Baker Job Description: Skills, Duties, Responsibilities and Requirements
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Baker Job Description
A baker is a person whose job is to bake (and in many cases also sell) bread and other baked goods, such as pizzas, focaccias, croissants, biscuits, cakes and other sweet food items.
But what does a baker do on a daily basis?
A baker’s primary tasks are to mix dough and bake bread. The basic ingredients of dough are flour, water, salt and (usually, but not always) yeast, although specific regional or traditional recipes may call for the addition of various other ingredients, such as oil, milk, seeds, chocolate, raisins, and dried and candied fruit and nuts. The quality of the raw materials used is an essential element in making good bread, although equally important are the production methods employed and the correct timing of the various steps in the process. Once a baker has selected and weighed out his ingredients, he mixes and kneads them together to form a dough. The dough is then cut and shaped into loaves, which are then left to rise (where called for by the recipe). This process may be performed by hand or using equipment such as mixers, scales, moulds and pastry cutters.
When the loaves are ready, they are placed in tins, on trays (or other baking supports) and are baked in the oven. Bakers use a baker’s peel (a wooden paddle or shovel, equipped with a long handle) to move loaves into and out of the oven. Industrial bread ovens are typically run on electricity or gas, while artisan bread (as well as pizza) is typically baked in a wood-fired oven.
Bakers need expert knowledge of every stage of the dough preparation and baking process (as applied not just to bread but to a whole host of other baked goods, too), which must be performed in accordance with food hygiene and safety standards (HACCP).
They measure, mix, knead and bake dough to produce a vast variety of bread and baked products (such as croissants, bread sticks, crackers, savoury snacks, pizzas, focaccia, cakes, biscuits, pastries, doughnuts) and in doing so need to ensure that they follow strict recipes.
In addition to bread-making and baking tasks, bakers also have a number of other responsibilities, including ordering and purchasing raw materials, cleaning work areas, carrying out routine and unplanned maintenance on tools and equipment and packaging finished goods.
In some cases, a baker may be required to work in a sales assistant role, selling items directly to end customers. This is the case of bakers working in a retail setting (e.g. at the bread counter of a bakery, bread shop, grocery, or even at the baked goods counter of a supermarket), where duties are likely to include setting up window and counter displays, dealing with customer orders and performing cashier duties. In retail establishments where coffee, tea and other drinks are sold, a baker’s responsibilities may also include bar duties, e.g. serving and selling items for immediate consumption on the premises.
Bakers are mainly employed in artisan, craft and small-scale bakeries and patisseries, cake shops, and bread counters in supermarkets, while other potential employers include food manufacturing companies producing long-life packaged bread and other fresh and pre-cooked baked goods (such as pizzas and desserts). Bakers typically work on an employed basis, reporting to the bakery owner or to a bakery department manager or supervisor, although many bakers choose to open their own bread-making business.
The working hours of a baker are closely connected with production requirements. To ensure that fresh bread is ready for the day’s first customers and/or deliveries, bakers typically need to start work very early in the morning. Meanwhile, in large-scale industrial and plant bakeries and supermarkets, where production may be continuous, with bread being made non-stop all day and night, operatives are often required to work shifts, including Sundays and public holidays.
Working as a baker therefore requires a certain degree of flexibility and a lifestyle that is able to accommodate the demanding schedule, not to mention the considerable physical strength and stamina needed to cope with the long hours spent standing, operating ovens.
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Baker Responsibilities and Tasks
Bakers are responsible for preparing and selling bread. Their typical tasks include:
- Weighing and measuring ingredients for the preparation of baked goods
- Kneading dough by hand or using industrial dough mixers
- Forming loaves to the desired shape
- Baking items in oven (electric, gas or wood-fired)
- Monitoring oven temperature, humidity and baking times
- Removing baked bread from oven
- Managing retail bread outlets
- Setting up and maintaining bread displays
- Complying with food hygiene and safety requirements
- Keeping work and/or shop areas clean and tidy
- Monitoring stocks and ordering in new supplies based on production requirements
How to Become a Baker - Training and Requirements
Aspiring bakers wishing to learn about the theoretical and practical aspects of breadmaking, such as the chemical and physical mechanisms involved and the mixing, kneading, leavening and baking processes, can attend a professional training course.
However, to acquire and perfect all the skills needed to become a baker - e.g. the ability to accurately and rapidly work to specific bread recipes, to create new bread and baked products and to successfully operate a bread oven - there is simply no substitute for practical manual experience.
In addition, since bakers work in the food industry, they need to make sure they carefully adhere to the relevant food safety and hygiene guidelines, making HACCP certification a definite asset on a candidate’s CV. Also extremely important are workplace safety requirements, particularly those relating to the operation of ovens.
Baker Skills and Qualifications
Bakers need the following skills:
- Ability to produce bread and other baked goods using manual and/or industrial processes
- Knowledge of raw materials for dough, dough preparation times and procedures and various baking techniques
- Knowledge of recipes and production techniques for bread and baked goods
- Ability to operate electric, gas and wood-fired bread ovens
- Knowledge of health, safety and hygiene regulations for food preparation
- Ability to multitask
- Physical strength and stamina
- Organizational and planning skills
- Willingness to work nights
Bakers working in public-facing roles, as bread sales or counter assistants also need the ability to interact with customers.
Baker Career Path
Bakers often start out their careers with an apprenticeship or in a junior position such as assistant baker. This is an opportunity to learn the secrets of breadmaking and gain the skills and experience needed to work without supervision.
Career development options depend to a significant degree on the size of the workplace. For example, in large food production companies or the “in-store” bread department of a supermarket, a baker may advance to a position such as shift supervisor or department manager. or, alternatively, specialize in making specific types of baked goods.
Bakers looking for a fresh challenge may decide to open up their own bakery, selling bread and pastries to the public, as well as to restaurants and other businesses.
Finally, bakers willing to train up and broaden their food preparation skill set have the option of moving into the restaurant industry, for example as a pastry chef de partie - the person in a professional kitchen brigade responsible for preparing bread, biscuits, sweets, desserts, and pastries.
Top Reasons to Work as a Baker
So, why should you consider working as a baker?
In view of the demanding working hours, which can have a huge impact on a baker’s personal life, a career in baking may be considered something of a vocation.
Although bread-making processes and techniques have evolved significantly over the years, with the introduction of automatic dough mixers and electronic ovens, the profession is still to a degree an artisanal occupation, requiring extensive knowledge of bread-making techniques to make the sort of quality baked products that customers demand. Bakers are among the most sought-after workers on the job market, enjoying a range of opportunities in both the industrial and craft baking sectors, without forgetting of course the option of going into business and opening up one’s own bakery.