Next time you drive down Spenard Road in Anchorage, take a minute to roll down your window. When you reach the intersection with Hillcrest Drive you may be rewarded with the heavenly scent of fresh-baked bread from Franz Bakery, a neighborhood landmark that is Alaska's only wholesale bakery.
The bakery, formerly called Sunrise Bakery, opened in 1951 when Alaska was still a territory and is a local landmark. It employs about one hundred people and produces about one hundred different baked products under a variety of labels, including Franz and Alaska Grains, distributed to Alaska grocery stores, restaurants, and institutional clients. The only part of Alaska the Spenard bakery doesn't supply is the Southeast Panhandle, which gets its bread from a Franz Bakery in the Seattle area.
"It's much better to have bread that is baked here in Alaska than to bring it up frozen," says General Manager Larry Brandt, echoing Sunrise's longstanding slogan, "2,000 miles fresher."
Franz Bakery has been making bread, buns, and pastries for more than a century. It is a fourth-generation family-owned business that was started in 1906 in Portland, Oregon, and today has seven bakeries and operations throughout the Pacific Northwest. Its trademark is a giant rotating loaf of bread perched above its Portland facility.
The Spenard facility can produce about seventy loaves of bread per minute and fifty packages of hamburger buns per minute, Brandt says.
"For our industry, we're not as automated as a lot of facilities, but we are far more automated than a small little wholesale or retail bakery," he says.
The process starts with the flour, which is moved through a giant sifter and then mixed with the proper ratios of water and yeast for the type of bread to be made. This creates the "sponge." The sponge is put into big troughs and left in a warm, humid room to rise for four hours. Then the other ingredients, grains, seeds, fruit, etc., are mixed in to form the dough.
The dough is shaped into smaller pieces to form loaves, rolls, or buns, which are left to rise again briefly before being shaped and placed into baking pans. The dough rises a final time before being loaded into a giant oven to be baked. The bread is then cooled, sliced, packaged, and delivered.
Although white and wheat bread and buns are bakery staples, Franz also bakes a variety of specialty loaves such as cranberry-orange bread, peach cobbler bread, organic wholegrain and seed breads, as...