Making Bread in Bulk – How to Make Big Batches of Dough

Many of you are looking to increase the batch sizes of your doughs, so I thought I’d write a full guide in making bread in bulk. You can make big batches of bread to sell, give to friends or stockpile in the freezer. Either way, this guide will help you to make more bread and create a routine so you can make several types of bread in one morning.

Here are my 5 steps to make big batches of bread:

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1. Plan your bake for the equipment you have

The amount and types of bread that you can make are reliant on the proofing device (banneton/bread tin etc) that you use and the amount of space in the oven. You should also consider space and how confident you are to divide and shape large quantities of dough.

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When preparing a large batch of bread you may wish to ferment the dough in the fridge. This can be done by taking the proofing loaves out of refrigeration at intervals so they are not already at the same time. You really don’t want 8 loaves ready to bake when you can only fit 2 in the oven! This solution is still dependent on the amount of space available in the fridge and the number of proofing baskets or loaf pans that you have.

A big oven makes things much easier, but I get that many of you reading this have a home set up. The important point here is to know how many loaves you are comfortable proofing and baking at a time. If you need to get some more baking tins or bannetons, get them ordered now!

2. Know when to divide the dough

When it comes to dividing a batch of dough, this should be done at the end of bulk fermentation. At this point, you will need to know your target dough weight and divide your dough pieces to match it. You’ll need equipment to do so. Standard practice is to use a metal dough scraper and a decent set of scales. Here’s the set I use at home:

A set of scales like these make it easy to work with dough as the LCD display is on opstructed, the weighing pan is relatively large and they don’t fly across the table like ordinary ktichen scales.

3. Know what weight to divide your dough pieces

A small loaf is generally 500 grams, a boule for a banneton is 650 grams, and a large loaf is 950 grams. Full length baguettes are usually 550 grams however this will be too large to fit inside home ovens. If making baguettes at home, a 250-350 gram dough piece is ideal.

You may need to do your own research to determine what dough weight that fits your proofing basket of bread tin best.

4. Plan your recipes

Many bakeries make fewer batches of dough than you might think. A sweet dough can be divided to make different types of bread. One portion of the dough may have fruit added, whilst the other portion can be used for doughnuts, Vienna rolls, or something else! This method can also be replicated for the inclusion of seeds, olives, or nuts to plain doughs.

If you are to prepare several doughs with similar ingredients, amalgamating your batches to make fewer batches is a sensible option. There will of course be a lowering of indiviualism, but this can often be improved by handling the dough differently during bulk fermentation and future stages.

Preferments vs bulk fermentation

As you scale up bread recipes you will find that space becomes a problem. If you are making large batches you may find yourself needing to purchase large containers to store the dough. But there might be a simpler solution…

Instead of bulk fermenting an entire batch of dough you could preferment 20-40% of the flour overnight. The preferment adds fermented flour to the dough which speeds up development time and reduces the time required for the first and second rises. The amount of storage space required is reduced so you shouldn’t need as many large containers if making several batches.

5. Use a baker’s formula

To scale up a recipe, you’ll first need to convert it into a bakers formula. This is where the percentages of the ingredients are used to against the flour to determine the recipe. To convert an existing recipe to bakers percentages:

Ensure all measurements are in grams

Open a notepad (a spreadsheet makes things easier)

Make all measurements in grams

Take the total amount of flour used to be 100% – if using more than one flour, the mutliple amounts should be combined to make 100%

The calculate the percentages of the flour

Calculate the percentage of each ingredient against the flour

And the percentages of the remaining ingredients

You have now converted your recipe into a bakers formula

Here is a bakers formula

To use a baker’s formula to make a bread recipe you’ll start with the total amount of flour you are going to use. Then multiply the percentage of each ingredient by the total flour weight.

6. Determine how big your batch should be

You need to know the weight of your intended dough pieces and the number of loaves you are going to make of each. These numbers must then be multiplied to provide the intended batch weight.

For 3 large loaves at 950 grams:
3 x 950 = 2850

For 2 small loaves at 485 grams:
2 x 485 = 970

Add them together:

2850 + 970 = 3820

So we need 3820 grams of dough to complete our batch.

Next, let’s see the amount of dough that 1000 grams of flour would give us in this recipe.

1000 (total flour weight)
x 2% = 20
x 1.8% = 18
x 650% = 650

1000 + 20 + 18 + 650 = 1688

So 1000 grams of flour will provide 1688 grams of dough. To calculate how big our batch needs to be, let’s divide the intended batch size by the amount of dough 1000 grams of flour provides.

3820 / 1688 = 2.26 

We now know the recipe for 1000 grams of flour needs to be 2.26 times bigger. For the sake of a little bit of dough being lost in production and easier numbers, I’ll round this figure to 2.3. This means our total flour weight to make our batch should be 2300.

To create our recipe we need:

100% flour @ 2300 grams
x 75%  = 1725 grams - White flour
x 25%  = 575 grams - Whole wheat flour
x 2%   = 46 grams - Salt
x 1.8% = 41 grams - Yeast
x 65%  = 1495 grams - Water

Total dough weight = 3882 grams
Dough required = 3820 grams
Waste = 62 grams

If you are using preferments or sourdough, the bakers percentage gets a little more complicated. See the baker’s percentages article for more information. A spreadsheet makes the process much faster!

7. Prepare your baking routine

Once you’ve decided on the recipes, batch sizes and got all your ingredients together, it’s time to plan your baking schedule. The object of this is to avoid:

  1. Bottlenecking at the oven (everything ready at the same time)
  2. Large waits between bakes which lead to an empty hot oven costing money to run
  3. Wasting time standing around and waiting

To do this, plan your recipes backwards: Starting with the bread you want to take out of the oven last, work backwards and plan what each stage undertakes and what time it should be. Of course, the timings might be off the first time you use your schedule, but as you get closer to your recipes things will improve!

Achieving the correct desired dough temperature and a consistent dough proofing temperature will help you to develop a winning routine. Check out my DIY proofing box guide to learn how I control the temperature when proofing!

8. Prepare the baking area

Know where you’ll be undertaking each stage of the baking process before you get started. This makes your bake much less stressful!

Work out where you’ll be weighing your ingredients and dough, dividing the dough into pieces, and a proofing area. A designated area for cooling is often overlooked so have an idea of where your bread will go when it comes out of the oven and put some cooling racks up.

9. Storage and delivery

The last thing to think about when making bigger batches of bread is what are you going to do with it all! There’s nothing worse than seeing your beautiful creations wilting away on the counter. If you are going to give away or sell your bread, how are you are going to transport and package it? This can be paper bags, plastic bags, cloths, or in crates to be delivered loose.

If you are making a large batch to save making bread every day, how are you going to store your bread? It’s often a good idea to store some loaves in the freezer. When you just don’t have the time to make one fresh, it’s handy to be able to grab one to thaw!

Frequently asked questions for making bread in bulk

Will bigger batches of dough rise quicker?

Yes! Although only slightly. Due to “The Mass Effect” larger batches of dough will have more varieties of minerals and bacteria. These provide more activity in the dough meaning the dough ferments quicker in larger batches.

Should I double the yeast if I double the flour?

Yes, and no! The amount of yeast required is calculated as a baker’s percentage so the same yeast to flour ratio is generally used. However, due to The Mass Effect, the dough can rise faster in bigger batches so you may lower the amount used by 10% if you wish, but its impact is pretty negligible.

When should I divide my dough into portions?

Larger batches of dough should be divided into individual dough pieces at the end of the first rise. The dough pieces can then be “preshaped”, “bench rested” and “final shaped” before they are proofed for the last time. Dough develops faster and creates more flavour when fermented in big batches.

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