The bakers at the William Saddler bakery in Forfar, Scotland, are a happy bunch, especially since they no longer have to work night shifts. Not only can they enjoy a better social life, but also, they can integrate more fully with their colleagues.

Double D Food Engineering didn’t set out to manufacture a product that would have such a positive effect on employee morale but, by default, this is what the company’s Humidair retarder prover has done, according to Saddler’s managing director, Michael Saddler.

"There’s always been a bit of a ’them and us’ situation between the night and day shift workers, as we hardly ever see each other," he says. "Eliminating the night shift will improve team work and overall communications, which can only be a good thing. Of course, the Humidair retarder prover will also allow us to maintain and, in some cases, improve on the quality of our products, so that they’re ready to bake whenever we are."

A fourth-generation family business, Saddler’s produces a range of traditional baked goods, savouries and patisserie products for its two town-centre retail outlets. The product range is all handmade from recipes that have been handed down since Michael’s great-grandfather founded the business in 1898.

Technicians from Double D, which has recently expanded its customer training programmes, demonstrated how staff can get the best results from the retarder prover, which is fully programmable for temperature and humidity.

"Our main trialling was with soft white rolls, as we normally produce around 1,000 a day," says Michael. "The balanced airflow system and controlled humidity produce an even proof and a consistent dough piece across each tray, and from top to bottom on the rack. Handmade products can sometimes be a bit temperamental, but we are now assured excellent consistency."

According to Double D, the secret is the gentle recovery stage - typically, a rise of 20 degrees over six hours to reach a proof temperature of 36?C at 80% relative humidity - which helps to preserve the product quality. The micro processor controller can then be set accurately and, when the holding pattern kicks in, it drives it down to 20?C at a relative humidity of 85% and holds it for at least two hours.