Erika Automat

The Erika Automat might look like something out of Star Wars or The Jetsons, but it is actually a practical kitchen tool. Erika is batch roll cutter, which means it cuts one large piece of dough into perfectly measured pieces, ready to bake into rolls.

Billed as a divider/rounder on the Erika Record Baking Equipment website and still manufactured today, the Erika Automat has been a fixture in the Kimball kitchen for at least 20 years, maybe longer. It was manufactured in Connecticut more than 30 years ago, but there are no records as to when it arrived at Holy Cross. And even after 20 or more years, this appliance “still gets the job done and works perfectly fine,” says Marty Dudek, associate director of Dining.

The Holy Cross Dining and Kimball Sweet Shoppe staff bake nearly 300 rolls a day, and the Erika appliance is a huge time-saver for them.

“You are able to cut three dozen rolls at once, all the same size,” Dudek says. “You just have to weigh out a 3⅓ pound ball of dough, as opposed to 36 individual rolls. It flattens the dough out evenly and then cuts all 36 rolls at once. It saves so much time, instead of having to cut and weigh each roll by hand.”

Not only does this tool allow the dining staff to be quick and efficient, but it also improves the quality of the rolls themselves.

“With bread dough, you want to work with it and cut it as little as possible,” Dudek says. “The more you play with bread dough, the tougher it gets, because it keeps creating gluten. Gluten holds the dough together, so the more you work with it, the more gluten you create. And then the rolls will become denser and will not be as fluffy.”

The Erika appliance has different blades, which the Dining staff switches out to create different shapes and sizes for their rolls. “There are a lot of different applications for that one machine,” Dudek notes. “We can use it to cut the dough balls in half and do half pumpernickel, half white dough. And we use it to make our knotted rolls.”

They bake potato rolls, whole wheat rolls and white dinner rolls every day for the Kimball Main Dining Room, and also share a batch with the kitchen at the Jesuit residence, Ciampi Hall. At Easter time, they also use Erika to make their delicious hot cross buns. You can spot a sampling of the delicious and fluffy Erika-cut rolls in this photo from the opening pages of the Food section of the issue.  ■

— Maura Sullivan Hill