The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Weekly Baking Schedule for a Large Family

genxmommy's picture

Weekly Baking Schedule for a Large Family

I've been baking bread since college for fun. Now we have four children and I'm intent on providing them the best food possible.  I've been trying to work out a baking schedule that will provide bread for sandwiches and lunches and various breads and rolls for dinners.  I am very fortunate to be able to stay home during the day, but that doesn't mean I'm not busy. Does anyone have any suggestions about which days of the week are best to bake? And how often should I bake a week? I know it's all up to my specific schedule, but if someone has a system that has worked for them I would love to hear about it. I've figured we need at least 3/4 loaves a week and a dinner loaf/rolls that can stretch. By that I mean rolls that are good for 2/3 nights at dinner or an artisan loaf.  Any suggestions would be most helpful.  Thanks :)

cranbo's picture

My grandma used to bake 1x per week. I don't think the day mattered, but I believe usually it was weekdays;  she just fit it into her schedule.  I believe it was about 2-3 loaves total for a family of 4. She would make a rye soaker, leave it overnight, knead in the rest of the ingredients in the morning, rise and bake during the day. That worked for her, as she was at home most of the time (she never learned to drive!). 

I think the most important part is choosing the right recipes, or tweaking the recipes/formulas to fit your schedule. If you time it right, you don't need to have a lot of active work, and you can space it out to accommodate everything else you do during the day. Tweaking the recipes has most to do with the amount of yeast you use, as well as the total fermentation time, including bulk fermentation and final (after shaping) fermentation. 

I suggest whatever formulas you use, take advantage of refrigerating dough for bulk or final fermentation, as well as freezing dough for later defrost & baking. This will give you maximum flexibility for baking times and your schedule. 

What time of day you bake also depends on what the schedule is for the rest of your life. Do you get up really early? If so, you could bake in the early morning. You could mix your doughs in the evening, let them  ferment in the fridge overnight, and be ready to bake the next day. Alternately, you could mix dough in the early morning, let it ferment in the fridge all day, bake in the late evening, and have your bread cooled and ready for the next morning. 

kristakoets's picture

I am a stay at home mom, too and I do all my family's baking...from sandwich bread, to artisan loaves, to muffins and cookies. I bake bread 1-2x per week and when I make sandwich bread, I make 2 loaves, then cut them in half and freeze the 3 half loaves...that lasts us about 1-2 weeks. I make 1-2 artisan loaves per week and just toast everything after 2-3 days :-) I make muffins and cookies 1-2x per week also. Generally I start very early in the am and try to schedule my bake day when I don't have to leave the house for too many errands or an outing. I never bake on the weekends...too busy! Generally I get on a roll and just bake everything on my least busy day of the week.

Good luck!


HeidiH's picture

I work at home on the computer and use the stretch and fold method because it takes a minimum of time to throw the dough together and then I just set the kitchen timer for each stretch, which only takes a minute.

jcking's picture

DO what I do. While sitting at the computer knead the dough with your bare feet. A really good form of exercise; keeps the blood flowing to the brain and I don't fall asleep anymore. Kneading time is cut in two. The cats love it; as soon as I remove my feet they start poking at the dough with their paws. It's easy to know when the kneading is done. Its starts off like slopping thru mud and ends up like jumping in a bouncey castle. The best part; my feet don't smell anymore. Stretch and fold is easy when the dough is between your knees. Degassing; piece of cake, don't get up. Never again will you have to worry about keeping the dough at the right temperature.

BTW Which one takes a minute? Setting the timer or stretching? Or both?

Sorry; maybe I shouldn't drink the liquid off of the sourdough. hic...


HeidiH's picture

And I bet your bread has a really well-developed flavor.  LOL

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

I'm a stay/work at home dad of two kids (make that three if you include the wife, and she will say the same of me ; D ).

I separate baking into 2 different parts - bulk and daily. Bulk are the counter loafs and boules that are perfect for freezing and thawing as needed. Dailys are the breads best eaten fresh, like French breads, cinnamon swirl loafs or rolls, dinner rolls, etc. Although most of these can be frozen too, I just find that the end product suffers just enough that I prefer it fresh, and so I bake it fresh. If I'm going to make a fresh spaghetti dinner, for example, it's really not a big deal at all to throw together a French bread, since most of the time is spent waiting on the fermentation. It's all timing. I know that if I start getting the ingredients out at around 1 pm, I can have bread out of the oven and cooling by 5:30 pm, ready to eat by 6 (our usual dinner hour). For weekend treats like cinnamon rolls, you can usually use the refrigerator to get you over the night. There are many techniques posted on doing this. Basically what I'm saying is, a lot of commercially yeasted product is no more labor consuming than making cookies or biscuits. If you can throw together a batch of cookies in the middle of dinner prep, you can also make a fresh bread. It's just timing.

The bulks are mostly sourdoughs. They not only respond excellently to freezing, they actually seem to have more complicated and desireable flavors when thawed during the week. I do not have a particular day (my days cannot be that rigid) to do sourdough. It in fact takes one full day to work with dough, then the part of a second day to bake. The first day is rather inflexible, as you have to be able to devote quite a bit of time to dough management (stretching and folding, etc). This dough is then shaped and refrigerated. The next day is more flexible, since you can plan the baking according to when you pull the dough out of the refrigerator. If you suddenly have a few morning errands tossed into your lap, or the kids are running a little slow, it's no problem. I'm not sure a rigid 'bakery' style schedule would work well within a family structure that is always fluid and dynamic in its needs and timetables. I just keep my eye on the freezer and know that 'in the next 3-4 days' I need to schedule a sourdough bake. For the daily stuff, we keep a bi-weekly menu (that we also use to shop with), and I can just wing it day-to-day, choosing whatever I want from the items on the menu for any particular day. Stay flexible, stay sane, and above all, treat yourself to a few nights off here and there. Good coffee is a luxury item. ; )

- Keith

genxmommy's picture

All of your suggestions are great (except for the foot kneading). Thanks for the help. Now I just need some good recipes for refrigerated dough. Thanks again!

cranbo's picture

FYI, you can use almost any recipe and refrigerate the dough.  You have 3 basic options: 

1. After you knead your dough, let it rise, shape it, then put it in the fridge. Then remove it, let it rise for its final fermentation, then bake. (using this method, you may need to reduce the amount of yeast somewhat, because it's possible your dough will overferment.)

2. After you knead your dough, put it in the fridge overnight. Remove it, and if it hasn't already nearly doubled in the fridge, let it rise, shape it, let it rise again for its final fermantation, then bake. 

davidg618's picture

Consider using a bread machine. Used properly and flexibly, they produce excellent breads. Using the "dough" cycle, and baking in the oven, one can make multiple loaves from one mixing, Most bread machines knead dough very well, with no help needed from you, beyond loading ingredients into the machine. 

Two points, for success:

1. Research what's available; especially read independent reviews of the product. Argueably, the Zojurishi makes the premier model. I own a twelve year old parent of the latest  "Zo" model: the CEC20.  For the past 11 years its been used, on average, once a week. My wife bakes 3, 1 lb white or whole wheat sandwich loaves, using the dough cycle, and various single-loaf breakfast breads, e.g. Cinnamon Swirl, Orange-Cranberry, using the full baking cycle. (For swirled breads, she removes the dough and the kneading paddles after the second rise, shapes the loaf and returns it to the machine to finish.) When I've had time conflicts interrupt a sourdough baking schedule I've used the machine to knead and bulk proof doughs--freeing up nearly four contiguous hours. We also use it to make our favorite foccacia dough, and pizza dough.

2. Commit to becoming an expert with it. There are a lot of bread machines sitting unused in attics, garages, and cluttler cabinets because their owner had expectations of instantly producing bread like Grandma made. Like any tool, bread machines take time and effort to learn to use. Fortunately, its not a lot of time, nor a major effort.

David G