Thanks to this delving into an industrial bakery in Rodrigues (silent S), a global understanding of the most current methods of baking baguette bread is possible.
Welcome to the "Oven of the Farm" or "Farm’s Oven" (Four de La Ferme), a bakehouse, operating in the town of "La Ferme" ("The Farm")
on Rodrigues, whence came its name. Fun bit of trivia.
In Rodrigues as well as in most of the country, the cost of bread is submited to regulation, allowing an easy access for everybody.
As a matter of fact, the baker profession as a whole has to abide to a strict set of rules :
Similarly, the access to flour can be eased by state subsidy, as it is the case in Mauritius or Rodrigues.
That is mostly the standard procedure.
At a cost of 27,5 rupies (0.70Ä) per kilo (shaping into small pieces included), one needs to produce at least a thousand pieces to reach the daily profitability threshold.
It is wise, under those conditions, to resort to mechanised production, which besides lowering the profitability threshold to the necessary 1500 or 2000
units, even allows for a production of 3000.
This alone is enough to shape a healthy and lasting bakery company.
Producing bread at this cost requires:
Halved production time
tributary itself from a rapid kneading maximising oxydation, and thus, fermentation
inducing a need for enhanced flours. Otherwise, the dough would not resist the treatment.
Such a quantity of dough calls for machinery offering lilting shaping, and mass cooking.
The flours used in Rodrigues come from the Mills "Les Moulins de la Concorde), an industrial factory based in Port-Louis (Mauritius), crushing wheat from France, and to a lesser extent, Australia.
Les Moulins de la concorde treating 140 000 tons of wheat every year for the whole of the Mascaraignes/Indian Ocean region, have the benefit of a lab monitoring the caracteristics of wheat batches, as well as a training unit for regional bakers.
The Moulin themselves deal with the mixing and enhancement of the flours.
1 Originated from a mix of different "strong" wheats (Rich in protein and gluten)
The stronger the flour, the more resisting to tearing the dough will be, and the more likely will the dough unfold in the oven.
This, altough, increases fermentation time.
2 Improved with the same fungal amylase found in wheat. This allows to accelerate the fermentation thanks to the destructuring process of wheat’s starch
in flour, which the amylases are responsible for.
3 Improved with ascorbic acid (Synthetic vitamin C), as is the case of most mass produced food. This additive usually allows for a limited fermentation
( same process as lemon on avocado for example), but coupled with rapid kneading, has the opposite effect, breaking the uniformity of vitamin C’s protective barrier.
Fermentation starts thanks to dryed baker yeast (Saccaromyce Cervesae)
The knead is only slightly hydrated (between 55 and 65% depending on bakeries), in order to keep the fermentaion process in check which very reactive to the presence
This creates a dough with a tendancy to stick to fingers or to flow on the work plan.
Fermentation starts thanks to dryed baker yeast (Saccaromyce Cervesae)(Saccaromyce Cervesae).
The shaping, by expert hands, of dough into small balls with cylinder shaped extremities avoids unecessary weighing.
Used to kneading pieces of dough weighing between 800g and 1Kg, I am struggling to cut cylinders calibered at 200g. Not to mention it’s been weeks since my last bread baking.
But after 30 mins or so, I get the hang of it.
The small dough cynlinder are then assembled and given to the team responsible for shaping.
The automatic moulder, thanks to a set of two opposed canvas treadmills on a narrowing path (j’ai fait au mieux pas sur que ce soit parfait), enables the team
to lenghten the dough in order to shape it into baguettes, half-baguettes, twines, etc.
Ok ok, here’s a profile drawing !
In case of a continuous production, the moulder would confer a yield or 1000 to 2200 units per hour. There is actually only 3 big kneading session at the
four de La Ferme. Overproduction is avoided.
An hour of fermentation in a tempered chamber enables to start baking as soon as 45 mins to an hour
afterwards. For there is a temperature at which a fermentation peak is reached.
23 mins in the oven are necessary for baking. Here, no cooking hearth, we use rotary convection ovens.
The whole trolley goes into the oven, then out, producing this unmistakable fresh baked bread scent. The trolley remains loaded until the bread has
cooled, after which the bread is then packaged for sale and ultimately delivery.
We are dealing here with a brioche/bun looking bread, whose flavor remains delicious straight out of the oven and for a few hours afterward.
It is as voluminous as it is light. Its crust is extra thin, and its crumb looks very regular, without any bubbles or coalescence.
Its rosy color indicate a distinct Maillard’s reaction (Chemical mutation process related to cooking, involving caramelization amongst other things),
reaction explained by a high concentration of unstructured starches.
Some might be reluctant to recognize this technique as real "baking". One has to take into consideration however, that this easy and cheap access to bread allowed entire countries to have access to a solid and constant food supply, rich in both proteins via gluten and carbs via starch.
Many people are able to still afford bread for they sandwiches and then keep working with a full belly, solely thanks to this kind of food policy.
Thus, this product, now typical to the way of life of so many inhabitants of the Indian Ocean remains attractive even to people having access to artisan bread.
The emergence and growth Mauritius benefited from for the last two decades can most likely be traced back to this easy and convenient access to bread.
Laws go as far as to forbid a baker to close shop for a few days if
Anyway, a big thanks to Mister GOPAL for his deeply involved attitude and his trust.
Big thanks also for his welcome in the very heart of his company, for his implication destined to enlighten us not only to his modern management methods
but also to the multiple economic issues at stake in the region.
This kind of baking process is very similar to the one found in Madagascar, although a baguette bread variant has also been created. Small quantities can be found at the price of 600 Ariary (o,17€) instead of the 400 (0,11Ä) usually asked. This is the Mofo Mavesatra (Heavy Bread literally). It’s recipe includes cooked cassava dough, giving the bread a less rosy, softer aspect, giving also a fair amount of fibers and carbohydrates.
All this for a lower production cost.
All of this can prove, in my opinion, that mass produced bread doesn’t necessarily mean preventing the emergence of new and interesting ways of baking.