The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

New pics: Got an offer to bake for two local cafes . . .

Christopher Hoffman's picture
Christopher Hoffman

New pics: Got an offer to bake for two local cafes . . .

Greetings everyone!

I'm a home baker who has been doing naturally leavened breads for a few years. (see pic)

I recently shared some of my loaves with a local bakery/cafe owner who I have admired for awhile and who specializes in pastries and desserts. They do a brisk lunch business as well, and they make their own sandwich bread but they don't yet do anything like the artisan(y) breads that I do.

The owner was very impressed, and offered thoughtful compliments about the three loaves:, a large sourdough loaf, a toasted walnut and scallion baguette, and a fig anise boule. I was flabbergasted to have my efforts so validated by a successful baker and businesswoman whose products and standard of excellence I have long admired.

 My goal was just to get feedback on my work but the conversation turned into a discussion of how I might begin to translate my home baking process into small scale commercial production under the umbrella of her company.

She kindly offered to make her new facility available to me (in about six months when they expand again, no room for me yet). She suggested I come in and bake a few loaves, get my feet wet with the larger scale baking, and she would provide all the organic ingredients, and we could do some kind of split on the end results.  

I know she will be helpful in this learning process, but she is very busy, so I want to find resources to begin educating myself in this endeavor.

Meanwhile, she mentioned my loaves to a friend who also has a very successful local cafe and coffee roasting company, and who has just expanded their operations to a seperate baking and roasting facility. Now they want to talk to me about baking for them, and there, I could start very soon. 

Which brings me to the "UH OH " in this thread title. I don't have a clue how to make more than a couple of loaves at a time. I do bake using grams, a scale, my own starter, a baking stone, etc.

Here is my present process as concisely as possible:

I start with a stiff levain (starter and flour) that sits about 16 hours. I make the dough the following day. After a 30 minute autolyse, I incorporate the levain, salt, any other ingredients and proof it for three hours with a couple of stretch and folds. I then form the loaves put them in cane baskets and proof another 1.5 hours wrapped up in plastic, then cold retard them for about 15 hours. 

When they come out of the fridge, I proof 2-3 hours at 85F before baking. I currently final proof my loaves (still in the plastic wrapped baskets) in a small bedroom with a space heater.

Before I score and bake the loaves (on a stone at about 465F), I steam a 500F oven pouring 3 cups of water into a hot broiler pan on the bottom of the oven. After 30 minutes I turn the oven off and let the loaves sit in the oven, on the stone with the oven door open for another fifteen minutes. 

I have never used a commercial oven, proofing equipment, a commercial mixer, or even imagined handling 20 or 50 lbs of dough.

I am envisioning a complex schedule of tasks where everyday I am feeding starter, making a levain, making dough, proofing, stretching, folding, forming, proofing again, cold retarding, proofing again (again), scoring baking,  . . . lathering, rinsing and repeating, LOL!


Where to even start?

Thanks in advance.



jcdales's picture

Hello, You need to get Jeffrey Hamelman's book Bread. It has recipes for 25 to 30 loaves each. It will certainly get you going in the right direction for baking in larger amounts.


drogon's picture

When your hobby turns professional :-)

(Although I'm only making 60-70 loaves a week right now, still a hobby I think....)

You've not said how many loaves you'll be making though, however your method probably won't work in a commercial bakery - the main reason is the space its going to take up - you'll need space for THREE lots of loaves if you're doing a 16-hour starter build followed by a 15-hour ferment - that's if they want bread every day... My breads start at about 3pm when I make up the starter from the mother that lives in the fridge. That then "matures" until 9pm when I mix/knead the dough, then at 6:45 the following morning it's scale/shape/prove (1-2 hours)/bake time. My bread won't be the same as yours, but its still a long ferment sourdough and sells well.... So it's a funny day I have timing wise, but since I work from home, it works out well.

Lots and lots of other considerations - one is that I presume you have time in your life to do this? If so, then go for it - what have you got to lose (well, maybe being driven out of the bakery with pitchforks and torches, but hey... :-)

Scaling recipes up generally works - you need to work out how to make enough starter for each batch of dough - that'll involve bulking up your existing starter (using it to start a new one) then using that. Put your dough ingredients into a spreadsheet and scale it up...

Practice the other scaling - as in using scales to weigh dough - consistency is the key here. Practice making small loaves because one day you'll be left with not enough dough to make a full loaf - so make fougasse, etc.

See what equipment hey have - key to you will be big fridges and a proofer/retarder - unlikely they'll have that if they only do a few loaves. (But do they do brioche, croissants, etc. ?) Check their oven(s) too. Deck oven or convection/fan?

Turn the "uh oh" into excitement and see where you go... Just go in there for a day to see their daily routine - actually, ask her for some (unpaid if you can afford it) work experience just to get the hang of the place and see what happens. There are 100s of ways to make good sourdough and what you make in "production" might not be quite the same as you make at home, but who knows - it might be just fine.

Good luck!


dabrownman's picture

It's not a fum little hobby anymore.  Well done and

keep it happy baking 

dabrownman's picture

courtesy for Mark Sinclair

Indoor Market Video


Christopher Hoffman's picture
Christopher Hoffman

. . . keep em coming!

Incredible video of Sinclair Bakery. What an undertaking and beautiful product! 

And thanks to Gordon.  Fortunately i have the luxury of easing into it a bit. Neither of these cafes has a daily demand that must be met. Yet.  

I expect to start off with as little as ten or twenty loaves a day while I perfect my knowledge and skills. 

golgi70's picture

First off Congrats.  It's nice to be recognized for our efforts.  

But to the serious parts and questions you need to ask.  

1)  Will this be worth your time?  Bread is time consuming and demanding and it really starts to pay in larger scale formats (not necessarily giant but 10 loaves a day could be a loss if you consider your time money)

2)  What equipment do they have for you to use?  This is an important factor on your space available so to speak.  Example:  What type of oven and how much time will you be able to use it?  Retarder space?  Proofing space? Storage space?   etc...

3)  Are you comfortable with the idea of making bread in a larger quantity?  It's a much different game and maybe before it really begins you should squeeze in 1 bake a week to get used to larger portions and timing and the new machines?  Everything is heavier, speed becomes more important to keep up with your dough, and commercial ovens are much different than home ovens.  It will take adjusting.  

Good Luck



Christopher Hoffman's picture
Christopher Hoffman

I think your comments are right on the money; exactly the concerns i have been weighing.

I am looking at it as an educational opportunity. I am a musician who plays a 90 minute show 5 nights a week, so I can  definitely budget the time. It's a chance to delve into it without much risk to me or to the fine people giving me a chance to stretch my wings.  

Actually the first woman I spoke with suggested easing into it as well. I'm being very transparent about my complete inexperience in a commercial kitchen, so she understands. But she trusts my instincts on the process and my loaves, she thinks, speak for themselves.  


embth's picture

There are several good text books on my baking book shelf including Mr. Hamelman's "Bread;" Fundamental Techniques by the French Culinary Institute; Michael Suas' Advanced Bread and Pastry; and Practical Baking by W. Sultan.  I'm just a home baker, but I use these books for reference quite often.  I think you will find them to be extremely valuable as you launch into your professional baking career.  Look for used text books to save money.                       Best of luck!! 

vtsteve's picture

If you can take any hands-on classes, they're worth it... if you haven't joined the Guild, it's worth it!

Watch shaping videos, and practice, practice. The white sourdough is a great place to start; flour is cheap, and 10-20 loaves at a time lets you adjust your technique within a batch and compare the results, without it being completely overwhelming.

Make a schedule where you're always supposed to be doing something. Pad it with 20-30 minutes 'inactivity' between tasks to start with, because you'll always be falling behind :-). As you get better at keeping to schedule, shrink the padding and add loaves. Remind yourself that you're still having fun!

Arjon's picture

There's more to doing something as a business, whether full- or part-time, than just the core product or service. Consequently, if you intend to explore baking as a business, you need to consider not just the bread you will make but also the entirety of the operation with an eye to making a decent return for the time and effort you expend.

How much qualifies as "decent" is up to you, but IMO, if you're baking as a business, you must plan to make enough profit relative to the time you spend so that baking qualifies as (part of) how you make your living.

The difference can be depend on various things. For example, if I simply spend 10 hours per week baking 20 loaves that produce a profit of $2 per loaf, I would consider that a hobby that happens to make some money. Otoh, if I do the same thing but as the first step in an actual business plan that lays out how I intend to work toward making at least a liveable rate per hour, that would be a business.  

So, I think it's important to think about not just the baking, but also what else you need to find out in order to determine if baking can become a viable business for you, and what you'd need to do to make this happen. 

Christopher Hoffman's picture
Christopher Hoffman

Thank you everyone. I will be taking all these fine points to heart and I'm grateful for the generosity of spirit on this forum. 

I watched a few videos (including Mark Sinclair's, above). This series on baguettes was great. Since I have schooled myself a bit over the years, when I watch what are essentially the same processes I have done executed in the commercial kitchen, it makes immediate sense. A picture (or a video) is indeed worth a thousand words.  I am beginning to gain confidence that this will be doable for me . . . at least in small bites. 

Christopher Hoffman's picture
Christopher Hoffman

The second cafe owner wanted a WW loaf for sandwiches, so I took a run at Tassajara bread with seeds and cracked wheat berries. The other loafs are large, 2lb 1/3 WW Boule and 2/3 WW ovals, plus Walnut scallion Boule.

She loved them all and approved of the sandwich bread suggestion.

Christopher Hoffman's picture
Christopher Hoffman

Here's a typical lineup: Tartine style Sourdough, Fig Anise, Kalamata Olive, and Walnut Scallion

Mothership Coffee Roasters and Bakery, Henderson NV

pmccool's picture

It looks as though you have developed some good skills and some good bread, too.  I hope this is something you will enjoy for a long time. 


Christopher Hoffman's picture
Christopher Hoffman

Thanks so much Paul. I'm having a ball. I work for half the bread and have a free hand to make whatever i want. 



victoriamc's picture

Wow, that is really great, well done and congratulations!

Go for it, it sounds like a brilliant opportunity, and the business owners are trusting you to rise to this challenge,they  know your background, ie.  that you are a home small scale baker.  So I would say be honest with them, get stuck in in those commercial kitchens, enjoy the professional equipment, work hard and your bread will be wonderful.  you clearly have the talent! 

auriba's picture

Meanwhile, she mentioned my loaves to a friend who also has a very successful local cafe and coffee roasting company, and who has just expanded their operations to a seperate baking and roasting facility. Now they want to talk to me about baking for them, and there, I could start very soon.