The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

I need advice!

adarpino's picture
adarpino

I need advice!

Okay, I've got a real open ended question to ask, and I'm open to any and all thoughts, advice, warnings etc.  I plan on selling my bread at a local farm-market (Sundays only). I have struck a bargain with a local pizza shop to use their facilities  (maybe Fri-Sat for pre-ferments Then Sun @2-10 AM to produce the loaves).  I am formally trained on the culinary side, but I've never baked professionally, It is simply something that I've always loved to do at home.  I am reasonably comfortable with the process, but I have only ever produced batches of about 4-5 pounds of dough at a time, and for this venture, I'd like to show up with 100 loaves or more. I am concerned about how to devise a production schedule....


My resources are: a good 60 Qt Hobart, two pizza ovens (Stacked 300-650degrees) questionable scales and a few good tables.  I'd like to make about 15 ea. 2# wheat loaves, 30 baguettes, 20 ciabatta (pain a l'ancienne) and still deciding on one or two others.  I can be ready to go in a few weeks, need some supplies and a lot of planning.


So the best way to ask my question is: Could you do this/ would you do this? and if so, what would you need to make it happen.  How much time would I have to be in the facility to produce this much bread, and should I be concerned about conflicting production times with the pizza shop? Please just hit me with any thoughts and advice, specific or not that will help me get my head out of my home kitchen and into a professional Bakeshop. Plus any recommendations for sourcing couches, bannetons/wicker baskets, etc at a good price.  Thank you all in advance, I am really looking forward to this experience and am eager to learn through this process, but I want to make a good first impression, too.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Sales at farmer's markets has been discussed in the advanced topics section of the forum.  Perhaps some of those who have done it, or are in the process of such sales, might share their experiences...both good and bad.


Daniel DiMuzio, featured on the front page, has just published a book which would probably prove helpful to you since a good part of it deals with production baking.  It's titled "Bread Baking, an Artisan's Perspective," and is available through Amazon.  You may find it listed at the TLF store as well.


Best of luck in your adventure.

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

Hello,


I think the quickest and least expensive route for you is to get a job in a local bakery that does hand-shaped loaves.  You'll learn a lot and they'll pay you to learn.


If you insist on jumping into a business with no professional experience at all, then I think you should start small and get a feel for what the logical flow would be in the bakery you're borrowing.  After you've learned the limits of the space, the equipment, and yourself, you can decide in an informed way how to organize bread production.  No one can give you more specific production advice without actually working with you at the bakery itself.


Every batch you make adds more time to your production night, and if you're pooped before going to sell your bread, you won't be a very effective salesperson.   Try mixing and selling just three different styles of bread your first time out.  I mean no offense, but there's more skill involved in making this work than just mixing dough and shaping loaves.  You should feel good if your bread sells well and people like it.  Don't try to get fancy until you've had a bit more experience juggling all the work involved.


After two or three outings, figure how to use those basic three doughs to make six different breads.   For instance, baguette dough can be transformed into round or log-shaped rosemary/olive oil.  Whole wheat can be made into a "toasted sunflower" whole wheat.  Ciabatta could be made as a plain slipper and also as a round olive bread.  You only scale and mix three different doughs but you get six different varieties by just modifying a portion of each batch.


I'm not trying to discourage you, but rather encourage you to be realistic.  You have no professional baking experience.  You have never made more than 5 pounds of dough all at once in your life.  That doesn't mean you can't do it, but it is unlikely to go smoothly the first few times you try.  Just accept that it may be rough for a while and get over the hump in the best shape that you can.


See if you can do a practice run on some night other than your real production night, and then see how fast you can scale, mix, ferment, shape, proof and bake three batches of dough.  Use that as a measuring stick for plotting out how long your real night will take.  Most of it depends upon your familiarity with the process and your natural speed.


Your competency at this will increase every week, even if you don't notice that right away.  So, when you decide whether you should keep doing it, just ask yourself (a) Do I enjoy doing this?, and (b) Am I making enough money to justify the time, expense, fatigue and occasional aggravation it causes me?


--Dan DiMuzio

wellbeing12's picture
wellbeing12

And be sure and get some help with production of the bread.  You will need some assistance doing this.

jannrn's picture
jannrn

Sounds like you have alot of things set up but I STRONGLY agree with Dan.....try a dry run....make less and see how that goes. If you show up and actually sell 30 loaves, it will be successful! Then you can make more if needed AND let your customers know that you will be back next time with more!! The idea of 3 basic doughs that turn into 6 different loaves (even more) is simply brilliant!! Give this a try!! If you start out small, you will be less stressed, less tired and MUCH more effective as a salesman and more able to answer your new customers questions!! I used to make breads as it was pre-ordered and wore myself out!! Please keep us posted on how this works out for you!! I am jealous!!!

BNLeuck's picture
BNLeuck

...to make more of the basic varieties and fewer of the "special" kinds. Breads with barebones ingredients and less shaping fuss will take less time and energy, and if you bobble a bit and have to throw some out, you're not losing a bunch of expensive ingredients. Also, when you take the basic breads out to sell, ask your customers what they'd like to see on a regular basis, and if they have special requests for holiday breads (which could sell REALLY well) so you have an idea what would sell in your area. Also ask them what sizes they prefer. Which leads me right into the idea of offering the same bread in different sized loaves. You'd still be making only one dough, but you could scale it differently. 1lb loaves for smaller families, or as "see if you like them" breads, and 2lb loaves for larger families and those who already know they like the bread. This would be especially useful for special breads, like sun-dried tomato and basil bread or the like. Most people will ask themselves, "Now, do I want to take the chance I won't like it?" They're more likely to say yes to that question if they can pay less for a "sampler" bread. If you try stronger flavors, or odd combinations that you like, but you're not sure others will, or how large a following you might get, bake a test batch. Promote it as a new flavor with limited quantities, offer free samples, and get feedback. That'll tell you how gourmet you can get with your baking and still turn a profit. Some areas, like San Fransisco, are a great place to sell funky stuff, but if you live in Wayback, Nebraska (no offense meant to anyone in Nebraska, I just picked a mid-west state out of my head) your neighbors might not like all the eccentric tastes.


I'm probably telling you things you've already considered, but oh well. I hope you do well!

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Hopefully this will be more.


 


I'm not sure how useful the 60 qt hobart will be to you.  Planetary mixers really need to be at least 1/3 full to effectively mix dough.  Check the allowable load table.  The pizza joint got one with the mixer.  It details how much of what you can mix in a single batch.  It depends on the kind of flour and hydration.   My guestimate is that at 15 2lb loaves, you're on the light side of the mixer's capacity.


 


Another BIG issue is the ovens.  Check out how tall the decks are.  If they have a pizza oven, which most pizzarias have, their decks tend to be around 6 to 7 inches tall, which is great for a pizza, but not so good for breads.  Also, pizza ovens tend to be less even in heat from top to bottom.  So, do a test bake or two with your taller breads to see of the loaves will fit and bake without burning on the top.


 


As to can you do it, I routinely baked 200 loaves a night using a commercial convection oven and a regular commercial oven, and with no mixer at all.  However, time efficiency is very, very important.


 


Dan suggested you start small and work your way up.  This is important for another reason.  There are two things the pizza parlor owners want from you, beyond rent.  They want you out of the kitchen on time so they can start thier daily work, and they want their kitchen neat and clean.  If you impact their production schedule, you may find they have *NO* sense of humor.


Bannetons can often be found at Cost Plus World Market for about $5.00 each.  You may find you really don't need them.


Good luck,


Mike

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I didn't hear anything about room for proofing. If the floor area is warm enough you could get tray racks and plastic bags to cover the racks. Some people, especially home bakers make use of bannitons but if I were doing this project, I would hand shape and proof in a cloche for baguettes or batards. A clean painters tarp works well after being rubbed with flour. With enough pan racks and sheet pans you could proof enough dough in cycles to knock out 100 loaves in the time allotted.


Mikes comment about deck clearance might be a deal breaker. Give it a try soon. Take a few loaves in to bake and see if it's high enough for bread. The 2# loaves of Whole Wheat I make would not bake in a 6 inch space. Most batards and baguettes would be ok.


Eric

adarpino's picture
adarpino

thank you all so far for your thoughts. There has been a recent development: My wife hs reminded that I know people in the "pretzel Biz"  Several of my old friends partnered up and bought a "Taste of Philly" soft pretzel shop. They have a rotating deck oven. I pitched them a deal to sell their product off my table if they let me use the facilities Sat night/ Sun morn. Its not a definate yet, but so far so good! Also rolling rack retarders there and they have recently decided to close on Sundays because of a lack of walk-in biz.  They are trying to work out keeping someone there to crank out however many pretzels for me to bring.  To accomodate the pretzels, I may have to start (and finnish) a few hours earlier.  I'm in a bit of a holding pattern to see if this pans out.


BTW, yes 100 loaves is ambitious for my first showing and there will be a dry run the week before, 10# batches of each variety, (except the 2#whole wheat loaf, which I am solid on) I have a 60 loaf "Plan B".


I don't see the pretzels as taking sales from me, as it is not my goal to be a concession at the market, but my dad is pestering me to have something geared toward the buyer who wants to eat right there and then. I kind of agree, but I know that decision can result in a lot of additional work... I can't help but consider this...

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

by Joe Ortiz.  I checked out a copy from our local library to read again.  It struck me, this time, about how much good information (including formulae) there is for the commercial baker.  Mr. Ortiz provides a section of recipes that are scaled for the home baker, then repeats those same formulae in their original commercial quantities in the latter part of the book.  For someone just getting started, it would be an excellent resource.  While you are waiting to work out the other details, you might want to read through it and glean what you can.


Paul

AW's picture
AW

I could help you. I don't have a culinary background like you have do but am fairly accomplished and anxious to be a part of something that is of interest to me (I was considering doing what you are but am finding the details a little daunting).


Kind regards,


Arlene


arlenewalters@sbcglobal.net

adarpino's picture
adarpino

That's very kind of you, but unfortuately for both of us, I live in New Jersey! Sorry I have not chimed in recently, I've been very tied up at the day job (blah!) I am going to have a practice run this saturday night at the pretzel shop. I will try to make three varieties, about 50-60 total loaves, One direct method (whole wheat), and two using preferment, a french batard, and ciabatta, although perhaps not in the "slipper" shape.  If I can find some baskets by saturday, I'll knock out a couple boules too. Since I won't be selling this bread, I probably won't use organic flour -but I don't expect that will matter for the purposes of this test run.  By the way, why is it mission impossible to find a ready source of organic flour, I mean the internet is a tremendous resource, but I can't afford to pay shipping on 50# bags of flour.  I live right outside of Philly, and am sure I must be missing something: I can't believe there isn't a place where I can just go and pick it up... Oh well, If anyone can suggest a resource I would appreciate it. I will take lots of pics and try to post them here!