The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Economics of Scale

ehanner's picture

Economics of Scale

One of the reasons I wanted to get a DLX mixer was to make it easier to make larger batches of dough. mcs has adequately demonstrated however, that this can be done without any mixer involved. Never the less, yesterday I made a batch that weighed 8.5 lbs when done and produced 4 - 2 + lbs loaves of rustic Irish bread.

My thought was that it isn't much more trouble to bake 2 sets of loaves than 1 and for the cost of flour it makes sense to maximise my baking session. The biggest problem is trying to avoid over proofing the second set of loaves while the first one is baking. Yesterday, I put the second sheet pan in the cold garage for 30 minutes after shaping to slow it down, which seemed to work. My home oven is a standard electric wall oven and doesn't have a convection fan so I don't think baking on 2 shelves is an option, although I haven't actually tried it.

Mike Avery pointed out to me once that you can get much more in the oven in pans than free form. Maybe that should be my next trial. I want to be able to produce enough bread for my family and friends all at once without having it consume the entire day. I like the look of free form but I doubt anyone would care if I used pans, as long as the bread was great.

The end result was I was able to make 4-2 pound loaves in about 2 hours of kitchen time with the oven on and I spent about $2.00 in materials. The preferment started the day before and mixing time was minimal. Does anyone have any ideas how I could improve the process?


breadnerd's picture

Not sure if your process needs much improvement :)

I suppose pans can help with maximizing oven space, though with my fibrament stone, I easily fit 4 to 6 freeform loaves at a time in my oven (though probably a little smaller than 2 pounds).  Sometimes it's a little tight.  This time of year, if I do bake in batches, I don't worry too much about overproofing as our house is pretty cool in spots. Especially for sourdoughs, where that last proof can go anywhere from 1-2 hours, it's pretty flexible!

Sometimes I mix up two (or more) different kind of breads on big bake days (especially with the mud oven). That way I can stagger the proofing/baking times more easily, and I also get different kinds of bread for different purposes (sandwich, WW, or sourdough).  Especially if I'm baking for a week, or am going to give away or freeze the extras, it's nice to have some variety.



mcs's picture


My first suggestion would be spreading out the proof times, like you did. I'd also ask what size pans you currently use. If you don't already, (2) 10x15 jelly roll pans fit side by side in a regular oven, using up most of the space. You could fit (3) 1.5# oval loaves on each; they'll end up fusing together, and I would rotate them individually with about 10 minutes left in the oven. Or, you could put 2 on each, keeping them apart, bake on the low/middle rack, then bake the remainder in rolls or baguettes on the top rack of the oven. Double pan the bottom loaves, single pan the top. The small stuff will get done 10 minutes before the loaves, then move them up. As you mentioned, loaf pans take up less space, if you don't mind the pan look.

Just some ideas.


mike721's picture

The way I found to make this work is to obviously have tiles on both shelves, and the oven really hot 550 ! and preheated for a full hour at least. This way the top shelf of tiles is just as hot as the lower one. I peel my breads ( usually I leave them on parchment) onto both shelves, steam like crazy for the first 5 minutes with a squirt bottle, then lower the oven to where I want to bake, usually 450. Then once the bread is starting to get firm enough to handle ( 10-15 minutes) I swap the two loaves top and bottom, removing the parchment and rotating them 180 degrees at the same time. Usually that's all they need to bake evenly, though if it's a really long bake I might swap them and rotate them once more, around 45 minutes or if they look to be baking unevenly.

I have used this method on some pretty big sourdough boules but I was afraid to try this with the 2 five pound miches I made the other day for my boy scout troops dinner. Initialy I was going to but once proofed they were so big I thought they would spring high enough to hit the top of the oven or the rack above, so I chickened out and put one outside to retard for another hour and baked them one at a time. They were worth the time taken,  perhaps the best I have made and a big hit at the dinner!