Going behind the scenes at Oliver Adams’ bakery headquarters felt a little like the golden ticket winners’ excitement on entering Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, in Roald Dahl’s famous tale.
Of course, there were no Oompa Loompas, but instead plenty of employees hard at work piping the eyes onto delicious-looking gingerbread men, arranging pastries on baking trays and frying endless rows of doughnuts.
Doughnuts were the reason for my visit, timed to coincide with the celebration of National Doughnut Week which starts on Saturday and ends on May 18.
And the county’s own Oliver Adams base, in Gladstone Road, Northampton, was an excellent place to find out more about this traditional confectionery, as its bakers make as many as 3,000 a day, six days a week.
These sugary treats are then whisked away to about 50 locations, including 27 Northamptonshire-based Oliver Adams bakeries and others in the Birmingham area, known as Firkins bakeries.
Jane Matthews, area manager for Northamptonshire, said: “During National Doughnut Week, 5p from every doughnut sale goes to The Children’s Trust [which helps children with multiple disabilities].
“This year we have brought in new flavours: lemon and lime, summer fruit, chocolate orange and millionaire’s shortbread varieties. They have been brought in for this week, but will probably become permanent.”
I watched as bakery manager, Terry Lloyd, put row after row of freshly-made doughnuts through the frying machine. There are already many types made at the bakery, including caramel doughnuts, plain and sugar rings, as well as iced rings covered in hundreds and thousands.
Terry said: “Most of this work is done at night. There are thousands made, but it depends, when the weather changes the attitude to the cake changes.”
The bakery staff admit that the chilly months of autumn and winter are peak doughnut-eating times, but the demand keeps them busy all year around.
First the dough is created, using a premix containing yeast and flour.
The dough pieces are then frozen and taken out to thaw, before being put in a warm box – or ‘prover’ – where they start to rise.
A frying process then follows and, once cooled, the final stage is the filling and decorating. For example, with a jam doughnut, a nozzle will be inserted into each cake to fill it with jam and it will be coated with sugar.
Terry said: “It is pretty straightforward and one of the easier products to finish, but it is a staple. Everyone loves a doughnut.”
But which is the most popular?
Jane said: “Probably the jam doughnut is the most popular, you can get a box of four which is much cheaper. I think doughnuts are popular, people buy them. They are quite American and with people travelling more, they see what they are doing in America and want to try more types.”
Terry said: “The jam doughnut is still popular, people like to see if they can eat one without licking their lips. We add that bit of extra jam and Thomas Adams, our MD, likes to say our doughnuts are jammier than anywhere else.”