The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

small town in need of bread

Nica Linda's picture
Nica Linda

small town in need of bread

As mentioned in my intro post a while back, I'm an ex-pat living in rural Nicaragua where the community is supplied with endless corn tortillas but devoid of good artisan bread. As such, I have taken it upon myself to bake my own. So far, so good, I'd say. There have been a few moments of perplexity throughout my self-taught crash course but w/ the help of TFL and other books (and diligent practice) I have been steadily improving my skills. All of my faithful taste-testers have given me great encouragement w/ their specific requests or just excitement for what will come out of the oven next.

So my question to the TFL forum? How do I bring more bread to more people without sacrificing quality for quantity? As it is now, I've only made between 1-3 loaves at a time. I mix by hand and my oven is driven by propane. I'd love to make 10-15 1lb. lean loaves in a day to make available to whoever wants them, but first I need your advice...In the spirit of simplicity, what are the THREE most important factors to consider when gearing up to make larger quantities?

To all you purveyors of unity by way of a fresh loaf, help me bring bread to the people of Popoyo!


PaddyL's picture

I've got a book in front of me, The Great Canadian Bread Book by Janice Murray Gill, with recipes for Basic White Bread Made in Quantity.  Now her recipes are for white sandwich loaves which include milk and fat, but excluding those, for 12 loaves, she only goes up to 3 tbsp. of active dry yeast and 3 tbsp. salt.  If you're using instant yeast, you could probably use less than the 3 tbsp.  Her approximate amount of flour is 36 cups, or nine litres.  Liquid would be about 12 cups.  Baking that many loaves of bread would call for an enormous oven, but you could shape the loaves in stages, or put some in a fridge to slow down the rising.  When I don't have room in my home oven for all the bread I want to bake, I just stagger the shaping of the dough so that while some are baking, I'm taking my time shaping the rest.  By the way, this is a very honourable and wonderful thing you're doing, and I'm sure the people of Nicaragua appreciate your efforts.  You are inspirational.

Nica Linda's picture
Nica Linda

Seeing those exact quantities helps me envision this process a bit better. I'm curious though as to what you might recommend for making all that dough by hand.  I've been thinking that a large quantity of poolish that I could divide up into several batches of dough might be a good method.  Maybe not?  Does the author offer advice on mixing/kneading by hand?

janij's picture

I would say the three things you need to consider are time management, varitey, and space.  How can you get 10-15 loaves kneaded, proofed and baked in the equiptment you have?  Do you need to mix the dough in 2 batches?  Can you retard some of the loaves in the fridge?  How may can you bake at once?  This would be the first thing I would look at.  How can you manage the production time to work best?  The second would be variety.  Do you want to only provide one kind of bread?  Anf what would that be?  You said a lean bread.  White or whole wheat?  Do you have the recipe you like now?  Do you have consistant results with the recipe.  And lastly space.  Do you have workable space to do all this?  I know this looks like a lot of questions.  But I think those would be the things I would think about.  Actually I am trying to decide if I want to start selling bread in a few years so I am thinking about these things as well.  GOOD LUCK!!!  And way to go!

pmccool's picture

If you have yard space, why not a brick or mud oven?  Those can be made large enough to hold a fair number of loaves.  They are typically fired with wood, rather than propane or other petroleum-derived fuels.  Depending on how rural "rural" is in your situation, that may be a far cheaper and effective alternative than your present oven.

You can search this site, or the Internet, with terms like earth oven, mud oven, wood fired oven, WFO, brick oven, etc., and find a wealth of information.

Good luck!


P.S. I wish the Mexican restaurants in my area understood the beauty of a freshly made tortilla de maiz.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Most places just give them away!  Get a scale for measuring ingredients.  The bigger the batches, the more important the math. 


Nica Linda's picture
Nica Linda

I have been thinking seriously about the adobe oven option.  My husband and I have plenty of space on our property and have actually been dreaming of the day when we finally build one.  We've gained quite a bit of experience working with cob in our own house construction so we may be well poised to try an earthen oven experiment.  My biggest concern though is the amount of rain we will get from now until November and how it will effect the construction and/or baking.  Luckily I am surrounded by experts on the matter out here in the campo.

As for all the other advice on formulas, importance of math, time management, etc, you've given me a lot to consider, however I feel determined.  We all know the magic of bread, whether it's full and crusty, flat and soft, made from wheat or corn. Sharing such magic of a warm loaf (or a steaming tortilla as it were) is well worth the hard work.

Keep the ideas coming!

Nica Linda

P.S. Paul,  I agree there is nothing like fresh, hand-pressed tortillas de maiz.

DerekL's picture

If their their culture and foodways are based on corn tortillas - why the hurry to introduce them to something alien?

jannrn's picture

First let me say God Bless You for what you are doing!!! I would LOVE to be there to help!! My boyfriend's grad daughter (21) and I were talking just the other day about how we as a scociety have lost touch with the beauty and traditions of home made breads. I have just introduced Jessie to bread baking and believe me, I have created a MONSTER!! But it is SO nice to see her getting the same pleasure and feeling of satisfaction from that first loaf of Honey Wheat....AND she even made Croissants!!
 Anyway, when I read your post, the first thing I thought of was exactly what PMcCool said, about the brick or mud oven. You may even be able to get some help building it and there MAY be some other local men and women who would like to learn how to make it as well.....then it becomes a community project!! PLEASE let me know what and how this all works out for you! How exciting!! We plan to retire to a farm and raise goats, rabbits and make Goat Cheeses as well as Goats Milk soap and I have been promised not only a kiln for my pottery aspirations, but a Wood burning brick or mud oven!!! I cannot WAIT!!!


Nica Linda's picture
Nica Linda

Jann, thank you for your encouragement and I wish you the very best of luck with your retirement plan. I love the notion of being self-reliant and resourceful when it comes to the food I eat. My other endeavor these days is growing wheat myself in the hopes of harvesting and processing it for my own bread-making. Fortunately I have several Nica farmer friends who have graciously offered me their wisdom on wheat cultivation. Maybe soon I will request their expertise on adobe oven-making too!

yozzause's picture

if the community are interested in your breads then float the idea of a community oven, they can help you to help themselves .

The great benefits of a wood fired oven is that the oven stays very hot for a long time.

the one that we have built here is used for baking about 40 pizzas whilst there is still hot coals in the chamber and then after that the coals are raked out and i can put through a batch of bread made from 5 kg of flour around 17 to 18 500gram loaves (full oven) there would still be enough heat for a second batch.

After that we have filled the oven with cast iron pots full of casseroles and cooked them off over 4 or five hours.

Even 24 hours there is enough heat to dry tomatoes or fruit on trays or racks

The plans for the oven we built are available on a cd with heaps of pictures and lots of handy hints i paid about $35 australian for the cd it came from   

With regards to mixing biger batches by hand you will end up like an amazon woman, A mixer is almost a must id say, i love mixing a small batch on the bench as you get to feel the dough coming together and the development of the gluten and the clearing of the dough, but i think i would baulk at doing it everyday or if i was asked to to do the 5kg mix on the bench.

My suggestion would to mix batches to suit your oven size and do mixes that can follow on after each other allow for baking times etc, even with a regular oven quite a bit of product can be turned out one batch after the other.   

regards yozza

possum-liz's picture

Just a couple of points.

If you're reasonably strong, mixing 10 pounds of dough shouldn't be a problem, I find my limit is about 12 or so. It is important to make sure your workbench heights are suitable for you or your back will really feel it. I find this is really important when kneeding and shaping.

I agree Yozza about matching batches to your oven size, especially if you don't have facilities to retard a big batch of dough.

Enlist a friend.

Watch out, because baking for others can take over your life!

Good luck. Liz

Nica Linda's picture
Nica Linda

I'm finally picking up on the autolyse method.  I think that might be the ticket.  I practiced again today and my three boules turned out pretty good.  I'm hoping to attempt the first big bake day sometime next week.  I need to get a few more things in place and practice a bit more though.  Luckily I have a pretty good bench in our house custom built to my height - everything else is custom built to my husband who is 6'8".  My elbows hurt just thinking about kneading at that height!

All of the links for mixing large quantities by hand have been just what I need.

More to come...


leucadian's picture

This might give you some ideas. One of the insights I think you already have is that long fermentation together with stretch and fold will develop gluten without the need for a mixer. Look at the last post in this link, and follow the links there.

Good luck on your venture. Be sure to report back.


Nica Linda's picture
Nica Linda

After a month of not having internet out here in the campo we are finally back online. Since my last post life has been rather hectic around our house as we've been tackling new natural building projects with our varied team of participants. However, the most exciting (to me at least!) has been the adobe oven we began recently. I went online to see what I could learn about building one myself but ultimately I felt it would be better to enlist the expertise of a local oven maker. Hopefully I will be able to post some photos by the weekend. Once the oven is ready to go, I'll finally have everything in place to bake large batches.

Of course before I get the hang of baking in an earthen oven, I'll have a learning curve to go through. As always, your advice will prove to be invaluable.

More to come soon...


Salome's picture

Wow Linda, that sounds really exciting. It's great that you're doing everything together with the locals. Must be beautiful. I'd be interested in what a local oven from there looks like. . . Keep us up to date!

Nica Linda's picture
Nica Linda

It's been a fun week of earthen oven building!  Here is the link to the short TFL blog I created to show a few of the photos I was able to take.

We're a step closer!