2006 - Volume #30, Issue #4, Page #09[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Low-Cost Outdoor Brick Oven Helps Launch Bakery
Dianne and Brian Hughes say the brick oven greatly lowered the start-up costs for a new bakery operation.
Combined with a growing demand for healthier types of baked goods, the couple's new business is off to a successful start.
The Hughes made the decision to build a brick oven after consulting with the proprietors of another thriving on-farm bakery.
"We had been planning to build an old-style clay oven, but were told that brick would hold up far better for a commercial bakery," Dianne explains. "Brian read a book about making brick ovens and then spent about 6 weeks of long days to complete it. It cost $3,244 (Can.). That compares to the $15,000 to $25,000 (plus wiring) that it would have cost to install a conventional commercial oven of the same size."
The couple also built a "bake shop" addition onto their mobile home. This facility houses a 60-quart commercial mixer, a proofer (for rising the bread), a cooling rack, a bread slicer, deep freezes, fridges and three sinks.
According to Dianne, the oven can bake 30 loaves of bread at a time. They currently sell 80 to 120 loaves of various types per week. She also regularly produces many other baked goods such as cinnamon buns, doughnuts, long johns, and hamburger and hot dog buns.
"Brian keeps enough wood in the yard to supply the oven and then starts the fire between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., depending on how much I'm planning to bake the next day. Then, when the fire goes out at about midnight, he rakes out all the ashes, sweeps the brick floor up, damp mops it, and closes it up so it's ready for me. I get up at 3 a.m. and start mixing my mixes. I put my first load in at 7:30 a.m.," Dianne says.
The oven's bricks retain the heat long after the fire has gone out, and that stored heat is what cooks the bread.
The temperature in the oven can vary anywhere from 800 to 1,000¦ F once Brian has finished cleaning it out. According to Dianne, it usually drops about 100¦ per hour, and then it holds constant once it has reached baking temperature. She uses a thermometer and begins baking when it's at 450 or 460¦, at the most.
When she removes a batch of bread, she lets the oven stabilize for a good half-hour before putting in another batch.
Country Cottage Bakery bread products are made from 100 per cent whole wheat and unbleached white flour, rye, spelt and kamut specialty flours, as well as several types of rice flours (gluten free).
"To enable us to offer nutritional value labels, we found a software program on the internet called NutriCoster. We purchased this kit and it has been a very economical method for us," says Dianne.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Brian and Dianne Hughes, Box 62, Pine River, Manitoba, Canada R0L 1M0 (ph 204 263-5412; firstname.lastname@example.org).
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