The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Touring Franz Bakery

Floydm's picture

Touring Franz Bakery

My son's 2nd grade class toured Franz Bakery today.  I chaperoned this trip, naturally.

Franz is a landmark in Portland, in part because it has been here over 100 years but also because of the giant rotating loaf of bread on the roof (only a few blocks away there is a giant rotating quart of milk).  Franz Bakery bakes all of the buns for Wendy's, Arby's, Burgerville, and a bunch of other fast food joints out here as well as thousands of loaves of bread each day.

The tour began in an area that had information about how you make bread, where wheat and flour come from, how yeast works, those sorts of things.   It was pretty cute but my son didn't find it terribly interesting, probably in part because his dad has told him these things 20 times already.

After that, we had to get on our hair nets and the tour began.

Unfortunately cameras were not allowed on the tour.  I noticed other parents surreptitiously taking shots but I was too concerned with keeping small fingers out of the machinery to take photos once the tour began.  A few things I noted though:

  • Franz is a bread factory, not a bakery as I think of bakeries.  I'm not making a value judgement in saying that, just noting that everything I saw was done by machine with operators tending to the machines, not bakers tending to the dough.
  • Ingredient-wise I saw palettes full of different flours including those from Cargill and Pendleton Flour Mill.
  • Dough was mixed in 1,000 pound batches, then dumped into troughs where it fermented for an hour or so.
  • Machines shaped the buns then slid them into a proofing machine that is kept around 100 degrees where they stayed for 50 minutes.
  • Buns travel through a 100 foot long oven for about 8 minutes to bake.
  • The buns are cooled on a track that travels all around the building before heading into the packaging room.
  • Watching the loaves fly around, I got this song stuck in my head (if you've watched Looney Tunes you'll know what I'm talking about).

The kids enjoyed the tour a lot, frankly a lot better than they would have enjoyed a tour of an artisan bakery with a single small oven and a dedicated group of earnest bakers talking about the nuances of fermentation.  I enjoyed it too and gotta admit it is impressive that they can automate so much of the baking process.  I was also pleased to hear that there is increasing demand to use local and organic ingredients even when baking on an industrial scale.

Finally, one knick knack I saw on the tour that I liked:


chouette22's picture

I would have chaperoned something like this as well. Thanks for the story!

Marni's picture

I can see why the kids would love this - all that whirring machinery.  Now it would be fun if they could make a class bakery and make bread themselves.  (The schoolteacher in me can't be subdued.)  :)


mredwood's picture

Thanks for sharing. Pictures would have been nice but i've seen it on unwrapped. When I was in the second grade they took up to the Cushmans bakery in NY. There we toured and saw how they put the jelly in the jelly donuts. Then they gave us 2 jelly donuts each in a cute little bakery box. Never forgot it. The only people I saw was the tour guide and the teacher. Things haven't changed much. Thank heavens we have artisan bakeries now. Though I know there were real bakers in NY 50 some years ago. It's interesting what the teachers thought was important. Action. Still is. 


xaipete's picture

What a great outing for kids! Sounds like it was a fun trip.


SallyBR's picture

Can you imagine is something goes wrong in a batch and you have to discard one thousand pounds of dough? 




At least my mistakes are a lot less painful....


Cool visit for the kids, I would enjoy it too.

Floydm's picture

They were very careful about checking that no one had any jewelry on or anything else they could drop into a vat of dough or the gears of machine.  I can understand why.

I recall once at Brother Juniper's a baker lost a Band Aid.  It may have fallen off before he came in or somewhere else in the bakery, he couldn't recall, but we threw out the entire batch of dough rather than risk it ending up in someone's loaf.  It was "only" one or two hundred pounds though.

SallyBR's picture

Well, "only" 200 pounds of dough.... nothing to cry about, obviously!


amazing indeed.  I would love to visit a bakery like that.   I was in SF a couple of weeks ago and went to Acme bakery. You can catch a glimpse of the bakers kneading dough, shaping - I had to stop and stare at them for a while, they are amazing!   One of them was shaping a baguette, just like in the videos that get posted here.



Mary Fisher's picture
Mary Fisher

I'm new here - and English - I'd like to know who is Floydm, please?

There may be somewhere I can find out but I haven't explored thoroughly enough, it seems.



home bread baker for fifty years - more if you count my childhood years

AnnieT's picture

Mary, as a fellow limey I'll be the first to let you know that Floydm is our fearless leader and the clever computer person who started The Fresh Loaf. We all owe him much gratitude for all he does and for giving us a wonderful venue to talk bread, A.