The list of ingredients for traditional pretzel dough is quite straightforward: just wheat flour, water, yeast and salt. But twisting the dough demands careful attention. The baker takes a small portion and rolls it by hand on the work surface to form a strand that tapers at each end. Next, the baker lays the strand of dough in a U-shape, lifts the ends with one quick movement, twists them by 180 degrees and lays them down again. Finally, the two ends are pressed onto the U-shape and the typical pretzel form is ready. A skilled baker can produce up to 600 pretzels per hour like this. The process is now easier at the Schill bakery: the dough is put into the pretzel twisting machine, the power button is pressed, and that’s it.
Fat belly and thin arms
The Schill bakery produces around 10,000 pretzels a day for its eleven branches. As well as the high speed of production, the traditional shape is particularly important. Before being dipped in a lye solution and going into the oven, the pretzel dough passes through a compact production line. It is first kneaded, divided into portions and shaped into a strand – all automatically. The strand is then positioned with millimetre precision on the conveyor belt by a positioning unit from Festo, so that the grippers can later grip in exactly the right places and form a symmetrical pretzel. This is followed by the actual twisting process in which gripping technology with actuators from Festo is used. Everything happens at lightning speed: the strand of dough becomes a precisely twisted pretzel in less than a second. Sensitive end-of-arm tools grip the ends of the dough, twist the strand and gently press the ends onto the outside edges. This process produces up to 2,300 pretzels per hour – precisely shaped with pneumatics from Festo. The complex single-strand pretzel braids are made in exactly the same way. Only a few steps are required to switch from one to the other.