The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Storing Flours for Large Bakery

csimmo64's picture
csimmo64

Storing Flours for Large Bakery

First off, I consider myself a beginner bread baker. I have much to learn, and I am still in my first year of professional bread making at a small bakery. We make around 20-30 loaves of hearth breads a day. Soon we will be at around 80.


We are very limited in space, and as such we store all of our 50lb bags of flours in our walk-in coolers maintained at around 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Mainly we deal with Hi-Gluten Flour and also Unbleached, Unbromated Patent or Bread flour.


We are in the middle of a pretty humid summer, and I just started at this bakery, but all of their flours seem to have the same problem. They don't absorb enough moisture.


For example, I make beautiful demi-baguettes out of my home gas stove with my flour that I hold at room temp. I tried the same recipe with their flour and they were very loose. I also tried another 65% hydration dough for baguettes just two days ago and I had come across the same problem. We have already adjusted all of our formulas to cope with this problem, but working with new recipes seems to be a chore. Is storing our flours in the bags in the walk-in cooler making them absorb moisture? We have plenty of room in the freezer and I'm thinking that if that is the problem we might store in the freezer. Thanks for your tips in advance.

wally's picture
wally

I'm a baker - an apprentice baker to be exact.  I've worked in two bakeries and visited another half dozen.  None of them store flour in a walk-in.  Why would you do that?  Assuming you use flour on a weekly basis, there's no problem with flour going rancid.  Temperatures in the range you mention are definitely going to screw up the natural hydration level of the flours - plus, I can't imagine mixing dough when you're incorporating flour that's at 41 degrees F.  Either you have to leave it out to warm up for a couple hours, or you have to add water that is nearly hot enough to kill the yeast.


My take on this is simple: Stop storing the flour in the walk-in.  And forget the freezer!


Hope this helps.


Larry

csimmo64's picture
csimmo64

We have bins in the bakery at room temperature. Our "dry storage" location just resides in a walk-in cooler because we lack the space to stack bags of flour. It is common practice to store whole grain flours in the freezer, so I think I am considering that.

arlo's picture
arlo

At our bakery we keep our freshly milled whole wheat flour in large food grade containers in a back room to green, then we have two large containers on the 'floor' that have whole wheat, and bread flour. These are kept out at all times seeing as how the bakery is temperature controlled and having such a large turnover of flour usage there is no need to keep the flour else where.


If your bakery is temp controlled, there is no reason to not have the flour in large containers on the bake floor for ease of use and more reasonable water temps to get the DDT. When it comes to bags of floor, the answer is the same. Keep them stacked up on pallets 5 inches or so off the ground on the same vicinity as your tubs of flour.

jpchisari's picture
jpchisari

Hi csimmo64,


I owned a small deli/bakery for 5 years and attended Culinary School focused on Baking.I have been baking for 30+ years, more than half of my life. During the summer months it was difficult to keep final dough temps down. I used ice water at times and also kept my flour in the walk-in to help maintain lower ingredient temps. I used a 30qt Berkel mixer I had no issues with having to adjust hydration at any time. Are you measuring water by weight or volume? Contrary to what I see posted here all of the time, (and I will get a lot of flak for this) I never had to adjust hydration levels due to changing weather conditions! Accurate weighing of all ing. is the key to consistency.


John

csimmo64's picture
csimmo64

We don't have any room anywhere for a real dry-storage area. But our freezer and walk-in are gigantic. I make the same recipes at home and try them at the bakery and they fizzle. I don't keep them in the cooler to get proper desired dough temps, and I weigh everything accurately by weight. Something is affecting hydration of our flours, and storing in the walk-in was my first idea that came to mind as the problem.


Personally, if I had the space they would be at room temperature at all times. I just started here at the bakery and I'm new to baking, but I have a degree in Culinary Arts, and I've made bread for a long time. Going on 3 years I think, but this is my first professional situation and in the first few months on this job I've taught myself enough to say that I've learned 5x more than I knew before, at LEAST.


Thanks for all your help guys! Keep the posts coming and I'll get more and more of an idea of how a real bakery operates. Thanks!

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi


I know the larger bakeries can control the temperature of their flour by storing it in silos outside the main building.   This is common in hot countries; my Italian baking colleague told me about this for the bakery he worked at in Tuscany.


However, Larry and Arlo are both absolutely right.   Store your flour in bags, on pallets.


EASY solution: install a chiller unit and a water meter.  Run off a couple of litres for the ambient stuff in the pipe, then draw off chilled water to compensate for your ambient flour.


Bingo!   A water meter and  linked chiller would be common place in most medium sized bakeries in UK...and it's not very warm over here at all! 


Andy

csimmo64's picture
csimmo64

I'm sorry but we aren't THAT large! Haha.

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi


I think you, and Larry and arlo, BTW are all right.   Storing the flour in the fridge is a bad idea.


You then say  there is a lot of refrigeration and freezer storage space, but not much ambient.   This must be costing the business an absolute fortune!


And water chillers are used by plenty of small bakeries too; they cost a lot less to run than big walk-ins, for sure.


Maybe you need a re-think from the management here?


BW


Andy

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi,


I don't see there being any problem with storing the flour in the cooler on pallets but as long, as Larry says, your not mixing it at that temp. If the cooler is damp you might want to cover the bags with a plastic sheet, but commercial flour bags are designed to cope with a variety of shipping conditions year round, probably more extreme than your walk-in cooler.


Has the bakery you work for changed the flour they use recently? I ask because you mention that you've been working there less than a year. It would seem that if they've been using the same flour since before you got there that this production problem would have already been addressed. You say that you're doing 20-30 loaves a day so it shouldn't be a problem to throw a couple of bags on the bench at the end of the day for the next days production.  Say you have 100lbs of flour at room temp for your entire days production of bread, then the problem you're having suggests that it's the flour itself rather than how it's being stored. Once in a blue moon they change the flour we use at the bakery I work in and it always requires a little tweaking with the hydration to get the dough the way it should be. I've a feeling in a week or two from now this won't be an issue for you.


Best wishes,


Franko

csimmo64's picture
csimmo64

Yes we have adjusted our in-house recipes to cope. They switch around brands a little bit here and there, but they are mainly the same types of flour. Hi-gluten and Patent. I'm familiar with their brands they are using, we used them in school. The problem is, I use the same recipes with the same brand flour and at this bakery, they turn out strange.


And we pull somewhere around 25-100 lbs of each flour in our bins at room temp. Rarely do we need to stock up mid-shift to finish breads. Our bins are plastic buckets with lids and they work fine.

Franko's picture
Franko

That is a puzzler then. Same flour, formula, and procedure but different results? Is the school you attended in the same town as the bakery you work in? I'm wondering if it might be a difference in water mineralization. The co I work for formulates the recipes they use in a part of the country that has hard water. Where I work our water is soft and we find that what the recipes call for is too high and we adjust accordingly to get a proper mix. This may not be the case in your situation but nothing else from what you've told us comes to mind. I honestly don't think it's related to your storage conditions. Pallets of flour can sit for days in unheated loading bays, boxcars, and semis in the dead of winter with no adverse effects. Wish I could help more but I've run out of suggestions other than to keep looking for that variable between school and your shop. Let us know if you find it, because I'd like to know almost as much as you would.


All the best,


Franko

csimmo64's picture
csimmo64

I also make bread in the same town [although a different part of town] with my king arthur organic bread flour and everything comes out fine.


Heres how big the difference is between work and home:


A dough at home with 65% hydration is a good medium consistency, and at work 55% hydration is roughly the same. I did get through a different bag of flour yesterday that was making my breads a tiny bit stiff. I should have probably been doing 58% hydration, as an estimate.


The difference is enough to throw off my recipes, but I guess I'll just learn to cope with it.


 


ALSO:


What is the IDEAL temperature and humidity levels for storing flour? I think I may have found an area at work where we can sneak a pallet of bread flour to stay at room temp. I'll take the temp and humidity of that room soon.

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi,


The best thing to do is contact the mill directly. They will have the most accurate info regarding their own product. Here's the link to King A. site.


Franko


 


http://www.kingarthurflour.com/