On your marks, get set – bake! Load cells and loaves

Published On: November 12 2020


If like us you are glued to the Great British Bake Off on Channel 4 , you’ll know the challenges of baking bread to a deadline! In tribute to the plucky amateur bakers battling it in the Bake Off tent, we take a look at how load cells are helping produce artisan bread, and the role they play in our own kitchens.


Reducing stress in artisan bread production

Bread dough is sensitive – it can get stressed and when it’s stressed the quality can suffer. However, with a list of expensive ingredients invested in its manufacture, commercial bread producers also want to ensure nothing goes to waste.

According to a fascinating (and mouthwatering) article in Baking Business , one of the crucial moments is the cutting and weighing of the dough. Bread producer Rheon USA explains how:

“Our stress-free systems use load cells beneath the conveyor that weigh the dough piece before and after it is cut by the guillotine.”

It’s also important that the dough isn’t overworked, and kept cool. Humidity also plays a part, as Jay Fernandez, manager of Middleby’s Bakery Innovation Center says:

“The bigger challenge is in using pulse flours, which compete with wheat for the free water in the dough system.”

Rye dough bread is particularly challenging as the dough is sticky, and requires steaming in proofing and baking. Add in the extra requirement for larger loafs, some up to six feet long. Like other breads, the key is not to stress the dough at the point of division.


Load cells in the Bake Off kitchen

Every baker in the tent uses load cells for every single bake they do, simply because they are inside the scales they use to weight ingredients. Usually configured with a load cell at each corner for accuracy, accurate weighing of ingredients should ensure bakes turn out the same every time, but of course, they don’t. This can be down to a number of factors, including working and oven temperature, air circulation and humidity. (Not to mention TV cameras, lights, and two ‘helpful’ presenters) Flour, for example, can hold considerable amounts of moisture. It’s unlikely to affect the final results in the Bake Off tent as a single factor, but it can make a big difference in commercial bread production

According to Bakerpedia

“Low moisture levels inactivate enzymatic activity and microbial growth (fungal and bacterial). Moisture content is a means for controlling pests … “Flours destined for cake mixes are usually shipped and delivered at baking plants with 10% moisture to improve the quality and shelf life of the mix.”

In addition, keeping flour at a consistent moisture level ensure it doesn’t clump up when stored or poured from hoppers, and offers better value for buyers who get more flour and less water for their money.

Load cells again play an important role in measuring the moisture content of any given batch of flour. It’s a simple recipe to test the moisture content.

  • Weigh out a small portion of flour (2-3grams)
  • Heat it in an air oven at 130 degrees for 60 minutes
  • Cool the flour
  • Weigh it again
  • Calculate the moisture loss as a percentage (initial weight – dried weight x 100).


Home bakers and weighing yeast

One of the trickiest ingredients in bread that home bakers will need to weigh is yeast. However, you usually need a very small amount – say 2-3 grams. As the aptly named Wild Yeast blog points out,

“Most kitchen scales have a resolution of one or two grams. That means that if you need to measure in small amounts, which is common for things like yeast and salt, it is very difficult to be accurate … if you need less than a gram, you might as well just let lemurs weigh it out for you.”

In the absence of a friendly lemur, the blog suggests buying a second set of small and accurate scales such as those used by jewellers, which can weight in increments of 0.1grams.


Load cells in smart fridges

A few years back, were all so excited about the ‘internet of things’, from talking toasters to smart fridges. However, few of the products have actually taken off, which leaves the talented DIY inventor to come up with solutions, such as the “Smart Fridge with brains” at Hackaday. This is essentially just a set of scales for your fridge. When you take something out, the fridge weight decreases. If you know the weight of any single items that is removed and then replaced, such as a carton of orange juice, you can calculate how much OJ you drank, and what the calorific value is. (A strong argument for keeping chocolate in the fridge – not!).


Load cells for your business

Whether you’re baking bread or cooking up a brand new product, call us or email us with your load cell requirements. Or browse our online load cell shop anytime for high quality load cells designed and manufactured here in the UK.