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The Greatest Thing since Sliced Bread

Chany Rosengarten

While you were busy peeling off your foil, dedicated crews of bakers and deliverymen were making sure you had fresh chometz the next morning. Something about Pesach makes people — who could go days without washing for bread — willing to stand in a line snaking around the block for that first fresh loaf.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

breadIt’s the night after Pesach. But for people in the baking business, there’s no leisurely Havdalah on a cold glass of beer, no turning over the kitchen amid reams of ripped sliver foil. For anyone who’s a chometz service provider, tonight is the busiest night of the year.

“People are hungrier with their eyes than with their stomachs,” says Avram Yitzchak Franczoz of Franczoz Bakery in Brooklyn. After days of eating matzoh on the heels of eradicating, destroying, nullifying, or burning every last crumb, Jews are hungry for bread.


From the Oven

“We work just as hard to bring in the chometz as you work to clean it out,” says Yakov Flint, a driver for Brooklyn’s Royal Donuts — wholesale distributors of baked goods to chains and private supermarkets.

Groceries quantify their after-Pesach orders a week before Pesach, explains Yitzchok Podrigal of Royal Donuts, which revs up the ovens 15 minutes after the zman. “It’s like after a famine. Families who eat one loaf in two weeks suddenly buy three on that first day.”

As a distributor for all major kosher bakeries, Podrigal gets an inside whiff into most other local bakeries. “Bakeries are used to working under pressure after Pesach. They bring in more workers or the employees from other departments to help.”

“On the first day, we only bake bread,” says Franczoz. “The next day, we do bread and rolls, the third day we already add Danishes. It takes us ten days to replenish our entire line.”

Normally, goods are prepared on a weekly schedule, frozen raw and baked fresh daily, according to the amount on a grocer’s daily order. Franczoz prepares Danishes on Monday; cookies on Tuesday; sponge cakes, seven-layer cakes, and tortes on Wednesday; and challahs on Thursday. Grocers take stock of their inventory every day and call in orders to ensure they have enough on their shelves the next day.

After Pesach, however, the chaotic demands allow for no organization and no preorders. It is feed on demand until production settles down into routine. “Grocers are happy with whatever they get,” says Yitzchok Podrigal.

Most bakeries don’t keep chometz on the premises over Pesach, and the freezers are bare but for the basic ingredients — flour, water, yeast, and salt. “Today yeast isn’t chometz, but it used to be, and we’d stand around waiting Motzaei Pesach for the yeast man to arrive.”

Knowing that they need to start the line from scratch, bakers are in their aprons as soon as they make Havdalah. “I’d love to hire extra staff on Motzaei Pesach,” says Mr. Franczoz, “but there aren’t enough trained individuals.” What does a baker need to know? Franczoz cites the gemara about shofar-blowing and bread-baking. Both are an art, not a labor. Using a peel to shovel bread in and out of the oven is trained work. Knowing when it’s done is acquired knowledge. Baking bread is not half as easy as eating it.

With the mad rush to meet the lines snaking around the block and the distributors waiting at the door, is this “bread of haste” the same as all year round?

“There’s not much that can be changed to hurry the process,” Mr. Franczoz explains, expounding on the challenges of Motzaei Yom Tov baking. “Bread needs to rise, and that takes time.”

A hundred pounds of bread dough get three pounds of yeast on a regular day. The dough is then proofed (that is, allowed to rise) three times — once as dough, then as two-pounders, and again as formed loaves. But Franczoz confesses that on Motzaei Pesach, the dough gets double the amount of yeast and rising time is shortened.

“Only a connoisseur can taste the difference,” Franczoz claims.


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