The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Commercial wood-fired oven experience

  • Pin It
MJ Sourdough's picture
MJ Sourdough

Commercial wood-fired oven experience

Dear Fresh Loaf users

I am just wondering if anyone can relate any experience/challenges with regards to the commercial/small bakery use of a wood fired bread oven.

Thanks

MJ Sourdough

CanuckJim's picture
CanuckJim

The biggest challenge I faced was getting used to temperature curve of my oven.  Rather than fire up every day, I learned to make different breads on different days to take advantage of that curve.  Once the temp fell below baking heat for, say, pies, I fired again to start making baguette, pizza, hearth breads at higher temps.  Then repeated the cycle.  Mine is a high mass affair, so it takes three days before re-firing is required using this method.  Saves on fuel, too.

CJ

arlo's picture
arlo

I just started over a month ago as the bakery manager for a place that uses a wood-fired oven for everything that is baked in our bakery...cookies, pies, bread, cakes, croissants. I learned a lot so far and have much more to learn. Though, in four years or so of professional baking, this has been the most gratifying already.

One thing that works well is firing in the evening, baking with high temps (my baguettes go in around 700), and then by the afternoon the temp is around 515 or so, allowing for pies and such. Much like CJ said, its about learning the curve of the oven, basing your bakes around that and working with the flow of it all.

MJ Sourdough's picture
MJ Sourdough

Thanks for the reply as well. As manger eager of a bakery with a wood fired oven do you think a small bakery producing just bread with a wood fired oven is a viable small business?

MJ Sourdough's picture
MJ Sourdough

Thanks for the reply CJ.

How big is the oven you are working with?

arlo's picture
arlo

6 x 4

I can not fathom not utilizing all the heat throughout the bake days. Like I said, we use it for the croissants, cinnamon rolls, granola, breads, roasting nuts.

Typically, I spend from 3:30 a.m. till 1 to 2:00 p.m. baking bread, then prepping for the pastries and such. As others have mentioned on this site, the key is just maximizing the use of that retained heat.

MJ Sourdough's picture
MJ Sourdough

Thanks for the insight!

I hope you do not mind all the questions.

How many loaves can you fit in the 6X4?

How many loaves would you bake in one day?

I am assuming you fire the oven the day before?

arlo's picture
arlo

How many loaves I can fit in the oven is sorta dependent on the size and shaping of the loaves, naturally. I usually (on Fridays and Saturdays), fill my oven to the door leaving around...1 to 2 inches of space between each loaf. I suppose when I bake tomorrow I will make a mental note to count the largest door and report back to you.

Off the top of my head I have loaded it with 16 1.5# boules, 12 1# boules and around 12 baguettes and 10 demi's. That was a typically load, with a bit of room to spare. After a bit of steam and closing the door, pretty much everything receives wonderful color and bloom with little to no need of shuffling. Again, that was a pretty liberally spaced load with the large loaves in back, mini boules mid, then baguettes, then demi up front.

Your next question of how many loaves in a bake day, again, kind of dependent on the day of the week and if we have a market as well. But, I feel I can safely say I am no where near using my oven to it's full potential on any given day, hence why I try and also make other products too. When and if I can sell even more bread, I know I will have the potential too for sure. Again, guessing, on a normal day, I make around, I don't know, 130-175. Again, not really using the potential of the oven for maximizing bread-itself.

And it is just I and one other baker doing the breads, myself doing all the shaping, cleaning of the oven and partial loading before my assistant baker comes in around 7 am. I have a few other people strictly doing the sweets.

Finally, I fire the oven at night, the day after the biggest bread bake, while doing all the sour mixes at the same time. By the time I baked all kinds of breads, rolls, granola and other yummy bakery items throughout the morning, day, and next day, it is usually around 370 or so degrees.

MJ Sourdough's picture
MJ Sourdough

Arlo thanks so much for your insight. Very helpful!

Pioneer Foodie's picture
Pioneer Foodie

This was very helpful to me. A lot of discussion seems to be bluster and opinion in a vacuum. Your practical experiences are just what I needed to hear.