The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baking bread on a tight schedule?

blaisepascal's picture

Baking bread on a tight schedule?


I want to get into baking bread, but I don't seem to have enough time.  Over half my waking weekday time is spent either at work or in transit, and the remaining time is split between waking and evening activities.

But a recipe like "You First Loaf" on this site takes over 4 hours to do.  Admittedly, most of that is waiting (that recipe has two 60 min rises and a 90min proof, plus a 45min bake), but it's still over 4 hours of waiting.  If I start the recipe when I get home from work, it'll be coming out of the oven too late to eat it.  And there isn't time in the morning to make it either.

How do folks deal with making artisinal bread within a work schedule?

This weekend was unusual, in that I had a 6-hour chunk of time that I could make this recipe in.  Sure, I had some errands to run, but there's plenty of waiting time.  Unfortunately, I discovered that I had thrown out the bag of yeast I had when it had gotten wet a while ago, so I couldn't do it then.


gaaarp's picture

A lot of us, I would venture to say most of us, here on TFL work and bake.  After a while you learn how to adjust recipes to suit your schedule.  One thing you will find is that many artisan recipes call for an overnight retarding of the dough, so your work is actually spread out over two or more days.

It sounds like you might be a great candidate for the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day method.  There is a book by that title, which outlines the method and gives a lot of variations on the basic recipe.  However, if you want to try it out without buying the book, look at this article from Mother Earth News, which gives the basic dough method:

And yes, you really can make great bread with about five minutes' worth of work each day.  You mix up the basic dough and then refrigerate it until you are ready to bake.  On baking day, you pull out a chunk of dough, shape it, let it rest, then bake it.  You can easily come home from work and have fresh bread on the table for dinner.

I would encourage you to try it out and see what you think.  After you use it for a while, you might decide to venture into more traditional methods of baking artisan breads.

davidm's picture

blaise, you may like to try the approach to breadmaking that is the centerpiece in the book "Artisan Bread in five minutes a day". I have a friend who uses it routinely and with results that are quite good, certainly better than any supermarket bread. You might search this site for posts that relate to this book also.

I can relate to the problem you describe, and have similar issues myself. I am fond of retarded or overnight fermentation during busy work weeks, as this allows me to do most of the heavy lifting one evening, and then proof and bake the following evening, especially if there is someone available to simply take the dough out of the fridge in the early afternoon, so it is ready to go when I get home. 

You don't say if you have any books that you are working from. In addition to the 5 minutes a day book I would recommend Hamelman's book "Bread" as a place to get a solid sense of what is possible, it has helped me enormously.He has a number of recipes that respond well to sitting all night and most of the day in the refrigerator. Yes, I know it's forty bucks, but that's the cost of only eight or ten loaves of halfway edible bread from the local market, and it truly is worth every penny. Many bread formulas can be pushed into conformity with time constraints imposed by other schedules. 

Don't despair. There are ways, and you will find what works for your situation best. 



dmsnyder's picture

Cold retardation is your friend. It can allow you do make fabulous breads devoting just a few hours (1-3) in the evening, or a couple evenings and a weekend morning.

Three approaches to look at would be Nury's Light Rye, Anis Bouabsa's baguettes and Pain a l'ancienne, either the version in "Bread Baker's Apprentice" or the original Phillipe Gosselin version.

Recipes for the Gosselin baguettes, the Anis Bouabsa baguettes and for Nury's Light Rye are on TFL. And note that you can use these techniques, once you understand them, to other kinds of breads besides baguettes.

When you have looked at these recipes and thought about how they could work within your time constraints, come back with any questions.


ilovetodig's picture

Check out the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a Day site.  There are many helpful hints and suggestions on it.  I have made the bread several times and I have to let it rise a little longer than the book says to, but it is certainly better than store-bought and with a little practice, you can tweak the recipes to fit your schedule.  I think the taste is more developed if it is in the refrigerator 48 hours before cooking, but either way it is good and very versatile. 

LindyD's picture

I concur with David's post. 

Overnight retardation is the answer.  An example is a sourdough recipe from Hamelman's Bread. It is a dough that can be mixed after work, bulk fermented, then the final fermentation is overnight in the refrigerator.

For example, I mixed the dough this evening and have about 60 minutes to go in the bulk fermentation.  I'll shape the loaves, put them in the refrigerator, and when I get home from work tomorrow, will pull them out of the cooler and bake them.

Last night I mixed Pain a l'ancienne and baked it late morning so we could have it for lunch.

You'll find another easy recipe for Ficelles posted on David Snyder's blog.

I can appreciate your frustration about the time factor.  That's another reason I really like baking breads that are retarded overnight.  I don't like to spend my weekends being tied to the house so I can babysit proofing bread.  Unless, of course, there's a blizzard raging.

You can purchase Hamelman's Bread on Amazon for $26.


bassopotamus's picture

I have the luxury of working at home part of the time (academia is swell that way) so I can bake around my work a couple days a week. The fridge is your friend if you don't have that luxury. I've had batches that have gone in and out of the fridge a couple times in the process because I got busy. So long as you let them warm up before they go in the oven, the fridge gives lots of flexibility