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When professional bakeries or companies such as Dunkin' Donuts or Panos create their dishes, how do they make sure the end product has the same look and taste as always?

Do they just premake huge volumes of the dough, and let the establishment simply pour the stuff into a shape (e.g. muffins) so they always deliver the same muffin to the customer?

If so, what machines do they use for it, as opposed to amateur cooking to always use the same amount of grams of each ingredient, and the way it is mixed, etc?

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Stuff in chain bakeries isn't made on the spot, it is industrially produced (not just the dough, but the loaves). They may leave a final step of ready-baking the almost-baked loaves so you can get your bread hot at the local franchise. Here a video of industrial bread production (supermarket bread, not bakery bread): youtube.com/watch?v=KS6b9WbHgoE&feature=related. Or did you mean to ask something else? –  rumtscho May 24 '12 at 17:02
    
If you can get Netflix Instant watch, there are several episodes of How Its Made that show how its done. Or I guess if you can get the show elsewhere, that works too. –  derobert May 26 '12 at 23:59
    
Interesting, thank you both! –  Nick May 29 '12 at 7:21
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3 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

how do they make sure the end product has the same look and taste as always?

This is the realm of quality control. It involves such activities as:

  • developing processes that are as consistent as possible

  • measuring the product against a standard

  • identifying and eliminating sources of variation

It's easier to control a single large-scale process in a factory than small processes duplicated at many locations, so as much as possible they'll deliver pre-mixed, pre-measured ingredients to retail locations. Equipment will be standardized and automated at each location. A recipe then becomes very hard to screw up, something like:

Add one sack of standard donut mix, one container of eggs, and one bucket of water to the mixer. Press the "Mix-2" button. When the mixer stops, transfer dough to sheeter/former and press the green button...

Disclaimer: I've never worked in a franchise donut shop, and actual recipes may be more or less complicated than the made-up one above. But that's the general idea, and it's deployed widely in manufacturing whether or not the product is food.

You can do some of the same things at home if you want to simplify a recipe that you make frequently.

The easiest way to get started is to measure ingredients by weight (if you don't already). It's a lot faster and easier to make, say, a bread recipe if you can skip the measuring cups and just pour flour into the mixing bowl until you reach the target weight. Repeat with water, yeast, salt, etc. You don't dirty any measuring cups, you'll get more consistent results, and you'll save time.

Another step in that direction is to pre-mix whatever ingredients you can, so that you can make a big batch of mix once in a while and then measure out just one thing instead of four or five each time you make the recipe. Pre-mixing can reduce the shelf life of the ingredients, though, so it's not always idea. If you can't pre-mix, then you can at least pre-measure ingredients, or use measuring tools that are suited to the quantities that you need. For example, if you make bread daily using 24oz. of flour, you might get a 12oz. scoop and pre-measure the salt and instant yeast into small containers. Then your recipe is something like:

Add two scoops of flour, a container of salt, a container of yeast, and a pint of water to the mixer...

Of course, one of the nice things about home cooking is that it's not exactly the same every time. Who wants to eat the same thing every day?

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Having worked for Mrs. Fields once upon a time, this is spot-on. White chocolate macademia cookies? 15lbs flour, 5lbs sugar, 3#nuts, 3#chips, and one bag mix #4 (no, we never were told was was in mix #4, and I don't think I wanted to know). Measuring by weight and using premix ingredients and large quantities produces a very consistent result. –  FuzzyChef May 25 '12 at 5:51
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These companies use recipes that were adjusted for industrial fabrication. Most of the times, they also don't measure by hand. As soon as a recipe goes into productions, the machines are programmed to weight and mix everything. Also, the delivered goods must go through a laboratory quality check. After production, there is always another quality check.

Is is not unusual that these companies have their own machines build for use in franchise-restaurants. Often the stuff is delivered deep-frozen to the restaurant and the final product is only assembled there. A good example of this is McDonalds: They have strict guides how to assemble every burger - Google it if you want to know them.

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Uniformed quality and apperance of industrial baked products (toast, bread, donuts, rolls, etc.) relys strictly on usage of specilized mixes, pre-mixes and other ingredients which provides stability and safe results. Ingredients of those products are: enzymes, emulsifiers, stablyzers, various agents, etc. This is the only way to secure stabile and constant quality on a big scale because flour is natural product and its quality varies. Wetiher we like it or not, this is how it works.

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