The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

How bakeries work

Eclarner's picture

How bakeries work

I know that bakers start their day in the early hours of the morning, but where exactly do most of the professionals start?   Do a majority of the breads have a pre-ferment going on overnight?  Or do they usually start from scratch first thing in the morning?  

I know every bakery would be different, but im just curious as to what a majority of the bakery work is like.  If any professional bakers could share their every experience, I would like to hear. 

arlo's picture

It does depend entirely on the size of the operation and the desired outcome. In nearly 9 years of doing this for a living, I have seen round the clock operations where I would mix the afternoon preferment at 2 am, finishing my sourdough mixes and be done at 11 am. Then the afternoon shift would finish morning mixed bakes and begin mixing the night doughs from the preferments I made at 2 am, and they would mix my preferments at that point.

I've worked where I came in at midnight, mixed my doughs and proceeded to shape and bake everything in a twelve hour day, and then I finished by using cold water to mix my next day preferments.

One location had us mixing one large sour where we 'pulled' from daily during the week, and only refreshed it on Sundays.

I've stated this before to professionals/businesses I have consulted for, or for at home bakers -there are many ways up the mountain.

Just figure out what works with your schedule to make the best bread.

MichaelLily's picture

We're a medium/small operation and get away with not yet working around the clock.  The work is getting done usually from 7a-5p and then again for 3-5 hours between 9p and 4a  We mix and work all the doughs during the day, and bake pastries first thing am.  Night shiftlet is for baking bread and proofing the croissants for the morning bake. 

MichaelLily's picture

Every day is different, but here's a typical non-retail day here:

7am bake pastries and mix doughs

Package and deliver to wholesale accounts before 10

Work pastries (croissant roll out/shaping usually)

Package afternoon drop-offs

Shape bread


Afternoon deliveries

Fall behind on organization and sweeping

Come back later and bake bread for a few hours

drogon's picture

I run a home based microbakery, baking (bread) 5 days a week - my working day starts mid afternoon (3-4pm) when I mix up the sourdoughs - take the starters from the fridge, weigh out what I need, bulk up with flour & water, top-up the jars, then leave them until the evening. Then (at about 8pm) I put the jars back in the fridge and start mixing/kneading the dough. Almost all my breads are sourdough, but I do make some overnight risen yeasted breads - I use a fraction of the normal yeast for these. Make up an overnight sponge if I need it for the morning. All done and washed up by about 9:30pm, then a bit of supper/TV and off to bed. Up at 5am to scale/pre-shape/shape/prove the dough and the first lot is into the ovens by 7am. 2nd oven run is 7:45. Breads can be bagged and out the door by 9am most mornings. My 100% rye loaves are in the fridge in tins at night and come out and into the oven as run zero at 6am.

Sometimes I make buns/baguettes using the overnight sponge (really just flour + water & a pinch of yeast or a teaspoon of sourdough) and these are mix/kneaded once the main dough has been shaped. My aim is to get these on their first rise by 6:30am and in the ovens on a 3rd run by 8:30am.  Same for brioche although its made up the night before, so just needs shaping and proofing.

There is a lot of flexibility here and timings at this scale are never perfect, but I can manage 45 loaves with this procedure and my ovens as well as a batch of buns if needed.

Today is Sunday - big clean day and I often make up cakes in the evening for the shops that want them through the week (some might go out tomorrow morning, others will go into the freezer)


Eclarner's picture

thanks for the detailed reply.  Could you explain to me about the overnight sponge?  What is its effectiveness?  I'm just trying to learn about things that can prepped in advance in order to make things quicker for the morning.   

arlo's picture

The overnight sponge will be the same as any other preferment in terms of sought goals; flavor, extensibility, shortened mix time, et cetera. A sponge could range in hydration level depending on each baker, but imagine it to be like a poolish to help understand the point behind it and degree of mixing/time needed to accomplish it in the production schedule. In terms of hydration level and what it 'could be' -I worked in a place where the sponge consisted entirely of the liquids, 3/4 of the flour, all the yeast, no salt. It was mixed, allowed to preferment in the walk-in over night, then the next morning the remaining flour and salt was added.

In terms of prepping in advance, something I have carried with me in bakeries is pre-scaling ingredients for the next days mix. The following day, walking in to have all your dry bags of flour piled and labeled, along with smaller miscellany ingredients in 16-24oz containers labeled and organized helps create a proper flow and keep mistakes/messes from happening. I keep my flours lined up in order of the mix with bold sharpie labeling for each one, next to them is a speed rack with trays containing my labeled and organized small ingredients. I simply take each bag/container, tare out the scale accordingly, then double check the work before quickly adding to the mixer and proceeding. I have created a program that prints out my mixes in order with ingredient weights. I highlight each ingredient to insure it was scaled, and then check off once added to the mix. Keeps things orderly and clean, and sets the next day up for success.

I don't know if you are speaking in terms of making your home baking quicker each morning, or a production kitchen, but either way, Mise en place is and will be a key production step no matter what.


Real Bread Man's picture
Real Bread Man

We use the cooler to make life worth living. Mix the starters after you have mixed the bread doughs and let it get a jump start (activated) then in the cooler they go to be used the following day.