping). This historic piece of equipment, from Champion Mixers out of Illinois, is now on display at Trenary Toast Cafe in Marquette, MI. We estimate that over 90% of Trenary Toast ever eaten was mixed in this machine!
The inside Champion Mixer, used at the bakery until 2020
Today, we have a similar mixer made of stainless steel which can hold a few hundred extra pounds of dough. Regardless of the mixer, new or old, the process is the same. The morning baker loads the ingredients into the mixer and then empties the formed dough into a trough that is used to hold the dough as it rises.As this batch of dough rises, the morning baker starts the process over with a second batch of dough.This process repeats up to 4 times a day depending on what we are making - that is a lot of Trenary Toast! At maximum production levels, we can churn out 1,300 brown bags of Trenary Toast per day. Check out the below clip of the mixer in action!
By the time the dough has been mixed and has risen for the first time, it is time to begin dividing the dough into equal-sized pieces and forming it into balls. At this point, the bakery is bustling and we have up to 5 bakers there to help shape, mold, and make the dough into the Trenary products you know and love!For this part of the process, we use 2 machines. The first machine is called a Dough Divider. Large chunks of dough are placed into a hopper, the dough is slowly fed down through the hopper and a cutting tool is used to automatically cut the dough into chunks that are the same weight. From there the dough makes its way down a short conveyor belt, where it is dropped into another machine, called the Rounder. The rounder is used to form the dough into uniform balls, which are then left to rise again for the next step in the process. Take a look at the divider and rounder - it can be mesmerizing to watch! Now, while the dough is left to rise for a second time, the bakers are busy setting up for the next phase of the day. There is more shaping and rising to come, and it is only about 5:00 AM by this time!
Stay tuned for the next part of the Inside the Bakery series where we will go over the creation of our soft sweet breads and the final steps we take to get the first load of bread into the oven.