The Business of Bread

by Rebecca Cohen
Will Blunt and Antoinette Bruno
April 2014

Recipe

  • French Baguette
    Artisan Ian Cappelano and Peter Kobulnicky and Michael Lingwall Foremost Baking Co. - Providence, RI

Restaurant

  • Foremost Baking Co.
    25 Eagle Street
    Providence, RI 02908


  • Pain D’Avignon
    15 Hinckley Road
    Hyannis, MA 02601
    (508) 778-8588
    www.paindavignon.com/
  • Earth at Hidden Pond
    354 Goose Rocks Road
    Kennebunkport, ME 04046
    (207) 967-6550
    www.earthathiddenpond.com/

The Business of Bread
Flour, water, and yeast, plus time and heat: the alchemy of bread baking hasn't changed in thousands of years. What have changed are the myriad business models that generate profits from the production and sale of bread. From bitty commissary kitchens to vast production warehouses, over the last year we've tasted with some of Coastal New England's most talented bakers, who carry on this ancient tradition for our unabated modern enjoyment.

From sourcing ingredients to production and distribution, bread requires the meticulous and continuous monitoring of incredibly subtle visual, tactile, olfactory, and gustatory cues. By putting the right systems in place, these experts have built successful businesses on a foundation of flour. And while their approaches differ, the results have something in common—product they can be proud of and customers who are hungry for more.

Rhubarb Galette, Frozen Greek Yogurt, Freeze-dried Strawberries, Pine Nut Streusel, and Mugolio Pine Syrup

Rhubarb Galette, Frozen Greek Yogurt, Freeze-dried Strawberries, Pine Nut Streusel, and Mugolio Pine Syrup

Pastry Chef Matthew Jauck of Earth – Kennebunkport, ME

Pastry Chef Matthew Jauck of Earth – Kennebunkport, ME

Executive Pastry Chef Matthew Jauck of Kennebunkport Resort Collection – Kennebunkport, ME
As executive pastry chef for the Kennebunkport Resort Collection, Matthew Jauck is responsible for providing bread and pastries for the bulk of the Kennebunkport's restaurants and hotels. Heading up a modest team in a tiny commissary space (300 square feet!), Jauck learned quickly that it's better to spread out production over a longer workday than to cram too many workers in at once. "It makes for a much longer day," he says, "but it's a lot less hectic. People pay more attention to what they're doing."

Though supplying multiple outlets owned by the same company, Jauck tracks his finances like an independent producer. And he's in the unusual position of succeeding by breaking even. "My goal is not to make money or lose money. I bring product in and sell it back to the restaurants for the same cost as the food and labor. My staff and I are here just to perform this service for the restaurants and hotels." That's what Jauck gets paid for by the company who owns the smaller businesses that he and his team supply on a daily basis. 

How many outlets are you responsible for?
There are 14. There's The Grand Hotel, Cottages at Cabin Cove, Kennebunkport Inn, The Boat House Hotel & Marina, Hidden Pond, Cape Arundel Inn & Resort, The Lodge on the Cove, Tides Beach Club, Earth, Abbondante, David's KPT, Opus 10, Ocean, and One Dock. All owned by the Kennebunkport Resort Collection.

What is your average bread production volume per day?
Somewhere near 100 loaves of different varieties.

How many people does it take to produce this?
I have three people who come in at 4am and work until between noon and 1pm, and another crew of three comes in at noon and works until about 9pm. Seven days a week. I like to have people work one project all the way through to the end.

What varieties of bread are you making?
Levain, ciabatta, crabapple sourdough, focaccia, wheat and white baguettes, wheat and white sandwich bread, garlic knots, and brioche loaves and rolls.

What are your flour and yeast preferences?
I use King Arthur flour, the Sir Lancelot high-gluten, and I also use their Special Patent flour. I use a lot of wild yeast to get the flavor in there, but then I'll support it with active-dry to make sure it rises in the right time frame. I have two starters, both from 2010; one's made from crabapples and one's made from grapes.

What sort of equipment are you using?
For the baguettes I have an 80-quart Hobart with a [bowl extender] attachment, and I also have a 20-quart Hobart. A couple of the loaves, those with high water content like the levain and ciabatta, need the folding technique. I use a double-stack convection oven from American Range. I have a baking stone in the oven, and we have pre-settings for the fan. I also put copper piping in a hotel pan and set a perforated pan filled with wet towels on top to create steam. In the morning when they're doing bread we get the room into the 90°F- to 110°F-range, and we can proof everything in the shop. Around noon we open the doors and turn the fans on and cool it back down to go into production.

Is bread a profitable item?
The food cost for bread is so insignificant; it's mostly the labor cost of making the dough, shaping the dough.

What changes when you scale up bread production to this extent?
Baker's percentages are pretty crucial. If you're a gram off, when you multiply that up to 100 to 200 loaves, that one gram is exponentially bigger.

Bakers Ian Cappelano, Mike Lingwall, and Peter Kobulnicky of Foremost Baking Company – Providence, RI

Bakers Ian Cappelano, Mike Lingwall, and Peter Kobulnicky of Foremost Baking Company – Providence, RI

Foremost Baking Company – Providence, RI

Foremost Baking Company – Providence, RI

Croissant at Foremost Baking Company

Croissant at Foremost Baking Company

Bakers Ian Cappelano, Peter Kobulnicky, and Mike Lingwall of Foremost Baking Company – Providence, RI
Rising Star Baker Ian Cappelano started on the savory side but transitioned to bread and pastry when he learned the joy of getting his hands on some dough. "You get to feel it and change it with your hands. It's a little more visceral," says Cappelano. After helping develop another Providence bakery, Seven Stars Bakery, he joined up with Peter Kobulnicky and Mike Lingwall to open Foremost Baking Company in 2012. Since, they've built a thriving wholesale business, with plans to open a storefront in fall 2014. Employees each participate in all aspects of the business—from prepping to baking to delivery. "I don't want to train dividers, or shapers, or drivers. I want to train bakers," he says. "We've got a good community here, and that's one of the reasons we can function so highly with such a limited staff. They understand the commitment to education and training."

This community comes in handy when you have leftover loaves and pastries to dispose of, but can't bear the thought of deep-sixing them. "Some of our restaurateur friends in Providence own a farm and they have pigs and goats. Most of the bread and pastries leftover from the day go to the pigs. Their favorites so far have been the Honey-Almond Croissant and the Whole Wheat-Flax Bread. Very discerning pigs."

How many accounts do you have?
We have about 40 accounts, mainly restaurants and cafes.

What's your average bread production volume per day?
We do about 400 to 500 loaves per day. That equates to 28 kilograms of croissant and pretzel dough, about 55 kilograms of ciabatta, and 40 kilograms of baguette.

How many people does it take to produce this?
We run pretty much three shifts a day. We have a cook/driver who does production work in the morning; they start at 3am and finish around 11:30am. Next person is the main mixer-divider-shaper-baker; she comes in at 9am, finishes her shift at about 3pm, and then goes out on deliveries. And we have an afternoon baker. There are three partners involved in the business, so we have the swing shifts to fill whatever role is needed and oversee production seven days a week. It's kind of an organic process the way the shifts grow and change.

What varieties of bread are you making?
We're doing ciabatta, French baguettes and epis, brioche, whole wheat flax bread, caraway rye, pretzels.

What are you flour and yeast preferences?
We use King Arthur Sir Galahad all-purpose flour. We don't use bread flour, as the protein content and moisture absorption for all-purpose is high enough for our spiral mixer. Our adjunct flours, rye and whole wheat, come from Heartland Mill in Kansas, a grower-owned company. We're not into sourdough production quite yet; we're using Eagle brand yeast. We're in the middle of purchasing a new oven, so we're not going to ramp up our volume or diversify our product line quite yet.

What sort of equipment are you using?
I have a 75 kilogram Kemper mixer. The old ones have a really nice belt drive, and they never break. Ours is about 25 years old. We have a couple of modular proof boxes. Because of our split production we don't have to produce 500 loaves in one shot, we can course it out over a couple of overnight bakes, and spread it through the day.

And the oven you have on order?
It's a Pavailler Cyclotherme, a stone-hearth steam injection deck oven. Four decks, 70 square-feet each. The baking capacity is 98 baguettes per cycle—our capacity is 24 per cycle now. We're really excited because it'll allow us to increase production but not decrease freshness. There's no reason to open your restaurant at 5pm and get bread that was baked at 2am the night before.

Is bread profitable?
Bread pays the bills. Our bread margins are so good they allow us to continue to grow and buy the best. Our chocolate chip cookies have single origin South American chocolate in them. Why? Because it tastes good. Most of the straight [bread] doughs cost us about 15¢ per loaf; then we usually charge about $1.85, so we're talking 8 percent [food] costs. On the other hand, the chocolate chip cookie margins are about 50 percent. We don't make a lot of money on the cookies.

What do you wish you had known when you first undertook production on this scale?
I would prepare myself to not sleep very often. That's the problem with a 24-hour business.

General Manager Mario Mariani, Executive Pastry Chef Else Rhodes of Pain D'Avignon

General Manager Mario Mariani, Executive Pastry Chef Else Rhodes of Pain D'Avignon

Executive Pastry Chef Else Rhodes of Pain D'Avignon

Executive Pastry Chef Else Rhodes of Pain D'Avignon

Inside Pain D'Avignon –Hyannis, MA

Inside Pain D'Avignon –Hyannis, MA

General Manager Mario Mariani, Executive Pastry Chef Else Rhodes of Pain D'Avignon – Hyannis, MA
Churning out a staggering tens of thousands of loaves per day for almost a quarter of a century, Pain D'Avignon is a Cape Cod institution that somehow manages to hold onto its artisan roots. General Manager Mario Mariani attributes the quality to two things: using only the best ingredients (no undecipherable additives) and doing all the work by hand. That's right, each and every loaf and roll coming out of their kitchen has been scaled, shaped, and baked by hand. "When we get busier, we put more people on," Mariani says. "In regard to inspectors, we overwhelm them by underwhelming them. They come in and say 'where's the assembly line?'"

Operating on this scale is truly a round-the-clock effort. As baking wraps up late at night, floor-to-ceiling cleaning of the facilities gets underway and lasts until first light. "Bread in this nature cannot be made in a sterile environment, it thrives in a dusty, yeasty, moldy environment. But we have to control that so it doesn't get out of hand." The biggest challenge? Staying on top of the continual maintenance needed to keep things cooking right along.

How many outlets sell your bread?
250. We range from upscale hotels to small gourmet food shops, large supermarket retailers, universities, corporate dining rooms, caterers. We take care of the Nordstrom cafes in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. We service Gilette Stadium at Northeastern University, Foxwoods, and Mohegan Sun. We fly bread out every morning to Nantucket and bring bread to the ferry in Woods Hole to go over to Martha's Vineyard.

What's your average bread production volume per day?
There's a fluctuation based on the seasonal nature of Cape Cod and the resort area of Newport and the islands. Business booms from Memorial Day to the end of September—we average between 10,000 and 17,000 pounds of product daily. From October to April we average between 8,000 and 10,000 pounds. And it's all done by hand.

How many people does it take to produce this?
Including the oven men who bake the bread, about 35 to 40 people are exclusive to bread production. Another nine run the pastry department. At the height of the season we employ 12 to 15 extra people. The hours run from about 4am for the beginning of the mixing process; then there's the process of portioning, forming, and retarding the dough. Then it's proofed and baked in a stone hearth oven. Then it's cooled; a lot of the bread is sliced, then bagged, labeled, and boxed. Between 11pm and 1am, baking is completed. Our drivers come in around 1am, packing is completed between 2am and 2:30am, and trucks leave around 2:30am.

What varieties of bread are you producing?
There are 24 of them—baguettes, Pugliese, sandwich loaves, rye with caraway seeds, pumpernickel, brioche, 100 percent whole wheat. Sometimes they're shaped into dinner rolls; sometimes we bake display breads with the names of companies baked into them. We do 4-foot, 6-foot, and 8-foot baguettes, they're really impressive. We bring them to shows and demos and people get a kick out of them.

What are your flour and yeast preferences?
We get a 50-ton delivery of flour every two weeks from North Dakota Mills. A tractor trailer picks up the tanker from the train in Boston and brings it to fill our silo. The flour doesn't see the light of day from when it leaves the mill to when it hits our mixing bowl; it's all air- and temperature-controlled. We have a fresh yeast supplied out of Canada which comes in 5-pound blocks.

What sort of equipment are you working with?
All the equipment's French. Two 350-pound spiral mixers, a 100-quart mixer, and another 80-quart. We have a large proofing room, tiled floor to ceiling, and it has a steam boiler which generates a good deal of humidity. And five Bongarde stone hearth ovens running at 550°F to 600°F. These ovens have steam capabilities, which gives that crustiness you want for rustic bread.

Is bread profitable?
Only in volume. It's a very expensive process, first of all, because we have human beings, not machines. Everything we put in [the bread] is readable on the label, no weird ingredients. In this country that costs a lot of money. Distribution is quite costly; it's the largest portion of our budget. But we do it ourselves because we feel it's important to handle the bread from start to finish in the way it was intended.