If one place had to be selected as the heart of Penn State’s campus, most people would probably say places like the HUB, Old Main, or maybe their own dorm. But quietly in the background of these popular locales, one place has been acting as the central location for one of the most important things at Penn State: the food. Meet Penn State’s very own Bakery.
The Bakery is more than just a depository for baked goods and breads; the Penn State Bakery actually functions as the main location for almost all of Penn State’s food.
The bakery consists of what most bakeries do, but on a much larger scale. Each of the machines in the bakery are incredibly specific, according to the Bakery’s head pastry chef Heather Luse.
From stirring machines that are built specifically to create one texture, artisanal ovens, and even ovens the size of a small room, everything has a specific purpose. “We really have a great opportunity here, thanks to Penn State,” Luse said. “These are very special machines.”
The bakery floor is a huge area, divided into several sub sections. There’s a crafting table, where cookies and cakes are decorated and detailed by hand. Stark stainless steel and wooden tables stretch across the room, with ovens and mixers surrounding the area. When we visited the Bakery, pumpkin shaped cookies were being given icing and dipped in sprinkles, ready to head out to the nearest dining commons.
We were also introduced to the step-by-step process of making a pumpkin cheesecake, a seasonal favorite.
To the left of the crafting tables is a large machine cutting away exactly proportioned nuggets of cookie dough with monotonous precision. The bakery churns out millions of cookies every year, and contrary to belief there is no difference between the cookie dough handed out to different dining commons. Rather, the commons have different methods of baking them. Thus, there is a different process for creating a West cookie, as opposed to a South Halls cookie.
Behind this machine toiling away rests a literal wall of ovens, all slowly rotating breads and other treats. These ovens just make up the outlining circle of the floor though, with a constantly moving and buzzing staff creating everything from cinnamon buns to cheesecakes throughout the room.
Everything I’ve explained so far is typical for a large scale bakery operation. So why should the Penn State Bakery be considered the beating heart of campus? Because of its storage and delivery.
The Bakery holds massive dry and cold storage and docking facilities. That’s where frozen and canned foods are stored and distributed before they head out to every dining commons, commonwealth campus, and event.
The rooms see every type of food imaginable, from convenience store snacks like beef jerky and candy to pounds of frozen french fries. Legions of workers move about swiftly on forklifts, packing, storing, and preparing for delivery a countless amount of food and snacks. All roads may lead to Rome, but at Penn State, all food leads to the Bakery.