The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

My Daily Breads

ehanner's picture

My Daily Breads


Last Friday I had the privilege of starting the pilgrimage to the Upper peninsula of Michigan to watch my Niece graduate at the top of her HS class. Wanting to add something to the celebration I offered to bake the bread for what turned out to be a fairly large party (100+-). In an earlier post I have talked about my preparations and plans for this bake of what turned out to be 16 loaves.

I am following up with this post so that any of you who feel compelled to undertake a larger group party perhaps will garner some insight into the details of the challenge.

After consulting with Mike Avery, I decided to take his advice and use a recipe that uses a Poolish with a 12 hour ferment at room temps. I mixed the 20 loaf batch of Poolish in three equal smaller batches in my 5 quart KA mixer the morning of departure. Starting at 6:00AM I dumped each successive batch into a new, clean 5 Gallon paint bucket. It started out at roughly 1/4 full which I marked on the side of the bucket. I should say I used cold water to give myself a little breathing room in the projected 12 hour ferment time. Thinking if I started with cold water I would slow down the fermentation while the temp slowly raised. Arriving in Houghton MI some 10 hours later, the Poolish was expanded 300% and was still active after 10 hours. I was glad I hadn't bought the 3 gallon bucket which seemed like it would be large enough :>)

I had premeasured the flours, yeast and salt into plastic zip lock bags that was the correct amount for 4 loaf batches. I decided to make a more complex mix than straight white French bread by using a blend of WW and a small amount of rye. Since my sister lives in the City (boy that's a stretch) I guessed that she has chlorinated water so I brought a gallon of my well water, just in case. There are many possible variables and I was trying to trim the possible calamities down to a minimum.

I tried to time the final dough assembly to one hour intervals to match the baking intervals. That is, 2 loaves baked for 30 minutes, times 2 equals 4 loaves per hour and each dough batch gave me 4 - 770 gram loaves. Gee, it looks so good on paper! Mike suggested that I do final proofing on parchment and skip the couche all together, which I did. I didn't do a long bulk ferment due to the fact that the Poolish is in itself a long ferment so I started forming my Batards after the first batch had fermented for 1 hour. Next, I sprayed the Batards lightly with olive oil and covered with plastic film for the final proof of about 1 hour. Preheated the oven/stone to 425F and into the oven for 30 minutes. I checked the first batch for temp just to be sure and they were 207F at 30 minutes and nicely browned.

Managing the production flow from mix/ferment/form/proof and bake was more of a challenge than I would of thought. I kept up with the timing but after the first batch was in the oven I was busy continuously for the next 4 hours. The last batch came out at around 3:AM my time and was the end of a long day which had started at 5:30AM the day before. I had taken 2 of my own cooling racks along since most people only have need for one. By the time the 3 racks were full, the first 4 loaves were mostly cool and I turned them over on the table to continue cooling.

I might of been able to bake 4 loaves on 2 shelves using the convection settings on this oven and shortened my time up by half. Honestly I wasn't willing to experiment and possibly not get get the expected results which would result in slowing me down. I don't have any experience using convection and I know there are changes that must be made in temp and time also some people have mentioned that they only use the fan for a short time. Some day I would like to play around with this method but this time I'll stick to what I know works.

 I also took along 2 loaves of Sunflower Seed bread (thanks sourdough-guy) and a loaf of my basic Sourdough for the family to munch on the night we got in. The Sunflower was a huge hit as usual. Later that day (Saturday), throngs of hungry party guests arrived and consumed mass quantities of carbs and ribs and such. The bread was a big hit since there isn't much in the way of artisan bread available in the way far North of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Mini- I did get a chance to drive through Ontonagon and wave HI to your old stomping grounds. Also my sister ordered Pasties for lunch one day that were the best I've had. The crust was perfect and delicious, mmmm good! I may have to try my hand at that one of these days.

Over all, my efforts were appreciated not so much for the cost savings but for the unusual and delicious flavor of fresh baked bread. I shared with several people how I learned to bake here at The Fresh Loaf and invited them to join us in the pursuit of good bread. Most everyone was surprised that I have only been baking for a few Months and in fact, so am I. This forum is like a fast paced college course where nobody gets irritated if you raise your hand to ask a question. Thanks to everyone who has helped me get as far as I have in such short order!

weavershouse's picture

What a great gift and what a great success. I've been a nervous wreck about this since you first posted your intentions. :) What a relief! The bread looks wonderful and I'm very happy for you. Will the next post tell us about the bakery you plan to open? The fact that you have only been baking a short time is amazing. Great Job!!!            weavershouse

pmccool's picture


That's a gutsy undertaking and it turned out great!  I hope you got to sleep in the following morning.  Good work!

One of my reasons for being back in Michigan last week was to see my nieces (twins) graduate from HS, too.  Never did make it to da UP, but I got pretty close at Mackinac Island.  And, yes, we picked up some pasties, too.

You are right about not finding much artisanal bread in the Copper Country.  There are some good bakeries there, but that isn't the type of stuff they deal with.  Of course, there are the Wonder Bread clones, too.  Wasn't it Our Own Baking Co. in Marquette that produced the Bunny brand breads?

My MO for the week had more to do with whittling down the to-do lists at my parents and in-laws places and then enjoying other peoples' baking.  Glad to see that you pulled off such a challenging effort.


Susan's picture

Knew you'd tell us all about it when you recovered your equilibrium. That was quite a feat!

Susan from San Diego

Kjknits's picture

Wonderful, Eric!  That was a great way to honor your niece on her special day.

(I haven't mentioned it here yet, but once I baked 12 loaves of sandwich bread to be taken to shut-ins at our church.  Thank goodness for freezers, because there is no way I could have done that all in one fell swoop!)

Katie in SC 

ehanner's picture

I appreciate all the kind words. Mike Avery pointed out to me more than once that you can get more bread in pans than free form. Katie, your project sounds like a worthwhile effort also. If I could find a commercial oven to use I might just look at that for our area. Baking 2 at a time is a long day.


Kjknits's picture

Hi Eric, I usually bake 4 loaves at once.  I have two KA mixing bowls, so I mix one batch and set it to rise, then mix the other.  Through some miracle, they are always ready at the same time to shape into loaves.  The 4 pans just barely fit on one rack in the oven, but they do, and there's enough room for air circulation and they brown nicely.  So I actually made 12 loaves in three bakes, but still...too much for one day, esp. when I have two small children with me all the livelong day.  =)

Katie in SC 

qahtan's picture


 Your loaves look great,  that truly was a labour of love,,,, thats why they all turned out so well.   qahtan

bluezebra's picture

I bet you are thrilled that things went according to plan and without a hitch! The loaves are truly beautiful and I know your efforts were appreciated and savored by your sis and family!

And um...maybe the upper MI penninsula needs an artisan baker to move there and open shop??!! Wink Wink Nudge Nudge, say no more!


Glad you're back and the trip was successful!

tattooedtonka's picture

Im glad everything worked out for you.  You did a great job, and on unfamiliar ground to boot.  Very well done..


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

You are one big Holy Wah!  I knew you could do it.  You probably inspired someone else too without ever knowing it.  A toast is in order:  "To you, oh great inspiring big holy wah!"  "klink"   :) Mini Oven

ehanner's picture

You are breaking me up Mini!

zolablue's picture

I am so very impressed!  Wow.  Listen, it makes me tired just reading this. I could never possibly imagine baking on such a grand scale.  You are really something else for taking this on and how wonderful to share with family and friends. I'm sure you made the special occasion even more memorable. 

Paddyscake's picture

 well done! That was a huge undertaking and you did a great job..WOW!!

KipperCat's picture

Eric, I'm so impressed!  To me, figuring out the logistics would be half the fun - and half the battle!

 I'm curious about your sourdough formula "my 90%AP, 8% WW and 2% rye sourdough." Why the small amounts of WW and rye?  Are they necessary to get the starter going, or do they serve some other purpose?  I haven't looked much at sourdough, so apologize if this is be an obvious thing to most people.  Sometime this summer I hope to try some sourdough, so am reading about it here and there.