The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

300 loaves of challah in 3 hours

Tarrosion's picture

300 loaves of challah in 3 hours

I've recently become head of baking at my college's chapter of Challah for Hunger ( We have an established routine, but this year there are changes both in student management (me) and in how the college runs its kitchens; therefore, I figured this might be a good time to implement changes.

Here's how things have worked previously:
- Every Thursday, we form about 300 loaves of challah
- There are two types of dough - regular and whole wheat
- I'm available for about 6 hours on Thursday afternoon, and will have volunteers helping me for about 3 hours.
- We have partial access to a dining hall kitchen. Basically, we get some counter space, use of some of the ovens (sorry, I don't know technical details except to say they're commercial ovens with double doors and about 5 racks each), and use of a big Hobart mixer (at least 50 lbs of dough at a time).
- About 100 loaves of challah need to be baked while we're in the kitchen; the others are refrigerated and baked in the morning.
- We have several challah fillings (chocolate chips, cinnamon sugar, and so forth)

Previously, one person has made the dough (throw everything in the mixer, knead for 10 minutes, rest for 10 minutes, knead a bit, rest a bit), one person has cut the dough into 8 ounce chunks, and everybody else has worked on filling and shaping the loaves.

So, my question is, given the limited time and resources we have, what would be a better way to make so much bread? I would point out that this isn't intended to be artisan; most of our customers (students) buy challah loaded with chocolate, sugar, etc. because it's sweet and a bit gooey inside. Flavors of long fermentation, crisp crusts, etc. are perhaps impractical and definitely not required. That's not to say the Challah shouldn't be good - just that even if, when baking for myself, it takes me two days and lots of time to make a loaf of bread, those techniques aren't needed here.


flournwater's picture

Given the constraints you listed there isn't any leeway.  Only one day to get the job done, always the same day and hours, etc. leaves no flexibility in the routine.  To make any meaningful improvement you'd need to increase the number of volunteers and the number of hours they (and you) can dedicate to the various tasks.  By and large, it appears you have about as efficient a system as you could hope for.

Perhaps, if you can define what you think is broken in your operation, there may be more to recommend.

Keep in mind that you can fine tune a process to the point of suffocation.  Without some flexibility or the ability to make adjustments to unexpected circumstances the entire structure of the program can come crashing down in a hurry.

leucadian's picture

If everyone is working for the entire time they are in the kitchen, you are likely as efficient as you can get. But maybe some of the jobs could be changed. By working, I mean doing something that absolutely has to be done: not waiting for material or mixer, not moving dough from here to there, not counting loaves.

Your process should have a flow from bags of flour at one end of the kitchen to shaped loaves at the other. Take a look at everyone's activity to see if something can be eliminated and that person can do something else. Measuring dough might be one area: how precisely to the loaves have to be weighed? Maybe shaping can be broken down so your fastest worker does a critical step.

You might take an individual loaf and calculate how long it takes to do each step, and how many 'touches' each loaf requires.

mimifix's picture

Three hundred loaves of challah in three hours seems excellent for a volunteer group. Is there something you're not happy with?

How are sales - do all loaves sell or are there leftovers? How much do you charge? Would you consider making other products with the dough (small filled iced buns, price as for pastry). Those are product and revenue issues but maybe changes can be instituted to bring in more money for your cause. 


Tarrosion's picture

flournwater, mimifix: There's nothing in particular I'm not happy with, though I do wonder if we're making the dough as best we can. I don't know how the gluten development from kneading in the industrial mixer compares to kneading by hand or with a home stand mixer, but it seems like the dough gets worked an awful lot. Too much? I don't know. It doesn't seem problematic.

Mimi: We usually sell out or come close. Now and again, there's a fluke week where we have maybe 50 loaves left over. We charge $4 per (1 lb) loaf. I'm not sure about making other products: variety might improve sales and revenue, but I'm hesitant to complicate things too much. We're all volunteers; several of us are regulars, but many are not.




ehanner's picture

I'd like to see one of your breads, and a crumb image also. There may be changes you could make in your mixing and development stages that would result in a better product. Actually maybe you can post photos of the whole process and a more detailed description of the mixing profile and proofing. Also the formula. Then we can really look seriously and try t o help.

Where are you located?


flournwater's picture

Based on your web site figures it appears that the loaves sell for different prices, depending on which chapter is doing the selling.  Average, according to your site is just over $3.50 per loaf.  If your cost for flour is anywhere below $.75 per pound (e.g. Harvest King Bread flour) you're doing pretty well.

I originally interpreted your questions as how you might improve managment of the processes involved in producing your bread. If that's not correct, and you want product improvement suggestions, you'll need to provide cut cross sections of a few of your loaves and more specifics about how your formula and dough handling procedures.