Sweet on the PCC Bakery

by Alicia Guy

This article was originally published in December 2010

PCC Bakery

It’s 4 a.m. in the PCC Bakery, tucked away in the heart of the Edmonds PCC store. Michael Eckert, longtime baker at PCC, shakes the bakery awake by gathering ingredients for the busy day ahead. It’s quiet for the moment and he enjoys the solitude to get things organized. Big Bess, as the bakers affectionately refer to their 320-quart commercial mixer, waits patiently with her 4-foot mixing bowl, ready to do her part.

Eckert adds each of the ingredients for the popular Oat Bran Carrot Raisin Muffins into Bess’ bowl and lets her go to work. At 5 a.m., another baker arrives and starts to scoop the muffin batter into muffin pans. Nearly 24 hours a day, the talented team of bakers executes a complicated but well-engineered plan to keep all nine PCC stores stocked with a constant supply of 82 different delectable, made-from-scratch PCC Bakery items.

Shortly after the Edmonds PCC store opened in September 2008, the bakery took on some of the baking that was proving a challenge in the busy and often cozy deli kitchens at many PCC stores. By the spring of 2009, the Edmonds bakery had become the centralized bakery for all PCC stores. Since that time, sales of PCC Bakery products have increased by 30 percent. (Perhaps you yourself have been tempted and rewarded with some goodies on the way to the checkout!)

The PCC Bakery staff is led by managers Cortney McCoy and Kim Vaughn. Together with 16 other bakery workers, they orchestrate the conversion of 2,500 pounds of organic flour, 400 pounds of organic zucchini, and 250 pounds of organic carrots per week into irresistible baked goods.

Indeed, the quality of the natural, organic ingredients is one thing that sets the PCC Bakery apart. Those carrots, for instance, are folded into batter for the moist carrot cake, topped with frosting made with organic cream cheese. The grains, almond butter and tahini in the popular Kasha energy bars are all organic, and the raisin and oat bran in the oat bran muffins also are organic.

Decadent desserts (think chocolate mousse and Caramel Macchiato brownies!) are made with real cream, butter and sugar — you won’t find any artificial substitutes here. The bakery does accommodate special diets, however, offering plenty of vegan cookies, cakes and other baked goods, as well as wheat-free chocolate chip cookies to satisfy the sweet tooth of those with wheat sensitivities.

By 9 a.m., the bakery is bustling. Big Bess is in the center of things, whirring away with cookie dough. Two walk-in rotary ovens are full of goodies, and the whole commissary smells fabulous.

If you ask anyone in the bakery what they like most about working there, the inevitable answer is that they like working with wholesome ingredients and the people with whom they share their day. Jennifer Thurmond, who has worked at Edmonds PCC since the store opened, says, “Everyone is lighthearted, and enjoys working together.”

That kind of comraderie is notable in an industry where turnover is as common as, well, turnovers. Cortney adds, with great sincerity, “My favorite part of the work here is the people. I love the people I work with and being in a kitchen with quality ingredients.” At the pace of production, this kind of teamwork is essential. Each week, the PCC Bakery makes and distributes about 3,500 cupcakes, 8,500 muffins, and 17,000 cookies.

At the end of the day, the bakers begin to make their way home and the flour starts to settle. Someone will remain to restore the bakery and tuck it in for the night. Big Bess is sparkling clean and dreaming of tomorrow. The delivery truck is out delivering products that were made earlier in the day to a neighborhood PCC. Some of the items are baked and ready to devour, while others are transported in ready-to-bake format so they can be made fresh in the morning at your local PCC.

This holiday season, the bakery has been extra busy keeping customers supplied with some traditional favorites. In December, it will bake thousands of pies, with attention and detail given to each one. And when you’re enjoying a bite of that pumpkin pie, may it make you feel extra festive to know how much someone enjoyed preparing it for you.

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