The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

baking a lot of loaves--help!

LeahM's picture

baking a lot of loaves--help!

Hello all--I am hoping to benefit from some TFL's patented expert advice and experience!

My father is having a 60th birthday party in July, and I offered to make the bread for the event. It's going to be a big open house, so lots of nibbles--bread and cheese being of course the world's best nibble option (IMO). I want to make 3 different types of breads, all of which I've been getting reliably good results with when baked as a single batch: sourdough baguette, walnut levain, and herb foccacia. I am thinking of making a triple batch of the baguettes (6 loaves), double batch of the levain (4 smallish boules), and a double focaccia (2 pans).

Here's my dilemma: my oven is TINY. It can really only fit one pan at a time (so, two loaves, or a single focaccia). And my fridge isn't so big either. So, I'm thinking of (trying to) mix/let rise all the dough the day before, having it proof overnight in loaf form in the fridge, and then baking everything sequentially in the morning. Does that seem feasible? And, some questions...

Should I make large batches of dough, or stick to the quantities I know I can handle? (I'm mixing by hand.) Is there a better time to put dough in the fridge for a "holding pattern"? Can I bake the loaves cold from the fridge? What about the focaccia? Any other tactical suggestions from the experts out there? (Is there anything else in particular to be careful of?)

Mason's picture

A large cooler or two and lots of cold-packs can give you much needed extra "fridge" space (cool the dough in your fridge, then when you are ready to put the next lot in, transfer the now-cold loaves to the cooler and seal it for the night). Wrap the sealed cooler in a couple of blankets to be sure the cold stays in.  That might need a "dry run" to test, though.

Another option might be to take a bowl of dough or the just-formed loaves to a neighbor's or friend's house and get them to bake some there.  (Few people will resist having their home smell like baked bread).  You'd have to be able to trust them to handle the baking, though, while you went home to put some in your oven.

Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day has a timing option that might help, where you basically do the first proof in the fridge overnight, and can leave the dough there for up to three days.  then remove, let it sit out for a couple of hours, shape and bake about two hours after that. A large bowl of dough might take up less fridge space than the formed loaves.

Yet another option might be to mostly-bake loaves and then freeze them. Disclaimer: I have never tried this, though I;m sure someone has. Complete the first half of the baking process, about the time you would turn the loaves in your oven; steaming done, loaves risen to their final shape, partly browned; only the internal gelatinizing of the innermost dough left to complete.  If you cooled and then wrapped tightly in plastic wrap in both directions, sealed in plastic bags and froze them, then you--or a neighbor or friend-- could finish the baking on the day of the party while you used your oven for other breads. This would not require much baking skilll on your friend's part.

Good luck!


hanseata's picture

Hi, Leah,

I never tried to bake focaccia, yet, but baguettes as well as levains you can fully bake, let cool completely, and then freeze in ziplock bags. To revive them: thaw them at room temperature, mist them with water and recrisp them in the oven at 375 F.

Baguettes and rolls you can also nuke just for a few seconds so that they are halfways thawed, and then recrisp them in the oven (don't microwave them fully unless you want to eat rubber).

I always freeze a lot of my loaves, because I like to experiment with new breads - and can't eat all of them at the time.