March 9, 2015 - 5:22am
Bagel Shop Proofing
I have been doing research as part of potentially opening a bagel business. Being that most shops seem to cold proof overnight after forming the bagels, how do they find storage for the bagels to proof? I presume the larger bagel shops sell well over 1,000 bagels per day. Can someone please enlighten me as to how they find the space or equipment to cold proof (retard) the bagels overnight? I am thinking that some would have to skip the overnight ferment and do a warmer and shorter proof that doesn't require nearly as much storage. Any information would be appreciated. Thank you.
you need is small self contained walk in cooler.... 8'x10'x7'6" should work = about $6,250.plus freight and install..
Thanks. How does this differ from using a proofer/retarder machine? I'm guessing the walk in cooler is harder to keep at consistantly temp and humidity?
The bagel shop I worked for had about the volume you're talking about (1000-1200 a night or so), and we used speed racks filled with sheet pans, stored in a small walk in cooler (big enough for two speed racks).
Thanks. so the cooler was used exclusively for bagel proofing? Did this work well in terms of quality and consistency?
Exclusively for bagel proofing, yes. However I would call it closer to "bagel retarding" as not much "proofing" was done, the bagels did not expand much in the walk-in. There was a small space between the two speed racks where we kept a few pounds of butter and sour cream for muffins, but that was not the main function. This worked great as long as we kept the humidity down, as it tended to condensate if we weren't careful. (We did have pretty low-cost second-hand machines though, so this may not be a problem for you.
Hi, you had mentioned having worked at a bagel shop, have you a tested recipe?
Bakery kit gets excitingly big, very quickly when you scale up... Here I am making 60-70 loaves a week with theoretical capacity for 3x that, but then that's it.. Move out to a bigger place - then it gets expensive too.
I've watched a log of bakery videos, etc. online - it's always good to see how other people work and how they handle capacity - the prover/retarder is a key piece of kit if you don't want to get up at very silly AM to start your baking. So I'm in the process of making one... It might not quite be at the "walk-in" size level, but it'll be fun to see if I can use it effectively, even with just one or 2 trays of dough.
1000 bagels a day... Mmmmm... :-) Good luck!
in the quarter million square foot range. They are much cheaper per sq ft as the size goes up:-) Small coolers in the 40-60 SF are easy to make yourself if you have some foam panels, a small Copeland compressor, an evaporator and are handy with silfloss brazing, refrigeration / plumbing and electrical.. Certainly cheaper than buying one and having it shipped and installed. Used ones can be a good way to go to..
what's better? A cooler or a machine designed for proofing/retarding?
These will electronically control temperature and humidity for cooling and proofing. Theoretically you can turn your day upside down with a unit like that in that you bake when you arrive and then deal with mixing forming bagels for tomorrow after the days bake is done. The other advantage is that it reduces wasted since you can easily bake multiple times over the course of the day.
Thanks. How does using a proofer/retarder differ than a cooler? Seems like they accomplish the same thing but a proofed/retarder is just more specifically designed for the task at hand wheras a cooler is just a cheaper alternative?
This is a magical box which acts as a retarder (fridge) then on a timer turns into a proofer (warming cabinet) at a pre-set time. (also keeps the humidity at a set level - relatively high to stop a skin forming on the dough)
So for me - I'm looking at e.g. croissants - I can make/rest/shape the dough early evening, stick it into the retarder set to 4C then have it keep the shaped croissants cool which slows down the yeasts which also improves the flavour, then at a pre-set time, it warms up to some other pre-set temperature - e.g. 24C, the ovens come on automatically too, then I get up at nice and easy 7am, take the dough from the proofer, transfer to ovens and hot croissants 20 minutes later.
That sounds ideal. I'm trying to set up an efficient and easily replicated process and it sounds like a retarder/provider machine is the way to go. Is it possible to buy one of these large enough to run a high volume bagel business? My concern is that they might be more expensive than a cooler, which is fine if they're worth their weight in gold, but when scaling the business, will I quickly run out of room using one of these machines? Unless I'm wrong, most bagel businesses do all their prep work the night before so unless you do amother batch in the morning and are open late, all your prep and number of bagels for the day is limited to what you prepped yesterday and what you can fit into your retarder/proofed. Do these machines come in large sizes?
Anyway I was just helping you dream, most bakeries probably don't put the entire days production in this but rather allow them to take fresh product out of the oven at 6 a.m. without having to start work at 2 or 3. It is mainly used to shift the work load to later in the day which makes it easier to hire and retain bakery staff. My thoughts are when you starting out you probably have lots of essential equipment that you need to spend money on and then later when you are successful you spend money on luxury items that allow a more normal life schedule for you and your staff.
Thanks again for your time. I will have the capital to start out with the necessary equipment so I want to make sure i have the right stuff. If you're a bagel maker and own this equipment, if you don't put the entire day's production in the retarder/proofer where would you put it? Realy curious to know what the preperation and production schedule is for a larger bagel make.
The important thing for a retail baker is to have fresh product on the shelf when the doors open so that is what the retarder proofer allows you to do without the gruelling work schedule of the night shift. Your work day starts by baking the contents of the retarder and then you move on to preparing product for afternoon and to fill the retarder for tomorrow mornings needs.
I don't bake anymore, we are a retail confectioner which was my way of getting out of night work 20 or so years ago.
A warmer and shorter proof will make for a bagel that is less digestible and lacking flavor. I doubt that this is the avenue you would want to pursue.
Thanks. Just curious if you know why that would be the case perhaps from a scientific perspective? Why does a slow cooler proof equate to a tastier and more digestible bagel?
The longer that yeast has to work on flour (there is a limit) the more it essentially predigests the flour. Like any other fermented food this makes more a more readily digestible product. Flavor comes from the bacteria that is a by product of fermentation and this is true whether it be, sauerkraut, coffee, miso, bread, wine, or any fermented food. Many native cultures have foods that today we think of as rotten as they have been fermented for a long period of time and have become quite odiferous.
Modern baking has used copious quantities of yeast to circumvent the natural fermentation process and have a bread like product ready to go in a very short amount of time. This is often a tasteless product loaded with chemicals to imitate real flavor and not at all healthy.
The increased digestibility that comes with long fermentation is significant. It is the difference between eating a bread product that hits the stomach like a brick and or a fully fermented product that leaves you feeling wonderfully satisfied.
Good luck with your project,
over just a cooler. The cooler proofer will supply humidity to keep a skin from forming where a cooler only will take moisture out of the air in the box which condenses on the coils and freezes to them which is why they go into defrost to deice the evaporator coils.
The great thing about a cooler for a bakery is that you can keep all kinds of other perisable ingredients and finished good is there too. But you do have to bag the proofing breads so they don't dry out, and you will need a proof to warm them up.
If you aren't making anything else but bread using flour water salt and yeast or SD then a cooler for other stuff isn't needed
The first, after watching the course of the exchange so far, is: have you any prior experience working in a bakery of any kind? My impression is that the answer is probably 'no' but I don't want to make an unfounded assumption.
The second: do you plan to operate a franchise, or your own independent shop? It sounds like the latter, since most of the equipment would be dictated by a franchiser.
My reason for asking is that while it is possible to survive diving headlong into a business with no prior experience, doing so greatly increases the risk of failure. Is there a way for you to apprentice yourself, even if only for a few months, to gain a working knowledge of how a bakery operates? Your objective wouldn't be to become a master baker but rather to understand what tools and processes are used, how they operate, how to time things, where bottlenecks occur, sanitation, and other mundane but absolutely necessary information.
While it is absolutely necessary for you to ask the questions that you are asking (so keep at it!), I'm concerned that they indicate a near-zero knowledge level of how a bagel business works. If I've entirely misread things, please accept my apologies. My concern is simply that you are considering a very large investment of your energy, time, and money and I would hate to see all of that go down the drain for lack of understanding what you are signing up for.
Best wishes for your endeavor,
I am in total agreement with Paul's thoughts and appreciate that he took the time to express his thinking.
Thanks, Paul. I do in fact have zero knowledge of running a bagel business. So, I agree with you that going into this venture with zero experience is not ideal. Fortunately, I have extensive experience in how to run a business as I've been working as a CPA for 8 years doung accounting for all aspects of hedge fund management companies, which I can assure you are more complex than any bagel business.
Unfortunately I cannot be an apprentice given my current workload and legal contract limiting my work to my current employer. My plan is to continue working on a business plan, continuing to research all things bagel making, and talking to people on this site, like yourself, and in person with the experience to hopefully provide some insight into best business practices unique to the industry.
Given that I cannot be an apprentice. What other risk mitigating steps do you think I should take to limit my businesses exposure to my inexperience? I find it hard to believe that in 2015 with the nearly limitless supply of information, that one cannot learn this business without having roots in the industry.
Thanks again for your feedback and any advice would be much appreciated.
If you have not worked in the baking industry what about it appeals to you?
In a production environment the feeling of satisfaction that you get from well made product is accompanied by extreme exhaustion. If the only baking you have ever done is at home it really is in your best interest to take Paul's advice and work even a couple of weekend shifts in the type of bakery you envision, this may take all the romantic illusion out of this dream. It is a physical job with the added disadvantage of punishing hours. I enjoyed baking but I came to it young and the body is much more able to take long hours with changing sleep times. Even if you plan on hiring all the baking staff you will still need to be capable of doing the work at a moments notice. I don't know how many dreaded 11:00 p.m. phone calls I have responded to from employees suffering from various real or imagined illnesses. Once your business has good following and your core employees are trained and loyal, you have weeded out the bad hires and the production process goes smoothly it does get easier.
you will need to be an owner/operator, not an owner/general manager. Margins are too thin, especially when you are trying to get established, to carry the overhead of a non-producing owner. That will require commercial baking skills. Gerhard has pointed out one real-life scenario that can't simply be managed around; it requires the owner's stepping in to carry the production workload. Later on, you may be able to afford a head baker to run the back of the shop for you.
As for risk mitigation, some ideas that occur include:
- Attend some baking classes that are geared to the commercial baker, rather than the home baker. While I sympathize with your present workload, you may as well get used to 80-90 hour work weeks if you aren't already. One of the better options in my area is a program run by the local juco. Your options may vary.
- Hire a baking consultant to assist with your business plan development. It will be money well-spent and save you many multiples further down the road.
- Make friends with your county or city health department. Pick their brains about what you will have to do in your business to pass the initial inspections to open and later inspections that will let you stay open.
- Talk to business insurance agents. Find out what kinds of coverage you need and in what amounts.
- Consider a franchise. it may not have the cachet of running your very own business but better franchisers can provide the franchisee with proven systems and training that take a lot of the "if only I'd known" risks out of the picture.
- Talk to commercial realtors to get an idea of available properties, lease or purchase, and the kinds of traffic they might generate. (Note that this is something else a good franchiser can help with.)
I hope that this is helpful.
Having worked with dozens of start-up businesses, although none involved baking, I can tell you that few people fully understand the range of knowledge / abilities it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. An accounting background is obviously very helpful in some crucial areas. That said, what you're not so good at is also critically important. In this regard, my experience is that a large majority over-rate themselves in soft skill areas such as marketing, customer relations, and staff selection / management. You can mitigate your risk by recognizing the areas in which you may not be (or aren't) strong enough, and improving your understanding of them, getting support, or both.
Thanks again, Paul. All good ideas. Just to note, it is not my intention to be an absentee owner. Contrary to popular belief in America right now, people in finance are some of the hardest working people in the country. I'm well accustomed to working these hours and finding out last minute including during the weekend that I have to work. I've been trying to get my hands on commercial baking equipment without the upfront cost during learning/testing, however local colleges did not occur to me as an option. I work in NYC and live just 15 minutes outside so if you know of any good commercial baking courses or consultants in this area any names or companies would be appreciated. Lastly, I am likely not going the franchise route.
doesn't give me much by way of contacts in the NYC area for consultants or training options, Mike. Still, what I can recommend is that you join the Bread Bakers Guild of America (BBGA). The BBGA is geared to professional bakers and can provide you with a wide range of information including, I expect, contacts for consultants. They also sponsor training events from time to time. The membership fee is very modest in comparison with the outlay your are considering. You can access their website at www.bbga.org.
fr a living in NYC. They better be the best bagels NYC has ever seen. Not having extensive baking experience in making them will kill you faster than balancing the books. Those folks know their bagels and they won't settle for 2nd rate.
As a native New Yorker and a frequent visitor, it is true. NYC residents want excellent bagels nearby and at a good cost. I like 72nd Street Bagel. On the Island, Bagel Boss. Some good places in Brooklyn as well. These are great examples of fast service, wonderful bagels, and getting the whole NY gestalt. NYers will be loyal to a good bagel place, but be merciless otherwise. True, true.
I've grown up in NY as well. Just moved out of the Yorkville neighborhood in Manhattan last year and I've been to a ton of NY bagel places in my life. I must say, NY has some of the best bagel places but the vast majority are not that great. Bagel bobs on York between 86/87st is a great example. They have huge volume and very mediocre bagels. TAL bagels has several locations, I frequented the 86st spot, and they are good bagels but not amazing considering their multiple location and huge lines. Long story short, many of NYs best bagel places are largely overrated and it doesn't take a rocket science to compete with them.
A general thank you to all who have replied. this was my first post and I appreciate all of the ideas and advice.
You make good bagels, at a good price, in the right location the world will be your oyster.
Happy bagel baking
I've just read your discussion and I've found it really useful. I opened a cafe 9 months ago, but I really baking and there is some empty place. So while reading this post, I've started thinking about opening a bagel branch there. And I am not really sure about buying colder, I think it's it will be easier to bake them just before most people what to buy.