The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Big Bake, Need Advice

pezking7p's picture

Big Bake, Need Advice

I'm planning to do a lot of loaves sometime in the next few weeks.  I'm shooting for somewhere in the region of 30-40 lbs of dough total. I want to end up with a bunch of loaves I can give out to friends for christmas gifts, AND I thought it would be fun (for me, at least) to see what it's like to bake that much at a time.


I've got most everything figured out, but one thing I can't see in my head is how to knead this much dough.  I have some counter space (maybe 2' x 3.5'), and a very large kitchen table which has very large cracks between the boards (1/4"+  in some places).  Any ideas?


Any general advice on making this many loaves at once is also greatly appreciated. 

flournwater's picture

Kneading that much dough at one time doesn't even make sense unless you've got a commercial kitchen. 

pezking7p's picture

Do you mean I shouldn't even attempt to make this much bread at once, or that I should knead it in several smaller batches?


yy's picture

Could you give us some more details:

1. What kind of bread will this be, and what is the hydration?

2. What shape are you going for? (boules, batards, baguettes, pan loaves, etc)

pezking7p's picture

Probably 68% hydration lean breads, about 8% WW.  Boules and batards.  The batards might fit more evenly in my oven so I wouldn't have to do so many batches. 



yy's picture

Lean bread will make your life much easier . My suggestion would be to use your stand mixer to just bring together each batch of ingredients into a homogenous mass. After you've got a total of 30-40 pounds of just-mixed dough, use stretching and folding to develop the entire blob of dough the rest of the way. As mentioned below, organized mise en place will make it easier for you

During the entire process, keep all the ingredients very cold so that you're in control of when you bake the loaves. You may want to clear out your refrigerator to make way for all the loaves.

gmagmabaking2's picture

I would toss a brand new plastic shower curtain liner over that table and use that as my work surface, then you can brush if off and toss it in the washer for the next adventure.... good luck, hope you have some great arm muscles... 

pezking7p's picture

A shower curtain!  That's the ticket. 


Then just basically treat the pile of dough like you were stretch and folding it, do you reckon? 

clazar123's picture

After re-reading your first post-maybe my bake was smaller.

What I did was make about 2 dozen loaves of french and about 6 dozen individual brioches and about 12 pannetones (not individual but not full size). This was over 3 days, I believe. Whew! I'm tired thinking about it.

I have a KA 5 qt mixer that can handle up to about 6 c flour. I set up a production of mis en place for the french and the brioches. I weighed out flour,salt,yeast and put individual batches in ziplocs. I lined up my preferments the evening before for what I would produce the next day (french only-brioche is a yeast based recipe.) It was an interesting experience in my typical kitchen with a 30 inch electric stove. My KA was a trooper-and it is 33 yrs old! I'd mix-autolyse 30 minutes-rise-proof and bake. I'm glad it was cold out because I do seem to remember cold retarding a few doughs.I just fizzled out, I guess! I am proud to say that there was not a brick among all the loaves produced that memorable weekend and ,boy, did I learn about shaping filled brioches.

Do as much mis en place prep as possible and get some large plastic containers if you are going to make such large batches. Use cold retard to help time batches and watch some online videos on handling large amounts of dough.

Have fun!

pezking7p's picture

I actually started this thread because I was unable to find any videos about handling large amounts of dough!  Thanks for your input and sharing your experience.

MANNA's picture

I will bake about 30 loafs for a market. You need to determine how many loafs you can fit into your oven. Then how long they bake for. Mix batches that big that you will fill the oven. And then mix the next batch after the predetermined bake time. So, if you can load 6 loafs into your oven and they bake for 45 min. Then mix up a batch of six then after an hour mix up another batch of six. And continue intill you have what you need. Eventually you will have batches bulk fermenting, some in their final proof, a full oven and some cooling. It is a balance of time and processes to make sure everything runs smoothly. I would start by doing a run with a single batch and documenting every stage. Mixing 30 min, bulk ferment 2 hours with turns on the 30 min marks, divide and shape 60 min final proof 1.5 hours, bake 45 min and 15 min oven recovery before the next load. So from start to end we have a total of 6 hours that elapse. Keep that in mind so you dont end up putting your first loafs in a 1am not expecting to bake all night. If you start at 5pm the first loafs will be out at 11pm. Sit down and work out a proofing schedule to work from.

mkelly27's picture

I have often baked 30+ loaves (54 for my daughters wedding) all out of a standard kitchen oven.  The key is timing, timing, and a freezer.  Time your mixes as stated above, time your bakes as well, when completely cool, flash freeze as quick as you can.  once frozen, you can individually bag each loaf, and present them when you want.  Most everybody I have ever done this with has not been able to tell the difference between the frozen loaf and the day old loaf once presented.

FoodFascist's picture

Hi there,

first of all, I've never baked near as much in one go so not speaking from experience, but my main concern, like Vav0's, w0uld be not how to knead it, but how to bake that many loaves in a domestic oven before they over-proof.

So, there are a couple of things you could do.

You could maybe rent a commercial kitchen for a day or so. No idea how much that would cost though, and also I'd guess they're quite busy this time of the year. But if you can do that, you'll probably be allowed to use their mixers! Although as a lay person, I'm not sure I'd be too confident with a professional piece of kit first time I see it.

If bakery rent is off-limits, I'd suggest you bake in batches over several days like  clazar123 did. Of course you know the strength of your starter better than any of us, but my dough would certainly over-proof in the fridge if left there for more than 12 hours.

The problem is though, if you bake over several days how do you keep the bread fresh? That wouldn't be a problem if you give them away as you bake them, but I'm guessing that's not your intention. If you've got a large enough freezer though, you could freeze some of them.

Hope it all goes well for you!

jannrn's picture

Ok...first are my hero.....secondly, I HAVE to know how it goes and more importantly, PLEASE tell me you will have friends helping you!! What an amazing idea!!!

Don't forget to post pics!!


pezking7p's picture

Wow, what a response to this, I didn't expect so much!


I love all the input and appreciate everything.  The reason I asked about only the kneading is simply because I don't know *how* to knead that much dough.  The other stuff, scheduling, timing, I could probably futz my way through (I do enough of that at work - process engineer and plenty of project management experience).  But wow does it help to hear other people's different suggestions about exactly how to do the planning...retarding vs making separate batches, splitting it up over a few days (not really my intent but hey, you can only bake so many loaves in a day).


I will definitely take plenty of pics and post results.  Thanks again. 

vtsteve's picture

... and an apron. A large dough whisk will keep your hands clean (enough) until you reach shaggy mass, and a stiff bowl scraper will help you to "stretch and fold in the bowl" after the flour is hydrated. If you let the dough rest after shaggy mass, folding (in the bowl, and once or twice in bulk) will develop the gluten sufficiently. The only dough that I *really* sweat over is the deli rye... that's when the mixer fantasies start!

Cambro containers (4-6 qt. for water, 12-18 qt. for flour and preferments) are lightweight and stackable, so you can scale all your ingredients and have them nearby before you get messy. You'll want a scale with at least 8kg. capacity - that's enough for ingredients and dividing. To avoid an undersized final loaf, aim a little high on your dough weight. Between evaporation and fermentation (and messy hands), you can lose a percent or two of your calculated weight.

I usually whisk all the dry ingredients together with a large French whisk before adding the liquids. I only autolyze if I'm adding a salted soaker, and I get the dough about halfway to final development before adding any fats. After it's mixed, the dough goes into one or more oiled, covered bus tubs for bulk ferment. You can fridge some of the dough to slow it down, if you need to bake it over a longer period. You can do your bulk S&F's either in the tub, or on a proofing board.

I've got a full-height rolling rack with a vinyl cover, and plywood proofing boards. The rack is a huge workspace multiplier! I use it to hold dough for bulk ferment (in tubs), preshaping, shaping and proofing (en couche or in baskets).  Every time you rack a loaded board and put down a fresh one, it's like getting a new table. The boards measure 18" x 26", and when it's time to divide, you can dump a tub full of dough onto one board.

A small electric oil-filled radiator on the bottom shelf turns the rack into a proofer. Post-bake, I take the cover off and rack some wire "doughnut baskets" to hold the cooling loaves.

I do 15kg batches with this setup, and bake it off in two WFO loads (and then go to to my Real Job). You can get the bowl for under $30, and the rack for less than $100. Boards are under $10 each.

pezking7p's picture

Today is the day.  Thanks everyone for all the input and advice.

I've decided to change a few things.  First, I've opted to make Anadama bread instead of a lean bread.  I've also scaled my bake down to three batches of 6.2 lbs each.  I don't really know how to share the recipe correctly, but it's based on Reinhart's recipe, expect I add 50% more butter and 25% more molasses to suit my tastes.  This bake I've also added ~5% whole wheat flour.

Total Dough:

Corn Meal30.0%

The corn meal is soaked overnight with half the water, then ~40% of the flour is added to the soaker along with the remainder of the water and the yeast and autolysed for an hour.  Then the final dough is built and standard bread making takes over.


So far I've kneaded one batch of dough, I don't think this recipe has scaled up very well, the dough was extremely wet (probably due to extra butter and molasses), so I've lowered the hydration slightly for the 3rd batch (the 2nd has had the water added already).  I took this stuff out and kneaded it on the counter with some french slaps (my preferred method for wet doughs like this).  Holy cow what a lot of work.  I think I had to knead for 15 minutes to achieve barely acceptable windowpane.  Will keep you posted as baking commences.


pezking7p's picture

Here's the oven set up.  Oddly enough I couldn't find any quarry tiles or any other such cheap oven stone material.  I bought this set of tiles, they weren't fantastic but they worked.

Here's the results, minus the one we ate.  The three on the left were the first batch and were underbaked.  Four loaves at once was too much.  Three loaves worked much better!



Pioneer Foodie's picture
Pioneer Foodie

from the looks of it, but as far as mixing/kneading, this volume of dough is totally do-able by hand in a large shallow trough. I made one from store-bought lumber, and I've mixed 30-50 lbs of dough without breaking a sweat. The  bread turns out just lovely. Yesterday I mixed 30 lbs of sourdough by hand in the trough, made 20 loaves out of it, and mmm mmm lovely.

abbygirl's picture

You've gotten some excellent advice and I applaud your preserverance! Hope the rest of your bake went well!