The New Bakers Dozen
Brand New Baker Needs Help Please

The The Bakers Dozen: Brand New Baker Needs Help Please
By Vidi (Vidi) on Saturday, March 20, 2004 - 11:25 am: Edit


A quick bit of history...

Two years ago, my finace and her Ex Husband bought a small town bakery. It was her husband's idea and they borrowed the ALOT of money from her father to make the down payment and a few expensive upgrades.

A few months later, her ex husband decided he didn't want to be in the bakery business and walked away from it without a thought. She, with no experience at all stepped in to try to run it so her father wouldnt lose all his investment. then did the best she could. Before she could learn to bake bread, her baker quit and she began ordering bread from another bakery in a nearby town ( a mistake of monumental proportions )

After she and her husband were divorced, she and I met and fell in love. I have stepped into this business now with a HUGE debt and no knowledge of baking whatsoever. The former owner came in and spent two days showing me how to bake breads, based on his recipes and Ive been rather successful so far. Word around town is that we are baking gain and the product is very good. In fact, they did a piece on me in the local paper because of it.

I am however having serious trouble in two areas.

1) Wheat breads are not turning out as well as my plain white breads.

They do not have the size that my white breads have though I am cutting them to the same size and I believe I am proofing them to the same approximate size before baking.

I bake at 400 degrees to try to get that second size "burst" but instead my wheat seems to either stay the same size or get smaller.

I have tried proofing them less ( thinking that I was overporrofing ) but that hasnt helped much.

The bread tastes great but its appearance is unsatisfactory.

Any help there would be appreciated.

2) The next issue is simular but with a different product. My buns absolutely suck. That is, Party buns, Sandwich buns, Hamburger buns, Fingerrolls, etc.

Once again its a size issue.

My bun rounder is shot and we cannot afford a new one so I have to round all the buns by hand. This is extremely time consuming and I feel the dough is sitting on the table too long.

I believe there's nothing left to "proof" once they go into the proofer and reguardless of how long I proof them ( usually an hour to an hour and a half ) they are flat and unattractive.

Once again, they taste pretty good but we provide two resturants with all their breads and they are getting rather un happy with the buns I make ( Ive had to continue to order them from another bakery in order to provide them with a consistant looking buns. And its expensive. )

Any help, advice whatever would be most appreciated.

BTW, I absolutely LOVE baking when my products turn out correctly.

Thanks in advance,


By Ladycake (Ladycake) on Saturday, March 20, 2004 - 06:10 pm: Edit


Sounds like a really bad situation that you can make happen!!!

Don't overproof your buns (rolls). If they are proofing on the bench, bake them off. You aren't gaining anything by proofing them to overproofed stage. You can retard that proofing by putting them in the walkin if you want to control the yeast action while you are shaping them.

Bread is not my forte (I do pastry) but I hope this helps.

By Chefrev (Chefrev) on Sunday, March 21, 2004 - 09:31 am: Edit


Re: wheat bread problems:
Overproofing is a possible answer, but it may be that you're adding too much flour to the wheat bread dough. Wheat bread tends to be sticky and the temptation is to use more flour when kneading to compensate, and to keep the dough from sticking to your hands, the table, etc. Too much flour will inhibit the rising process and make the loaves dense in texture. Resist that temptation, use a minimum of flour in working the dough and maybe the bread will rise better. It's hard to tell without seeing the recipe and your method from start to finish, but that' one suggestion I have.

With the rolls, it may be that you need to knead the dough a little longer to get that gluten thing going. It's hard to knead too much, but too little makes for flat, uninspiring rolls and loaves.

My two cents! Good luck.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Monday, March 22, 2004 - 10:31 am: Edit

I agree with Chefrev, check the amount of flour in ww mix, and knead or roll a little longer!

By Snuffaluff (Snuffaluff) on Monday, March 22, 2004 - 04:54 pm: Edit

yeah, try less flour and knead the rolls abit longer. *;) lol

ps. this is just a spam post :D

By Vidi (Vidi) on Monday, March 22, 2004 - 08:55 pm: Edit

This is my wheat bread recipe.

4 Quarts Water
7# Whole Wheat Flour
7# Flour
3# Bread Base
1 ½ Oz Salt
12 Oz Yeast Raised Shortening
12 Oz Yeast
1# Powdered Milk

As I'm very new to this I follow it religiously.

I have added a bit of flour bevcause of stickiness and what not Ill try to do that less tonight.

Thank you all for the replies. It is appreciated VERY much.


By Kinglear (Kinglear) on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 08:46 am: Edit

Excuse my ignorance, but what in the world is "bread base?"
Is this a dump it all in the dough mixer and knead for 15 minutes recipe?

By Vidi (Vidi) on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 11:52 am: Edit

yes it is

As I epalined I recently took over a small town bakery.

This town is as old school and quiet as they come.

I'm not in a postion to introduce alot of variety breads as they dont go over very well.

Hehe. I braided some breads and while my customers thought it was interesting, not one loaf sold. Maybe in the summer when the tourists come to spend time on the lake something like that will sell. But the town is VERY set in it's ways.

No Im not one of the great chefs of the world. I have a very particular clientel who are constantly comparing me to the guy who ran this bakery for 25 years.

For instance, Potato bread is VERY popular here. Unfortunately the old owner never made true potato bread. He simply put flour on top of white bread and called it potato bread. Now that Ive introduced a real potato bread my customers are complaining that the "old" potato bread was much better, which of course wasn't potato bread at all.

BTW, after reading ALOT of bakers sites, I think my bun problem had to do with fermentaion time. I had been adding powdered milk but my rise time was way too short. I tripled it last night and my buns turned out 80% better.

I say 80% because Im not 100% happy with them.

I'm sorry if my methods and recipes are that of a "hack" As I explained, I have NO prior baking experience and have been placed in a situation where Im basically supplying all the bread for a small town of about 3000 people. It's a bit overwhelming so far but I AM trying.

Thanks again for the responses I do appreciate it greatly.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 12:00 pm: Edit

So, if it sells make the white bread with flour on top and sell it!
Make the real potao bread and let them try it!
You have to make what the public, (your public) will buy, not necessarily what you like or would like to make.
It's difficult at times, especially in small towns, and even more difficult with a business with a history in that town!
Good luck!!!
I guess kalamata olive, sun dried tomato, rosemary foccacia is out of the question huh?????

By Vidi (Vidi) on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 03:18 pm: Edit


yes its definitely out of the question.

They were perplexed when I put sesame seeds on my white and split topped it.

In this town, fusion cusine is two eggs and a croissant.

Its as Garrison Keiler ( sic? ) as it gets.

but hey, that's got it's pluses too.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 06:21 pm: Edit

Sesame seeds on white split!!!!!!
Oooohhhh, you're gonna drive them off the edge!!!
Enjoy the pluses, sometimes I want to move to a town like that!....then I get over it!!!

By Avanter (Avanter) on Thursday, March 25, 2004 - 03:38 pm: Edit

hey, where do you live, if you are close, Ill come and help you out.

a couple thoughts/suggestions/comments/questions:

are you dissolving the yeast in the water first?

are you using high gluten or bread flour? Even All purpose can be lacking whe it comes to protien % needed for breads.

are you rolling the loaves correctly?

are you adding the salt too soon? salt slows yeast down alot. I dont recommend using the "dump method, instead try this.

-Add cold water and fresh yeast, put the machine on speed 1 or 2, so that the yeast is dissolving and mixing around in the water, do this first, then you can start weighing out everything else while the mixer is on.

-With the machine off, add all your flours on top of the water/yeast mixture. There should be no yeast on top, you want to see all flour in the bowl, then add everything else on top of the flour. Put the machine in slow speed, let everything combine, then turn it up to medium until you get a full development of the gluten (12-16min). When the mix is done, portion out the dough to however big you want your loaves. (usually anywhere from 1#4oz to 2#), Ball them up and place them on your workspace in an orderly manner, flour the tops and place a trash bag on top of that. You want the dough to toally relax and rise at this point. Make sure the dough is in an area that is not too cold or too hot. After a period of time which may be anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, go back to your bread, with your loaf pans all ready (spayed and such). When you pick your preportioned ball of dough, it should feel soft, not tight at all, then with the dough ball on the table, use the palm of your hand to beat it flat, grab the sides of the dough and stretch them out away from the center, then fold them back over top, you should have something that looks like a square, with a X in the middle of it. Then grab the top of the dough and tightly roll it with the tips of your fingers, pinching all the way toward the bottom of the dough. For the last pinch, use the palm of your hand to beat the last roll to seal the bottom.

I hope this information helps, if you need me to elaberate, reply and I'll try.

Good luck


By Tripleg (Tripleg) on Saturday, March 27, 2004 - 11:54 am: Edit

Stick to it -- practice makes perfect! And if you don't have a copy of "The Baker's Trade" by Zachary Schat, get one ASAP. It's worth every cent. Second, for great formulas, try "The Village Baker" by Joe Ortiz. Best wishes to you, and good luck.

By Vidi (Vidi) on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 12:16 pm: Edit

Thanks guys.

I live in Glenwood, Minnesota.

I am using Eagle Brand compressed yeast. The old owner added Reddi Sponge powdered milk to get his bread to rise faster. While I still add this, I let the dough sit for twice the time he did now. Ive also extended the proof times.

My wheat bread turned out looking perfect on my last batch. Better than I ever expected; almost machine made. Though it did taste saltier than Id liked so Ill cut back the salt to only an ounce next time ( Ill need more on weds ).

I am indeed using the "dump" method. I will definitely try your recommendations for mixing, Kev, if you still recommend it for the commpressed yeast.

Thank you all for your advice. I have printed it all out and will try it all to see what works best in my situation.

thank you again


By Avanter (Avanter) on Tuesday, March 30, 2004 - 04:13 pm: Edit

I hope everything is working out alright, and yes, that method is for compressed yeast. Let me know how it goes. Its called the "Straight Dough Method"


By Cvincolorado (Cvincolorado) on Sunday, June 13, 2004 - 02:05 am: Edit

Vidi, I live in high in the mountains in Colorado where yeast breads give alot of people a hard time. I have gotten pretty good at baking all the breads for the last three restaurants I have been the chef at. I whisk the yeast in the water and sprinkle with a little flour and sugar and let sit for about ten minutes. I then add my flour and water and always a little oil. I knead for a few minutes until it takes shape. I then cover with a towel for 20 minutes to let the dough "relax". THEN I add the salt and continue kneading until it is ready for rising. This is a French technique called autolyse. It is explained well in Nancy Silverton's book "Breads from the La Brea Bakery"(Pg 44). I don't know if it's the altitude or what but the amount of flour I add changes every day and the number of loaves I get out of the same recipe varies from 11-14. I have become known in my town for my bread, but every once in a while it is a disaster and is totally unservable. There was one day seven years ago while I was the sous chef at a hotel in Raliegh NC. It was raining outside(and about 100 degrees). the back door to the kitchen was open and the door to the dining room was open where the air conditioning was on full blast. That was by far the best batch of bread I have ever baked and I have been trying to recreate it ever since. So don't give up hope. It sounds like you have the passion for breads and that is one of the most important aspects of baking. One more thing, my staff thinks I'm a little weird, but I talk to my dough and I think it helps. CV

By Chefrev (Chefrev) on Sunday, June 13, 2004 - 01:12 pm: Edit

Doesn't everyone talk to the dough?

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