The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

A Baking Opportunity Has Risen for Me

Kooky's picture

A Baking Opportunity Has Risen for Me

Hello all...

I've been baking for a while now, and I've always loved it. I order organic grains, try to find new terroir, mill my flour, sift and extract it, bake everything I can, including vegan goods (I'm not versed in gluten free) pretty much everyday in my spare time. I created a website, incorporated, planned a home micro-bakery, but it's just too much of a hurdle for where I live. The oven, the rack, the bannetons, it all adds up and we don't have much free space available as it is. I also roast coffee and am a bit of a third wave coffee addict.

So... recently, I decided to go try and find a part time job at local cafes/bakeries. I believe I have stumbled onto a remarkable opportunity.

The gentleman of the bakery I went to is unfortunately transforming his Italian-based bakery (bomboloni, croissant, pastry, etc.) into a pizzeria due to health problems (shoulder issue). Long story short, he essentially said I could use, and wants me to use, after some type of arrangement, his entire bakery to produce breads to sell in shop as well as at a market on the weekend... I mean, a huge high end German steam oven, 19th century Italian mixer, etc. to produce bread each week. The dough will be placed into a temperature controlled proofer on a curve that will allow us, after Monday's weekly preparation, to simply remove bread each morning and bake it fresh.

He also has a coffee roaster, and I've been roasting on a sample roaster at home for years now, and I believe my roasts rival the best roasters locally.

These two things, in place baking infrastructure and a coffee roaster, have suddenly removed a large barrier to entry in getting my breads baked on a larger scale and to the public. I've already got about $200 worth of baking books I want to buy, from French pastry to the classics I've yet to purchase (Tartine... Flour Water Salt Yeast...)

I guess what I'm asking for is a bit of advice. I kind of have free rein on the breads I produce and it is up to me, almost, to take the first steps. I have never sold my bread to the public yet, and I suppose my nervousness stems from the typical American's desire to buy Wonder Bread still from the grocer. How should I proceed in probing the tastes of locals? I figured I would just start simply, a plain, simple sourdough with maybe just a hint, 50-100g of freshly milled flour, and go from there. 

Anywho, hopefully someone can comment words of wisdom here, advice, encouragement, because I would like to not flounder this opportunity.


alfanso's picture

Stick with the theme - perhaps Italian related breads, of course semolina, ciabatta and focaccia come to mind immediately.

Find out what the public wants - what kind of clientele does the owner attract, start with a few and expand as you get a feel for what sells.  Make as few different mixes as possible so that there can be several different types breads gleaned from each mix - if possible.  Test to make sure that the proofer will really hold the bread for as long as you imagine.  Find a charity that will accept donations of day's leftover breads.  Figure out which leftovers bread can be made into bread crumbs or croutons for sale.

For a commercial bakery, one of the key things for survival is to find several commercial customers - small niche local markets, restaurants.  Another is counter service like breakfast pastries and lunch.  

Figure out your costs and profit margin - there are models on line to review..  Don't think your product is so wonderful until there is feedback to reinforce it - this will keep you tweaking your product until the customer base is satisfied. (Don't take that last point personally.  Just because your spouse, kids and neighbors tell you it is wonderful doesn't mean the general public will.) 

Figure out your work schedule - will you be able to open before the owner for his pizzeria does?  If not you lose a morning opportunity.  If so, you lose sleep because you'll have to be in, baked and cooled on racks before the key goes in the door.  Create a recurring schedule for your 2-3 build levain.  On a regular basis, take some of the levain home so that you have backup in case the refrigerator goes out.

... Those just a few off the top of my head.

Oh, and good luck!  You're a lucky person that the stars were aligned for you!


yozzause's picture

Some great advice from Alan there, the fact that there is already a client base pick up the reins from the previous owner and slowly introduce new varieties and your ideas, great starting point rather than from scratch.

  Don't neglect good longer fermentation  yeasted doughs, especially able to compete with the wonderloaf  buyers that are not fans of s/d. Also a good chance to learn pizza too as it may end up being to much for the owner anyway in the near future.  We look forward to seeing how it works out for you Kooky. we have seen quite a few of our members make a good go in the baking business from modest beginnings. Varda, Ananda (Andy Bread and Roses), Mebake (Khalid) and Zita (Bang Bang Bakery baking badly,) just to name a few. good luck and a positive start to the New Year .

kind regards Derek 

Kooky's picture

Thanks everyone... All very good commentary so far. Slow and easy. Obviously, the bakery was focused on high end pastry, however they've greatly expanded their lunch menu the past year I suppose. Continuing on down the path of Italian breads makes the most sense to me and is very exciting.

I feel like if anything, my sourdough breads would be a little more tame in comparison to ridiculous pastry. Regardless, as scientific as I am, it's all rather tricky at home... With a non-commercial oven, steamed by lava rock, fighting for fridge space to put a simple 2 pans in there to retard... It will be kind of nice to hopefully experience this whole thing a little more unshackled and in a process more easily repeatable.

You know, not necessarily proud of today's outcome, that's a lot of baking on a home oven that bakes one loaf at a time... it's been hectic with Christmas, had stuff in the fridge fall over and smush the pretzels before giving them the lye bath, just chaos... But, I still love it.

therearenotenoughnoodlesintheworld's picture

Dear Kooky,   

All the best what ever you decide.   The following in no way discounts the feedback from others above, but is about fleshing out considerations of baking as a business.

Baking as a business is a different beast to baking for has different divers and is built on different considerations.   Consistency & Everything you do has a cost implication. 


Baking for yourself, there is a lot of latitude for variation in outcome. However, if you are baking for a clientele, one inconsistent day will hit your return business...multiple can be catastrophic.  Clients have expectations and want the taste and quality they bought their previous visit (at a minimum).  That requires your processes to be well controlled and your expertise refined enough to correct for variations so the outcome is consistent. The more technically complex your items, the more you need to control and the greater the risks for someone more versed in domestic baking.



You will have to make money here, including enough to pay both yourself and the bakery's owner.  Every stage in your process has a cost implication and I mean everything.  This is not to say don't experiment or create interesting product.  However, if you want to push ingredients then your process needs to be efficient to create that leeway.  The converse holds if you want to do more time-consuming processes or even if you need to give yourself breathing room for a not fully refined process. 

It is not like you can expand into a full business, you will have (and have to pay for) a fully equiped bakery. This means there is not the opportunity to keep cost down on starting small and experiment on the best work flow for you and test the market.  You will need to do some serious planning and spreadsheeting to evaluate what you are considering.  I would also say it may be worth getting some hands on with the equipment so you get a better feel for it.

Kooky's picture

Thanks for your commentary. I traveled alone to a large city in my state recently to experience some of the bakeries there. I am going to start backpacking around to compare myself to successful bakeries, lol.

I believe I will be starting this pursuit within the next 2 weeks or so! 

I can provide some updates if anyone is interested.

Thank you!