The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Working baking into my work schedule

KristinP's picture

Working baking into my work schedule

I'm a very inexperienced baker but want to try to start making some artisan breads.  Unfortunately my work schedule really hinders the process and the only day I can bake (along with anything else) is Saturday.  Where are the places that I can cut corners, or what are some techniques that can help to speed up/elongate the process according to my schedule?

Here's what I'm up against:  I am away from my apartment from 9am - 7pm every day.  When I finish work, I'm usually so hungry that I want to eat immediately.  I would love to have a dough rise while I'm at work and be able to bake it immediately when I get home.  If I do smaller loaves, I imagine that I could have the  baking time down to a half hour or so.  From what I've seen in various recipies, there's a 8-16 hour rise in the beginning followed by one or more 2 hour rises.  I tried rising the dough overnight and then punching it down before work and rising it in the refrigerator during the day to slow the yeasties but it didn't rise enough - maybe the refrigerator was too cold...

Janknitz's picture

You might like a "no knead bread" like the Jim Lahey bread or an Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  With these doughs, you mix it up quickly and then it can be ready to bake when you are (you have to figure out the timing on the Lahey doughs, ABin5 is a bit more versatile timewise).  

With ABin5 doughs you have to do a final "counter rest" before baking which takes from 30 to 90 minutes, plus the baking time, so having fresh hot bread at dinner won't work.  But I often pull out some dough before I shower in the morning and turn on the oven to preheat.  By the time the kids are delivered to school I can pop the bread in the oven while I eat and tidy the house.  It's ready before I leave for work, and still fresh at dinner time.  Or sometimes I wrap the hot loaf in a cotton towel and share fresh bread with my office mates at lunchtime.  Mmmmmm!

Another option would be an inexpensive bread machine with a timer and a dough cycle.  You can set it so the dough is ready to shape and bake in your own oven by the time you get home from work.  Small loaves can proof in their final shape while you preheat the oven.  

PeterPiper's picture

I second the comment about no-knead breads.  For utter simplicity, try no-knead ciabatta.  Mix up the dough, leave it while you're at work, come home and mix the dough 3 or 4 times, pour it onto parchment and slide it into a preheated oven.  You're probably about ten minutes total excluding oven preheat.  You can also refrigerate or freeze dough balls for pizza dough, which works way better than I ever expected.  Just take frozen dough out of the freezer in the morning and bake fresh pizza when you get home.


Happy baking!


hutchndi's picture

The seemingly looong and complicated process of "artisan" bread baking, especially if you do it with sourdough, can be worked into your schedule with allot less trouble than you may think. Up until last year I worked 2nd shift in a shipyard 5 nights a week plus whatever overtime I could get, and still found time to make allot of great sourdough breads over the years. Now I am on 1st shift and still baking with some adjustments. You just have to do a little planning ahead, I basicly use just a couple ounces of starter to get my poolish going before I go to work, when I get home it is usually just about time to get the full dough together. and even then only a few minutes at nearly hourly intervals (between which I am getting other things done) are needed to get the dough to the point of shaping. If I wish, I can bake bread that night, but it gets better, fridge retarding can make things wait until I am ready to bake (there is  allot of leeway here, I have retarded doughs for a few hours to a full day or more, and still made great bread). Yes that means you can bake bread as soon as you come home from work, I do it all the time. When you first start looking at this hobby, it looks like somebody has to be retired to be able to find the time to do this, and I got all stressed out too. But you will see it is just the opposite, you will eventually find your stride. Good luck!

KYHeirloomer's picture

Artisan breads, using preferments and retarded fermentation, can actually lead to better use of your time. Why? Because all (well, most) or the wait time is stretched out. And you can take several days to make bread.

I work 3rd shift, and still have no problems. You just have to have the desire. And plan things out.

Here's an example: I just made a batch of pretzels using Eric Kastel's formula and approach. This calls for a preferment, a cold-temperature retardation (which also serves another purpose), and, finally, dipping and baking. I stretched it out over three days, to minimize the effect on my sleep time.

Day one: Make the pate fermentee. Invested time: 5-6 active minutes, 30 minutes wait time. The pate fermentee can stay in the fridge for as much as three days of it's own.

Day two: Make the dough. Shape the pretzels. Put in fridge. Invested time: Less than 90 minutes. Shaped pretzels have to be in fridge at least 8 hours, but overnight doesn't hurt them at all. You could even do this step before going to work, and then bake them when you got home.

Day three: Lye-dip and bake. Invested time: about an hour.

The point isn't that you should make pretzels (although these are really good), but that if you break any recipe down into time blocks, you can probably produce that bread over a number of days with no ill effects. And often enough with benefits from retarded fermentation and the like.

You can also cut down the direct time investment in certain ways. For instance, Peter Reinhart's pate fermentee freezes very well. So you can make a big batch of it, divide it into portion sizes, and freeze. Transfer a frozen package to the fridge before leaving for work, and it will be just about ready to use when you get home.

Really. The only big-deal about any of this is planning how to break-down the time blocks.