The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Equipment Advice

rfayepowers's picture

Equipment Advice

I am a starting a small bread baking business, baking 100 loaves per week in 2 days of baking. I'm renting a commercial kitchen with limited equipment.

1) can I mix this much by hand?

2) with tartine style I won't be able to use Dutch ovens and will be using an electric oven without steam. Should I use perforated baking sheets and a pan for steam at the bottom? should I use stone and a pan for steam? something else?

3) digital scale recommendations?

4) source for cheap proofing baskets that can be put in the dishwasher?


thank you!

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

Hmmm, 100 loaves will be quite a bit to mix by hand (but of course it depends how big and strong you are!). I have done four at a time with some difficulty. I have arthritis in my hands though, and my hands are also quite small. You need to remember that even Tartine-style dough needs to be worked enough until the gluten is well-developed. Doing that by hand is a lot of work.

I bake in an electric oven fitted with slabs of granite for the decks. I've got two foil pans with lava rocks in the bottom for steam, to which I add water when the dough goes in the oven. It seems to work for nice hearth-style bread. Remember if your loaves are round and high hydration, they will take up a lot of room. You could also try Italian loaf pans

Which digital scale depends a lot on how much you want to weigh and to what level of accuracy. If you're making big batches you'll want something that you can read when it has a big bowl on it, and also that it measures up to your expected requirements (such as the total flour weight per batch). You will also want accuracy for smaller things like yeast and salt, without a significant lag in readout.

I buy my cheap baskets in Chinatown, but I don't put them in the dishwasher. Sometimes I line them with cotton napkins that I bought from the thrift store, which can go in the laundry after use. You could get plastic baskets or colanders from the dollar store and line them with washable cloth liners too.

If you have use of the commercial kitchen for two days, will you be bulk fermenting and proofing there as well? Is there fridge space for bulk retarding, or are you doing same-day mix and bake? I assume you've got transportation of ingredients and finished loaves all sorted.

Good luck!

lepainSamidien's picture

50 loaves (100 loaves divided by 2 days of baking) could either very easily be mixed by hand or require a mixer, but that all depends on the size of the loaf. If you are baking 50-1 kg loaves, then you would need approximately 60 kg of dough, which would be a bit of a challenge if you don't have a good deal of experience working with that kind of volume by hand. You don't need to be the world's strongest man to do it. This guy-- up about 60 kg of bread (33 kg flour, 22 kg water, plus levain and salt), and he doesn't strike me as someone who's hitting the gym that often. But it's all about the gestures . . . 

However, let's say your loaves are half that size -- 500 g, a little more than a pound. You'd be looking at about 30 kg of dough, which--although heavy--is certainly doable by hand. As far as gluten development is concerned, you can play around with a formula that will allow the gluten develop with minimal intervention. Depending on the flours you use, you can get good bread structure without working the dough too much. I worked a little while at a bakery in Normandy where EVERYTHING was done by hand . . . even ingredients were "weighed" by eye and the doughs were developed by feel. Very minimal kneading (maybe 5 minutes) in the wood dough troughs for all breads, followed by a stretch and fold 30 minutes to and hour later. Then a long fermentation.

If you want to be able to get good structure without too much physical toll, I would recommend either investing in a good mixer, or developing a formula that uses VERY little sourdough culture or yeast. The longer the bulk ferment you can get out of your dough without over acidifying, the better the structure will be. But you'd be surprised with how little fermentation and work you can get away with. I worked with a baker in Provence who did little more than mix his ingredients very roughly (flour, water, levain, salt), do a VERY light stretch and fold after an hour, after another hour onto shaping, another hour and a half and they're in the oven. So not even four hours of fermentation and he was still getting well-structured, well-risen bread ! Do some experimenting to arrive at a method that allows you to work how you want to work.

If you can get an oven that doesn't vent too heavily, loading enough bread in there with something like Sylvia's steam method (soaked towels in baking pans) should give you good enough results.

As for a digital scale, any well-rated professional scale will do.

For baskets, you can buy cheap plastic molds and line them with linen. That way, you don't have to worry about doing dishes after baking. Just shake the linen and let dry.

pmccool's picture

lepainSamidien, would you expand on the rough sketch you have provided about the practices you saw in Provence, please?

Things I'd like to know more about:

  • Ambient temperatures
  • Flour characteristics
  • Formula, even if just an approximation
  • Starter type and maintenance
  • Anything else you think is germane

His process is so different from what I've learned about sourdough so far that I'm really curious as to how he made it work.