Sweet secrets of ‘bird’s milk’
In order to learn how domestic sweets are made, we need to visit Minsk’s Kommunarka
By Natalia Semenova
From syrup to airy soufflй
Prior to entering the factory, every worker takes a shower, before putting on a gown and cap; it’s vital that no hairs escape near the production line.
All sort of whipped confections are produced, including bird’s milk and soufflйs with various fillings and layers. As soon as you enter, you notice the sweet smell in the air. New German equipment works autonomously, looking rather like a spaceship full of shiny pipes and cylinders.
In fact, few people are needed in the workshop, since most tasks are performed by machinery, with the necessary recipes fed into the computer. At the beginning of each shift, an employee chooses which sort of candies are to be made and the ingredients are placed into loaders. Pressing certain buttons, the necessary ingredients are weighed, loaded into the tank, mixed and boiled.
“Confectionery production is a complex business,” says Nina Dementieva, the leading processing engineer. “Without observing technological rules, nothing will work; for example, soufflй must be boiled at a temperature of 105 degrees and with 20 percent humidity.”
Everything in chocolate
It’s difficult to imagine sweets without chocolate: most are glazed twice in the chocolate workshop, at a temperature of 32 degrees. A fan blows each chocolate, to ensure surplus is ‘blown-off’. Storage is also important, to avoid ‘blooming’ (the white coating formed when cocoa-oil molecules rise to the surface and harden).
“Storage is perhaps the most important aspect,” admits Ms. Dementieva. “In order that confectionary keeps its marketable appearance and taste, it needs to be held at a temperature of 17 (plus or minus three) degrees. The optimum microclimate is adjusted in the workshop: no hotter than 20-21 degrees.”
Conveyor belts wrap each chocolate, with rows moved as necessary by the machinery. Staff watch carefully for any sweets which move out of place, since it can cause disruption on the line.
The new line of whipped candies can produce 6 tonnes per shift (against 800-900kg previously) thanks to automatic equipment. Of course, machines can’t do everything: in some departments, personnel are irreplaceable. For example, in the ‘Caramel Fantasy’ workshop, fanciful ornaments are moulded from sugar. Well-known chocolate bottles are also filled with alcohol manually: it’s said that skilled employees can work without even looking.
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