The Fresh Loaf

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I just want to be efficient!! Oven-Overload

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ArmsteadCo's picture
ArmsteadCo

I just want to be efficient!! Oven-Overload

Hello all, 

I'm in the process of trying to ramp up production to start selling fresh loaves on the street from a mobile food cart and I'm running into problems as I try and bake multiple levels at the same time. The set up I just tried was my williams and sonoma pizza stone on the top rack with 3 loaves and on the bottom rack I did a cookie sheet for the steam and flipped another over to bake on. (and with those two I had sheets all the way across the bottom) 

I may be an idiot for trying it but on the bottom rack it burned the crap out of the two loaves I placed on the sheet and the 3 on top didn't look so great (I pulled out the sheet with the fused on there before the top rack baked out). I then put 3 in late and they looked alright, and colored better. 

Basically I'm hoping that someone can help me understand the mechanics of why this is happening. I'm planning on getting another 3 stones to use for baking on hopefully soon and I've already recently purchased a kitchenaid double convection oven. so I'm hoping that between changing the baking surface (sheets to a stone), leaving more room on the sides of the oven for circulation, and adding the convection for circulation I will have no problems but I don't know if I'm missing part of the equation. 

So anybaker out there that has ramped up a small business using domestic equipment let me know how you did it. I've got to have more coming out of the oven than 3 loaves (acutally six with the double oven)/20mins. I'm hoping to have 20-30 loaves in a cart less than 90 min after baking to sell, so if you have any ideas I'd love to hear them. Thanks in advance for your time

Chuck's picture
Chuck

For 20-30 loaves, I'd just plain give up on trying to use a home oven. When overloaded like that, different ovens behave quite differently; can you please post a photo of the inside of your oven  ...but methinks no matter how much good advice given and taken and how much air circulation you manage to allow, you still won't get anywhere close to the quantities you need.

You need a "deck oven". They're rather expensive new, so you hopefully can get a used one. However, find a bakery that has a surplus one because they just expanded and bought a larger oven; do not get one that a bakery is selling because it's "worn out" (the usual clue is they're replacing it with a new one exactly the same size) - if it really is "worn out" the maintenance headaches will come back to bite you.

Such things will need both rewiring (220V, or even three-phase [sometimes called 208V], at a much higher amperage than is typical in home kitchens) and a special space (typically it can't be closer than 12 inches to any wall, and all the walls need to be non-flammable). The rewiring problems are so severe that often a better alternative for use in a home is to get a gas one. Folks who bake for farmers markets often put their deck oven either in their basement or in their barn (if they have one).

gerhard's picture
gerhard

You might want to contact the local health department, you can't just start selling to the public without conforming to their regulations.  Then I would talk to my insurance company, baking in a home for a commercial purpose would likely not be covered by your average home owner policy.  You should also get some liability coverage, taking this baking hobby to a commercial venture will take a bit of paper shuffling.

Gerhard

Chuck's picture
Chuck

I suggest you make friends with someone local who's already selling from a mobile food cart in the same area you're considering. Food safety inspection laws and mobile cart vendor laws are different in different states, different cities, and even in many cases different areas within a city. And while government officials are probably not out to get you, they're probably not motivated to be really helpful either. I remember a poster here who paid the local health inspector hundreds of dollars every year for an inspection and license, only to discover another way that what he was doing was already covered by a cottage food law in his particular locale so the inspections and license were unnecessary and the local health inspector never told him. Also, the strategy of "just keep a low profile" so you're never noticed won't work with a mobile cart, which is highly visible, and which may be reported by lots and lots of neighbors (not just government officials). So arrange to get from the vendor perspective a stream of very detailed and accurate local advice .

MANNA's picture
MANNA

I am still using my home oven to produce. I have two stones in my oven. Two rack slots from the top is my top rack and two rack slots from the bottom is my lower rack. I use two 1/4 inch cordierite stones 14x24. I use no steam since it messed with the temp probe of the oven and made the element stay on all the time. I bake four 2# loafs at a time. They generate all the steam you will need. I bake for 50 min, at 30 min I rotate the loafs front to back and move the top loafs to the bottom and vice-versa. Oven is at 450 degrees F. I tried 5 loafs when starting and destroyed all 5 loafs. My oven handles 4 loafs fine.

As for the other stuff it would help to know what state you are in.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I don't sell my breads but I do get into production mode quite often where I bake 20 or so loaves as quickly as I can. My observation is that there are 3 equipment considerations you have to understand and balance before you can be efficient.

First, the mixer is the first choke point on production. Unless you are dedicated to hand mixing, stretch and folding, you need a mixer that will handle at least half or better, all of the amount you want to bake at a time. If you are trying to bake 20 1.5 lbs of dough you need a mixer that will handle at least 30 pounds of dough.

If you have a 20qt mixer you would be in the ball park but now you need to proof and chill the dough. You can make a proof closet that holds sheet pans or tubs of dough for fermenting and proofing. If you want consistency, you have to have stable proofing capability.

Then of course the oven is the final choke point. You might start with multiple home ovens. If you are installing double ovens, you should be able to bake 10 loaves at a time without the routine of rotating and shifting up and down every time. I've done that and the quality suffers. There is one shelf in a home oven that works well. Trying to use two shelves is a compromise and requires you to be vigilant constantly. If you can't bake all of the mixed and fermented dough in one cycle, you have to be able to cool what you can't bake so it doesn't over proof. For my case, I split the dough in half after the bulk ferment, shape half and cool half for 30 minutes. That slows it down enough that I can shape the second half while the first batch is in the oven. It's a bit of a fire drill but it works for me.

Eric

ArmsteadCo's picture
ArmsteadCo

On thanksgiving I broke up my double batches by dumping them inthe fridge it worked great. All my extra dough got compiled together and it worked out great. My baking times are very close to 20 min so all I had to do was stick a batch in the oven and pull one out of the fridge shape it and let it proof, repeat 7 times. Thanks for the advice. it made things so much more consistent

mimifix's picture
mimifix

Armstead, are you trying to do all the baking from your mobile food cart? Most mobile food businesses that rely on baked products work from a commercial kitchen for the bulk of their production. Ovens in the cart are mainly for reheating. I owned a bakery and cafe for many years and understand the details of producing enough baked products to keep a business viable. Chuck is totally right, you must look for another production mode if you want to sell quantity.

Consider this your learning curve. Good luck, Mimi

ArmsteadCo's picture
ArmsteadCo

This is all great input, to give a little more information. I'm in Chattanooga and am converting a space in the back of a commercially zoned repair shop. I've contacted the Dept. of Agriculture (because I am prepackaging the food) who have given me the typical list for a commercial kitchen i.e. 3 compartment sink, handwashing sink, sealed lights easily cleanable surfaces etc.. To the best of my knowledge I've purchased all those items and will be configuring them in the coming months. I've also been looking in the market for a deck oven and have been running across the Nu-Vu deck ovens that they use at Subway. I can get one of those for 1000-1200, but I'm trying to bootstrap the business so startup capital is limited. Thusly I have purchased the kitchenaid double oven w/convection. 

@manna \-

I'm fairly certain I'll still have to use steam because I'm baking small epi loaves @ 250g each. These lend themselves well to a street food mindset (when paired with my wife's awesome olive oil dipping sauce). Out of curiosity what did your loaves look like when you tried 5 at a time in the beginning, and do you notice a difference when you bake a single loaf as opposed to 4? And are you using convection?

@ehanner-

Chilling the dough may be an option that I'll need to work with till I can invest more in the business, I baked 30 loaves a few weeks ago by just mixing a batch by hand... every 30 min. It was a pain (pun recognized and now intended) but it worked out. When the dough is chilled(ish I realize it won't loose much temp) is there any downside to putting chilled dough into the oven, or could I get away with shaping everything first putting half in the fridge and then pulling it out and putting it right into the oven?

Thanks for all the feedback

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I don't have the capability to chill much shaped dough. The fridge is a shared appliance in our family so I chilled in bulk. If you proof until the loaf is about 50% risen, you should be able to bake right out of the fridge. The trick is in knowing how long to proof before chilling. I have baked plenty of SD loaves straight out of the fridge and it works just fine.

Eric

MANNA's picture
MANNA

When I tried five the heating element didn't turn off and burnt the bottoms when bread was on the lower rack. If I bake one loaf or four I get the same result. Difference is when I bake one I place a small cast-iron condiment bowl on the bottom of the oven. I load the loaf and then drop about 4-5 ice cubes into the pre-heated cast-iron bowl. I dont use the convection setting on my oven. I tried it a couple of times and got wet crumb. My oven is on the lower end, possibly the cause. But, same as you need to keep cost down with no resources for a start-up business. Check out some of my bread pics here in this thread.

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/25622/my-first-post-here-tfl

I bought my stones from Sur La Table. They have a set of 6 12x12 baking stones (you need to buy two, you will have some spare stones in case one breaks). With these I put two together to make four pair's (front to back). Then I can get a few inches between the stones. Each pair holds one of my 2# loafs nicely.