The ultimate guide to setting up a home bakery
This article shares what you need to know if you're setting up a real home bakery yourself. No matter what budget you have for your home bakery project, this article offers suitable solutions and an equipment checklist for you.
People have converted garages using these strategies. Others made their bread quality explode by making a couple of changes that they learnt here.
What you should expect from a home bakery
Today, Ladies and Gentleman you will learn how to set up a home bakery for producing enough bread to sell at markets.
Or to have good enough bakery equipment to develop recipes before getting the keys to a new bakery premises.
Or to make beautiful homemade bread just for you.
I hope by reading this you'll make better decisions on the equipment you purchase and improves your breads quality.
If you are just starting to bake at home then this should give you the confidence to set up a real home bakery in your existing kitchen.
What type of home bakery do I want?
First off you need to know what you want to achieve from your home bakery and a budget for it in mind.
This is determined by the amount of space you have, the spec of the equipment you choose to buy, how much of the baking you want to do by hand, and a timescale for equipment improvements.
You don’t need everything at once!
It’s important to know what you want to get out of improving a real home bakery set up.
If you are new to baking bread you can bake exceptional artisan bread with the minimal amount of equipment.
Many bakers wish to increase the volume of bread they want to bake at a time or are looking to be a bit less hands on so at this point you'll probably want to invest in getting some equipment.
Top reasons for starting a real bakery at home
There are many options for starting a home bakery, knowing your goal is key to making the choices for your set up.
There's been many times when I've realised I've wasted time buying, or even just looking at items that I really don't need.
Or there were things I should have looked to get first.
Try and focus your forthcoming purchases by putting yourself in one of the following categories:
Baking for yourself
If you wish to bake one or two loaves at a time for your family and friends (and you) to indulge you fall in this category.
With the focus in modern living drawing towards using good ingredients and making food from scratch, baking bread is a very rewarding hobby.
Excluding an oven with a baking stone, you won't find much of the equipment listed here essential. But buying some may make it easier to bake bread and improve the quality of it.
Baking for recipe development
For some it’s about career development. You could be a chef wishing to try out a few bread recipes before placing them on the menu.
Or perhaps you wish to launch your own artisan bakery.
Setting up an efficient environment to bake bread at home or in the work kitchen will help your baking efforts be the best they can be.
If the set up is a trial before going to a larger commercial environment you may wish to purchase some of the equipment you’ll use later on.
Baking bread to sell
If your planning to sell your bread from your new set up then buying equipment is likely a must do.
Equipment will speed up production and will allow you to bake more bread in the time you have, making you more money in the long run.
To sell your bread to the public, you will also need to be inspected by the health inspector.
To gain acceptance from the Health Inspector, there are a few basic rules.
Remove pets from the area at all times, use professional cleaning products, have a cleaning and temperature check record and have access to hot water.
These are just a few points to consider, there’s plenty more available on the gov website in the UK or check with your national/state guidelines before setting up.
I suggest you take the time to read the information before you start investing in your business.
Choosing the right equipment for your real home bakery
If you want to bake professional quality bread at home, a good oven set up should be your priority.
You can get around most things when baking bread at home by using alternative equipment or techniques, but the quality of the bake comes from the oven.
Having an oven with the right heat settings is my top priority in building a real home bakery.
If you don’t want to hand knead, either because of time, volume or injury, look at getting yourself a dough mixer. It may not be necessary at the start depending on your budget priorities so maybe you will plan to purchase one in the future.
These are questions you need to ask yourself when doing your plan, there's more info on these products further in this post.
What type of equipment do you need for a home bakery?
Knowing what equipment is right for your home bakery set up is important. It is painful for home bakers to fall for an advert or review and think they must buy one.
Not everything is essential in artisan bread baking, really its just a oven with a baking stone that are must haves.
Every piece of equipment has it’s merits, most will save you time and allow you to fit baking bread around the rest of your busy life.
Others improve the quality of your bread.
Timescale for buying equipment
If you want everything straight away you’ll naturally pay more. If you want to hang around for a bargain on eBay, or repair a faulty item then you can save money.
But it’ll take a bit longer and make distract you from making dough.
If you are not on an immediate timescale then I would start off with a getting a decent oven if you don't already have one.
Then drip other equipment into the mix as you need them or have a list of second hand items that you want to get when they become available.
By not buying everything straight away you are able to get to know each piece of equipment before adding the next thing.
I kinda like it this way, it feels more organic.
Now I’m sure if we’d all love an area to cordon of for baking only. But unless our sole ambition is to sell our bread, with a limited budget it’s likely to be less important on a list of priorities to arrange.
If you are planning to bake just a few breads at a time then you don’t need too much space.
I can knock out most bread types in a small gap on the kitchen worktop.
It's only if you require to bake long breads like baguettes or larger quantities then you'll need more space.
If this is your game then some segregation from raw food preparation and pets are needed to meet health inspectors requirements.
Where large bread quantities are going to be expected in your home bakery you'll need to consider the space you will need for your dough to ferment and to final proof.
If you don't have a worktop with sufficient space then a bakery rack is probably what you need.
You can buy trays or get a builders merchant to cut some plywood sheets to the necessary size.
Dough, flour and oil are going to end up all over the place. It’s best to set your home bakery up in a space that is easy to clean.
Tilling the walls and the floor tends to be the most favoured choice as it’s cheap to do, replace and easy to keep clean.
If you don’t have the luxury of being able to redecorate for your new bakery area then just make sure you clean it well after use and be prepared to re-paint the walls regularly.
The cash budget, what do I need?
It’s up to you whether you can justify the price of upgrading equipment to a higher level. All you really need to bake bread is an oven. Everything else is an enhancement.
I’ll try my best here to explain the pros and cons of each purchase and give you some idea of what the items cost.
What oven should I buy for my home bakery
Choosing an oven suitable for baking bread at home can be a minefield. Plenty of home bakers can just use the one they already have in their kitchen.
If you are looking for an upgrade or are troubleshooting your bread and want to see what is wrong with how your oven bakes, this section is worth reading.
Professional bakers usually use a deck oven (occasionally rack ovens are used for intensive needs) for baking bread. If you have the space, need and budget for one of these then you will love owning one. It’s possible to pick up a small single deck oven that will do the job for a reasonable price, maybe £500-800 depending on brand and its size. Powerful ovens do use a lot of electricity to heat up, so it’s a good idea to consider the cost of this if you only plan to bake a few loaves at a time.
Check the oven runs on single phase as three phase will cost a few thousand to get you hooked up to the national grid. You will want to check the current rating for any type of oven you decide to purchase.
I found this out the hard way!
An oven installer or electrician will be able to tell you if it's going to be suitable to install where you want it to go.
It's worth speaking to them before purchasing any oven.
If your not going to buy a deck oven then a decent convection oven is a good way forward. The better quality of oven, the better.
You can find some bargains if you go secondhand with some of the well know brands on sale at great prices.
I found that using the fan on the oven when baking blows the bread over…. So I quickly learnt that fan ovens are not a good idea!
You should use top and bottom heat settings, but mainly bottom only.
If the oven heats solely from the top element it won’t distribute well and you will not get a great oven spring.
Gas ovens allow air to circulate in and out the oven to keep the flame alive.
If you try to bake with steam then it’s likely to escape using one of these.
I’ve not had much success baking in a gas oven.
Because of this I'm not recommending them, but that’s not to say it can’t be done.
Wood fired oven
It’s a bit abstract, but if you have some outside space you could build a wood fired oven.
Then again you could build one inside.
I’m not going to pretend to know how to use one. All I do know is if you do the work yourself they can be built fairly cheaply .
They also become a nice focus point.
A baking stone is a necessary inclusion for your home bakery, this will sit at the bottom of the oven and absorb the heat.
The unbaked dough will be placed on it when it goes into the oven.
A baking stone supports the dough to “oven spring” which gives the bread a further fuse and develops a strong crust.
A deck oven has the stone built into it. When using a oven that is not specifically design for bread making, a baking stone will probably be needed.
You can buy a baking stone fro m many foodie stores, make your own with unglazed stone, or purchase a pro model that’s made from fire clay.
Cost here is from £5-£150, you can find out more about baking stone alternatives in another post.
If you are happy just baking boule shaped bread, most likely sourdough then you can use a dutch oven. This means it is not necessary to upgrade your oven or buy a baking stone.
The dutch oven baking technique has been brought to the world by the Tartine bakery in USA and is often referred to as The Tartine technique.
To use this method, heat the base up on the stove so your bread gets a good oven spring before placing the dough inside, putting the lid ontop and baking in the oven. Midway through the bake the lid comes off releasing the steam and allowing the crust to get nice and crunchy.
It is often sensible to still use a baking stone and a standard convection oven as they will help the bake quality. Often first bakes involve burnt bottoms and pale tops, and learning when to remove the lid during the bake will also take a bit of practice.
On a negative side they are expensive to buy which is an important factor when baking more than one bread at a time. You are also restricted by what bread shapes you can make.
There are hundreds of types of dutch ovens, all with different shapes, thicknesses and material types. Getting to know how your dutch oven reacts to your oven will take a bit of experimentation. Once you have got your bake times correct you can make some really nice bread with a dutch oven.
So that's oven's and perhaps your new garden feature taken care of. What else do you need to make a real home bakery?
What dough mixer should I buy to make bread?
If you're on a tight budget, you don’t need to get a dough mixer. You can knead bread quite nicely by hand. But adding one to your home bakery will save you time.
It will also stop you wanting to dodge your neighbours after the constant banging they’ve been exposed too!
If you decide to get a mixer then you can easily lose your money if your not careful. It’s a minefield out there!
I’m talking about the Kenwood's or Kitchen Aid style here.
There are lesser known brands out there and I’ve not tested them all, nor would I bother.
My experience with the leading domestic brands is that they are not all suitable for bread making, even expensive ones.
They may come with a dough hook, but some are just not powerful enough to make a decent dough.
Not all stand mixers like this I'm sure. I’ve tried to watch reviews for dough making, but they are hard to find. They are primarily focused on cake baking.
There are a few machines made by bread baking specialists and I would like to try as I trust that they would work quite well.
Hobart style bowl lowering mixers
This style have been very good to me, and often much cheaper than the branded stand mixers.
Around £200 will get you a secondhand 7qt mixer, perfect for home baking.
Maybe a bit more as bakery machinery prices seem to be on the rise since I bought mine.
Prices then increase due to size of the bowl and the age.
The great thing is these are built to last, so an old model may do you well.
I would stick to the brand names here like Hobart or Metcalfe they are proper workhorses and pretty affordable.
I ran my bakery initially on an 30 quart Metcalfe and it did me proud. But feel free to check out reviews on others.
These are used for big mix sizes, minimum of 8kg of flour really and easily go up to 48kg plus. Only use these if you need to make large mixes.
Also don’t try any unbranded imports that flood eBay, they may have the same specifications as the big boys, but they don’t make decent hydrated bread dough.
I found this out the hard way
So if you are going to do it, don't skimp.
What other bread baking essentials do I need?
To set up your own home bakery you’re going to need a few essentials to get you going. To be fair, you don’t need all of these, but you’ll probably pick them all up at some point during your bread journey:
Cheap ones from the £1 store will do to start. More expensive ones last longer but don’t worry too much.
You’ll need some large bowls to weigh and mix ingredients, and small ones to weigh small quantities like oil and salt.
You can pick up a plastic scraper which is perfect for sliding dough out a bowl for almost pennies. The durable metal scrappers cost around £5 - £10 but they’ll be a bargain when you realise how much use you get from it.
Use a metal scraper to divide dough and clean the table. They become your best friend!
This will save you getting your phone filled with dough. A digital countdown timer is perfect for multitasking when baking and also timing your mixing duration. You can grab these at the pound store or online pretty cheap.
This is the proper French name for the bread proving baskets. They are usually made from wicker but can also be from brotform.
Brotform is some kind of compressed cardboard. I’m not too keen on these though, there’s something much more sexy about using wood in baking and they are easier to clean it you get stuck with a wet mix.
You can purchase removable liners that go inside of the baskets. They remove the woven imprint that you get from wicker bannetons, but this is to your taste. Many people prefer seeing the lines.
It costs about £10 to purchase either proving basket. Larger sizes cost slightly more.
To save a few pounds you can use lined wicker baskets that can be picked up at household stores for a pound or two. Providing you like the shape they offer you’ll get the same result as the specialist baskets.
This is the blade you’ll use to score your bread before you put them into the oven.
A sharp or serrated knife will do if you’re learning, but if you’re serious about baking bread you’ll need to upgrade.
A lame is basically a razor blade on a stick and cost around £5-10.
You can omit the stick if you choose and just use razor blades, but don’t lose them in the dough!
The blade becomes blunt after cutting around 50 loaves and needs replacing.
They need to be digital as standard. You may be able to use ones that you already have.
For more accuracy when weighing small amounts of salt and yeast, you may wish to upgrade to a scale that can cope with 0.1 of a gram.
Professional bakers have scales that weigh the weight of flour in a mix (say 8kg) and also a set that weighs small amounts.
If you wish to sell your bread at a stated weight you will need to “check weigh” your bread on removing from the oven.
It’s best to use a dedicated set of scales for this to prevent baked crumbs entering your virgin mixes.
You will use metal trays for baking rolls, slices, pastries and loads of small breads. Also for focaccia bread, trays are a must.
They need to be suitable for temperatures up to 240C otherwise they will bend in the heat of the oven.
For proving bread, trays will also be needed. If you want to bake directly on the baking stone use wood boards to prove the bread before sliding them into the oven once they are ready.
Use a water spray to inject steam into your oven. Depending on the size of your oven a cheap one from your hardware store may be sufficient.
For larger ovens that don’t have built in steamers, you may like to use a more heavy duty spray.
A separate area to bake bread away from the oven heat is ideal, but not always possible.
Opt for a wood or marble surface if possible as they don’t absorb heat like others do.
Metal tables are commonly used as they are cheap, durable and easy to clean.
To make baguettes or ciabatta a couche is essential. It’s a run of cloth that folds between the dough for final proving to support the dough.
You can buy them from bakery specialists or make your own using curtain liners.
If you just want to try out these breads it’s possible to use a tea towel to make 2 of three shorter breads.
A peel is used to transfer bread to and from the oven. A baguette peel is used to lift and carry baguettes out the couche to a tray or directly in the oven.
An oven peel is used to drop large loaves in and out of the oven. A pizza peel is a round peel used for pizzas, plus used whilst building the pizza toppings on top of the pizza.
Pizza peels are easy to find and can be used for bread too. They cost around £10.
A hand whisk is great for distributing yeast evenly or for whipping up eggs or cream when making sweet cakes. It’s also quicker than using a fork. I use one for whisking egg wash when baking brioche.
To find the temperature of your ingredients and the final dough you will need a thermometer.
The quick reading laser ones are not that expensive but one with a skewer that you insert into the item despite taking a little longer to get the reading will do just fine.
Prices start at about £10.
For baking multiple breads at a time you will need space to prove and cool your bread. Purpose built bakery racks are the best solution as they use space most efficiently.
If you are only baking a couple of loaves at a time then there will most likely be enough space on your kitchen worktops.
If you are baking large volume last then bakery racks, usually with wheels are the best way to go.
What you need to bake large quantities of bread at home?
You’ll need space, not just for kneading the dough, but also resting, proving, packing and cooling afterwards. You’ll also want an oven that is as big as possible and able to withstand heavy use.
What other baking equipment could I get?
This stuff is more advanced, but you might want one now, later or never, depending on what products you intend to bake.
This piece of kit will give you even sized croissants with ease. You simply roll it across the dough and evenly sized pieces are cut. It’s a handy tool, but you can make a cardboard cut out of the shape you desire and cut around it if you don’t want to shell out at the start.
For artisan bread, we don’t often talk about using a proofer. We tend to like cooler temperatures so proofers aren’t often used.
But some models can be turned down to a more optimum temperature which is going to prove your bread at a consistent rate every time.
Baking with a properly set proofer is going to improve your quality and make it easier to organise your oven load.
They also stop the dough skinning up. This is where the outside of the dough comes in contact with cool and dry air and drys out.
The proofer adds moisture in the air to refuse this.
When baking with the inclusion of lots of fat in the the dough it can struggle to rise.
A warm proofer can be preferred as it creates a better environment for the dough to do its thing.
Can you make your own proofer?
It is possible to get table top proofers suitable for trays, walk in ones for whole racks or even make one yourself.
To make your own, you need to find an enclosed space and then add warm water or have a heater set to a low setting.
Making your own can lead to a more varied temperature and unbalanced humidity levels so I wouldn’t recommend making one unless you know the power and consistency of the heater you are using.
There are a few nutters out there that do it, but I see no point at the moment.
It’s a bit unnecessary at home, but they are pretty good time saving devices. A press divides a large portion of dough into smaller pieces, usually around 250-600g.
Not strictly artisan, but they are great for speeding up production of small breads. To make larger ones, stick 2 dough pieces together.
Bun Divider Moulder
Similar to the Hydraulic press however the force that divides the dough is largely from the user. It will only work on smaller weights, usually up to 200g pieces. A BDM will divide a large piece of dough into smaller weights the perfect size for bread rolls.
If you are going to sell your bread you will need some clean crates to transport the bread and also a form of transport of getting where you need to go.
You can purchase them through professional baking suppliers or perhaps “borrow” them from your nearest mini supermarket.
How to put your plan together and set up your real home bakery
Once you’ve chosen the equipment you need for your home bakery. Plan how, and when you are going to purchase each piece.
Really all you need is a couple of plastic bowls and an oven to get started. Then work back to all the other things that aren’t as necessary. I'd start with either a baking stone or if you just want to bake sourdough boules you could get a dutch oven.
By getting things gradually, you’ll be able to test and learn each piece of equipment as you buy them. Slowing transforming into a real home bakery.
New or secondhand bakery equipment?
You can choose to buy them new or secondhand. It’s ok to use things like eBay, but do ask for reassurance or a test bake before handing over your money on large items.
At least, if the seller states that it does the job that you need it to, if it doesn’t from my previous experience it's a good idea to check it will be easy to get a refund.
If purchasing new equipment you may be able to get some finance or to take it out on a lease if you are getting more hi-spec items. If you plan to sell your bread as a business getting the equipment on finance will lower your start up costs and apparently makes it cheaper - A leasing company told me this, I still can’t get my head around why?!
As your equipment arrives you will be thrilled to use it. I’m not going to lie, I get very excited when I buy anything for my home bakery set up! Even if it's just a scrapper! Find out why in the benefits of being a baker article. Lastly, please take time to understand each items strengths and flaws and experiment to get the best out of it and above all enjoy it!
You will love it!
For information in starting up a bakery business, check out the book I wrote which describes my first experience.