The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

A year in bread

varda's picture
varda

A year in bread

A year ago, I decided to close down my little bake to order business, and see what else I could cook up.   I got my wholesale license, and into a pretty decent market, and set out to make a lot of bread.   A lot of bread all depends where you are coming from.   I'm baking out of my kitchen with fairly small equipment and it sure seems like a lot to me.    I picked up several wholesale customers, and just when I think I have that under control, I bake for a big market, all semblance of control vanishes, and I just bake as much and as fast as I can.  

In the meantime, I added a business partner (aka life saver) and the two of us hunt for the mythological rental that will allow us to expand from micro to small, shop for the equipment we hope to be able to buy once we find the rental and so forth.  

But that's just business.   The main thing is the bread.

Flaxseed Rye, Multigrain Cranberry and Durum Levain

Multigrain Sunflower Seed

Borodinsky Rye

 

New York Rye

Cherry Boule

Challot

Challah Rolls and...

Cardamom Buns

Oh, and I forgot the baguettes - 

Best wishes for a Happy New Year!

Varda

 

 

Comments

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

Varda.  We will one day say we knew you when you were just a home baker :-)  What no bagels!  I don't make them very often either.  The Bordinski is my favorite and I don't even have to taste.......  Are you selling halves or thirds?

Well done and happy baking

varda's picture
varda

Hi DA,   I am not making many bagels now - just for the markets and no market for a couple of weeks.  But this wasn't supposed to be an accounting.   My biggest seller by far is baguettes, but when I'm making those I'm always just cranking away and no time for photos.   As for the Boro - I have 9 inch pans and a 16 incher.    So the 9 inch ones get cut in half and the 16 inch in quarters.  The restaurant that I'm supplying has started buying uncut loaves of  Borodinsky each week.   They make some sort of elaborate sandwich with it - not sure what.   Thanks so much for commenting and happy new years!  -Varda

salma's picture
salma

Your dedication is impressive!

varda's picture
varda

Thank you Salma!  -Varda

pmccool's picture
pmccool

Quality, variety, quantity; it's all there.  

Paul

varda's picture
varda

I'm always fussing about something and it never seems good enough, so I really appreciate your comments!  -Varda

Syd's picture
Syd

Varda,

What a stunning array of  breads!  All of them perfect.  You have come such a far way.  Not that your breads were ever lacking in any way, but you are cranking out beauties now with such regularity.  That comes from practice and dedication and a real interest in what you are doing.  

I wish you success as you look to expand your business in the new year.

All the best,

Syd :)

varda's picture
varda

as perfect, but thank you so much Syd.   Practice really does it.   I can't tell you how many baguettes I've made in the past week.   Feel like I've finally got it.

Best wishes to you and yours.

Varda

ANNA GIORDANI's picture
ANNA GIORDANI

Congratulazioni, panificazione straordinaria, eccellente manualità e chissà che gusto e che profumi.

Quanto sarei felice di poter assaggiare alcuni dei tuoi pani.

Complimenti Varda e tanti auguri anche a te per un Felice e Sereno Anno Nuovo.

A presto.

Anna

varda's picture
varda

Anna,

Thank you so much for your kind words!   It would be great to bake together.  Best wishes for the new year!

Varda

Arjon's picture
Arjon

Still being pretty new to baking homemade bread, it's great to see what can be achieved even though my aspirations are far, far humbler than your lovely selection. 

varda's picture
varda

Arjon,

Bread baking is very habit forming.   Watch out or you may be cranking out dozens of loaves yourself.    Thanks so much for your comments.

Varda

Toad.de.b's picture
Toad.de.b

...even though you're not an amateur anymore. 

Congratulations on your continued and inspiring success.  All your products look crave-worthy, Varda.  You must be growing quite a following out there.  I can't believe you're turning out that kind of volume of such uniformly super quality loaves from a home kitchen (or maybe two).

Happy and successful obsession in 2015!

Tom

varda's picture
varda

Hi Tom,

I feel like I'm in a constant battle with my oven trying to get it to make the loaves I want it to make.   I can't wait until I have another oven to do battle with - hopefully a worthier adversary.    Thanks so much for your comments.   I hope by next year I will have a new and better set up and the business to support it.  

Best for the new year!

-Varda

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Wow, Varda.  I had no idea you baked bread for more than just yourself!  Good for you and congrats on the bigger venture.  As a business owner myself, I admire the entrepreneurial spirit.  Good luck in 2015!

John

varda's picture
varda

in my career but this is the first time I've tried to start my own business.   It's tough because the boss is very demanding.   Must work harder...Thanks so much for commenting and for your good wishes.   -Varda

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Hi Varda,

This almost slipped by me unseen.  I glad it did not.  I think of you when I am mixing up 2 different doughs in one evening and just can't imagine how you do so many in your kitchen with limited space as well as equipment.  Really takes juggling and a well thought out plan; not to mention energy.  I can't help but wonder who is doing the dishes and preparing your regular daily meals…..Days must be longer where you live;  I sure couldn't do what you are doing here in Colorado :*)

Love the definition on your challah braids.  I just finished baking a lot of challah loaves and none of mine had the definition in the braids that yours have.  The braids seem to bake together for some reason despite the fact that they are egg washed.

A question about your challah dough.  What % egg do you use in your dough?  Do you use the whole egg or a mix of yolks and whole eggs when mixing the dough?  

Your future plans sound fun.  Glad you have found a partner to help out.  I imagine it would be a relief to have more space in which to bake and get you 'normal' kitchen back in the process.  It has been fun reading about how your baking has marched into your life and swept you off of your feet - real passion.

Take Care,

Janet

varda's picture
varda

Hi Janet,  

I figured this would be a busy time, so my post might get lost, but no matter.    I have definitely stumbled into a demanding  life, but really not more so than the many other activities that I've spent my time on in years gone by.  

As for Challah, I use a lot of eggs - I just computed 27%.   I was having the problem of the challah strands melting into each other, and discovered by accident that a tiny bit of yeast entirely solves the problem.   I also flour the strands before braiding to keep the strands from sticking to each other during the proof.  

Hope you've been having a wonderful holiday season and so happy that you commented.

Varda

varda's picture
varda

seems to eat my replies to you for some reason.   So look at your email for the whole thing, but quickly - 27% eggs, use the whole egg.   A bit of yeast, and flouring the strands before braiding solves the definition problem.    Hope this one gets through and also check your messages for more.  

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

HI Varda,

Thanks for the #'s.  I use 28% eggs too and 0.1% IY but haven't tried the flour on the strands so I will give that a go on my next challah bake.  I just broke down and purchased Maggie Glezer's 'A Blessing of Bread' and I am looking forward to trying the different challah recipes she has gathered so i will get to practice your 'trick' soon.

(A couple of years ago I had a formula that utilized a combination of whole eggs and yolks that I used to bake but when baking a lot of challahs I soon couldn't find enough things to do with all the excess egg white so I began to use the entire egg and was curious to know what you do.)

Janet

isand66's picture
isand66

Beautiful collection of breads Varda.  Sorry I didn't get a chance to get down to your market, but hopefully now that I have a new job I will get a chance to visit in the spring.

I wish you all the luck and success in the world with your new venture and I'm sure you will knock them dead!

Happy Holidays and New Year!

Ian

varda's picture
varda

Hope it takes you eastward but not too far eastward.   Thanks so much for your good wishes.   Happy New Year.  -Varda

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Wonderful pictures!   These should be framed and up on the walls!   

Mini

varda's picture
varda

Mini, I saw that date bread in sun and shadow and ran for my camera.    The rest of the post followed.   It is funny that I've learned (more or less) to photograph bread but absolutely nothing else.   Thanks so much for commenting (and noticing the pictures) and wish you a happy new year.  -Varda

hanseata's picture
hanseata

I was wondering how you were doing, from what you told me it seemed an enormous work load, so going to whole sale with a partner is a good solution. 

I wish you all the best for your venture and a Happy New Year,

Karin

varda's picture
varda

Hi Karin,

Yes that's what is going on but still a lot of work, just greater upside potential.  Hope you are doing well  and appreciate your good wishes.  Happy New Year to you as well.

Varda

yozzause's picture
yozzause

Hi Varda congradulations, lovely pictures of some lovely breads. always nice to see someone enjoying your produce whether it be the general public eating it or fellow devotees admiring it. Wishing you another great year ahead i'm sure it will be good to youthanks for sharing.

kindest regards Derek   

varda's picture
varda

Derek, From here on out it will be more about making the right business moves than anything else as long as I can keep the quality of the bread up.   Thanks so much for your support, and wishing you a great new year as well.  -Varda

Arjon's picture
Arjon

That's something I'm familiar with, having done so twice myself plus I worked with over 100 mostly one-person start-ups as a trainer in a government-sponsored entrepreneurship program. The first thing to do is to make sure you have a viable business plan.

A lot of people skip or effectively skip this step for whatever reasons, and it's almost always a mistake to do so - not necessarily a disastrous one, but definitely counter-productive. Another common misjudgement is being (far) too optimistic / unrealistic in projecting revenue and/or expenses. As an example, I've seen a few instances where an operator of a home business projected generating an amount of business that would be too much to do operating from home and/or that would require hiring staff, but then didn't include rent or wages when projecting profit and loss. 

varda's picture
varda

Right now I am getting very good help on that front from SCORE.   For those that don't know, this is a national group of retired business executives who help people get new companies started.   The organization also has a lot of helpful tools.   Right now I am using a financial template, where I enter certain data and it automatically generates a three year income statement, balance sheet, etc.   Very well put together and helpful.   Unlikely with this support that I would forget something like rent.   In fact rent (and staff) drives the whole thing, so that is why I'm not just jumping at the first thing and taking the time to find something that will make the business viable.  

The thing I'm struggling with (and one of the few areas my partner and I have not been able to come up with a good strategy) is pricing.    If you have any ideas/resources on that, I'd greatly appreciate it.  

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Varda

Arjon's picture
Arjon

Neglecting to consider basic things like rent and staff didn't happen often. I mainly mentioned them not in anticipation that you'd forget about them, but rather to illustrate how intelligent people can go astray when they don't plan or only do so in a quick, shallow manner. 

Pricing can be pretty difficult because it can involve considering and assigning different weights to various factors that won't necessarily point you in the same direction. One thing you should probably avoid is selling on price; i.e. undercutting the competition. This is mainly a viable strategy if your goal is to serve the mass market brand AND if you are the low-cost producer.

It's more typical for a small start-up to have limited production capacity. As a simplified example, let's say your capacity is 1000 loaves per week. What you need to assess is how high you can set your price and still be able to sell 1000 loaves to potential customers in your core target market. Naturally, you should find out as best you can how much those customers are paying for whatever they're buying now. Even armed with this info, you may not have to offer a lower price or even to match. If your product and/or your overall package of product plus service represents better value *in the opinion of the customer*, he will usually be willing to pay a reasonable amount more. 

varda's picture
varda

You've made some interesting points, and I have to think about it.    Thank you so much.  -Varda

varda's picture
varda

duplicate

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Great efforts, Varda. Your breads look amazing, applause!

So, you're going wholesale now? Lovely. Waiting to hear more from you.

Best wishes,

Khalid

varda's picture
varda

Hi Khalid,   This winter is wholesale plus a few very large markets - the first one in two weeks.    The wholesale is great because it is very regular and not all concentrated on the weekend.   But to get the kind of volume I need to rent space I'll need a lot more customers, so I'm always out there selling.    Plus always in the kitchen baking and so forth.   Hope you are doing well.   Last time I checked in you were looking to spend some time in a bakery.   Thanks so much for commenting.  -Varda

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Now I know why you haven't been around...,

I am really happy for your success and singularly impressed with the blooming of your art form - this is the stuff that makes this site so memorable.

Many good wishes on your endeavors in the New Year..,

Wild-Yeast

P.S. Please post updates when you get the chance.

varda's picture
varda

Seems to be hard to sell my bagels wholesale, very easy to sell them at the markets - go figure.    Thanks so much for your kind words, and hope you have a happy new year as well.  -Varda