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Baking hot: How is the trade coping in the heat?

With temperatures forecast to hit 34 degrees in parts of the UK today (21 June), we asked Britain’s bakers how they are dealing with the summer sizzle.

Today is tipped to be the hottest June day for 40 years and the fifth day in a row that temperatures have topped 30 degrees. This would be the first time that has happened in June for more than 20 years.

Under such extreme conditions, British Baker contacted bakers across the nation to see how they are preventing their products spoiling in the heat.

Zulekha Afzal, events manager for Bath Cake Company, told British Baker the firm is covering and decorating its cakes earlier in the day when it is slightly cooler.

“We are also keeping doors and windows open at all times,” Afzal said. “We are using fans to keep the products cool and reducing the hours the ovens are on.”

Mike Holling, head of retail at Birds Bakery, said a key consideration during the hot weather is order quantities.

“We are reducing cream cake lines and confectionery items, but increasing bread rolls, pork pies, savouries and, of course, drinks,” Holling added.

“All our shops are air-conditioned so that helps greatly to maintain product integrity. Last week we sold more than 1,200 bottles of water, 26,500 white baps, 60,000 large dinner rolls, 42,000 sandwich rolls, and 8,500 small pork pies.”

Ann-Marie Dunne, a bakery lecturer at the Dublin Institute of Technology, offered advice to bakers during warm weather production:

  • In fresh creams, add some stabilizer such as a modified starch/gels to help prevent weeping, and use refrigerated whipping units if large-scale production. Keep bowls for whipping cream and whisks in the fridge when not in use so they are cold prior to whipping.
  • Consider changing from fresh cream to a creme patisserie during warm weather, which is more stable and commonly used as pastry/gateau fillings in countries where long, hot summers are the norm.
  • Place sugar paste in packets in the fridge one hour prior to opening, which will help pinning out in warm weather easier, and will prevent unwanted stretching and cracking while covering cakes.
  • Consider insulated boxes for transport of fresh cream cakes.
  • Cream cheese frosting can become very unstable during warm weather, so consider a cream cheese flavouring in a butter cream instead.
  • Cover sponge sheets with plastic for storage to prevent drying out prior to assembly and finishing.
  • Consider using ice during fermented dough production to attain the correct temperature during processing. High-speed mixers can be fitted with glycol jackets.
  • Keep water in fridge for fermented dough in order to get the correct dough temperature.
  • If laminating puff pastry or Viennoiserie/Danish, consider the use of ice blankets that keep the dough and fat cool during resting periods between lamination.

The warmer weather is also causing problems for home bakers such as Elisabeth Bouynot, who brings in bakes for colleagues at her full-time job at an IT company. The unusual temperatures have heated up conditions in her kitchen in the late evening when she is baking.

“I usually bring something different to work on Tuesdays for my colleagues. I was planning on something savoury,” Bouynot said. “I don't think it will affect my income as it is, but I feel sorry for whoever has to stand in a hot kitchen and do something delicate like buttercream piping at the moment.”

How is the heatwave treating your business? Get in touch: