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Bread Nightmare

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
You'd think in the middle of the most saturated restaurant market in the country, a chef could find a good bakery. Well, after 4 months we have tried them all and still cannot find acceptable bread, let alone something that is "above and beyond". Obviously we could make our own, but if that were the case I wouldn't be on this forum asking for help. We use individual size dinner rolls, French, whole wheat and usually a third which we rotate. Most times the bread arrives from the bakery either spongy and soft or hard and over cooked. After a little while in the warmer it is inedible. 5 mins in the oven gets great results but is not practical for service. There are vents on the warmer which regulate heat loss or moisture, but the maitre'd won't let me touch them, claiming it took years of fiddling to get them right(obviously not, because the bread is horrible). So I've ordered some par baked frozen bread from Ecce Panis which you finish off before service. Somehow though, I don't think it will be better.
Some bakeries had great products, but daily minimum $$ was too high.

So, I guess what im asking is: What would you do? My boss is really fed up with the current situation and I need to do something soon.
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post #2 of 18
Are you in a position to make your own?

You might want to switch to larger loaves instead of rolls because they hold up better.

Might want to check on the FOH, because warmers are murder on bread. They might be putting it in too early or not batching it. Throw a pan at the maitre'd if you have to.

I agree that $$$ mins suck. You'll end up with loads of croutons and a staff sick of bread pudding, panandes, etc. It worked for me once, when there was a constant surfit of olive bread, but it was bad for the house. Hopefully you can get better terms. Not much to do if the rolls are crap when they are delivered.

BTW, I think it was Panini that had a story about taking all his old bread and turning it into croutons while being able to sell it for a greater profit then he wasn't able to keep up with the demand for the croutons. It was a few years ago, so my memory may be rusty.
post #3 of 18
What kind of rolls do you serve & what is your restaurant concept?

Ecce Panis is good. I usually like everything I get from them.

You might contact a couple of large bakeries outside the city and see if they deliver.
The Rockland Bakery in Nanuet is huge and worth a field trip to walk through their canyons of bread for sale. They might deliver.
There is also a place in Port Chester called Bread Alone that might be interested in having you as a customer.

I've found on a number of occasions that demi-loaves hold both heat and texture better-especially when subjected to those horrible roll warmers.

Do check what the waits are doing. Often they just fill the drawers to the brim before service and only refill when they've taken the last roll.

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post #4 of 18
I would also try to see if you can get "Bread Alone."

I often hear chefs extolling the importance of the bread basket.

If you want to reconsider making your own without making a big production out of it, I could give you some formulae for some easier to knock off breads... there are even a couple quick breads (aka no yeast) that are pretty cool. I do one with walnut (or walnut-raisin, walnut-prune), also one with sundried tomato, pine nut and provolone. Then with yeast there's a 20 minute one rise no-brainer whole wheat loaf with molasses I picked up from an Irish cooking school. No kneading too, sheesh, and it's very moist and holds well. Or you could proof something overnight, retarded, and just bake. (I always do that with a natural starter, but now we're getting complicated, so scratch that).

I have to admit I'm a snob about par-baked. :o I taste it as awful, but depending on your clientele, I think 99% of the population usually has no clue.

My husband and I had dinner at a restaurant that had good seafood but crappy service (as in gives you your entree then makes you wait 15 minutes to get cutlery). The meal started with thick slices of hearty restaurant-baked whole wheat bread, slightly sweet with honey. It really added to the impression, as it's become so rare to get that and you can REALLY taste the difference. There was only one kind of bread in the basket but it was good.

It's become so rare to get nice bread in a restaurant. To me it's an important first impression, and a fairly inexpensive way to make a great impression with a little effort.
post #5 of 18
Forget par baked, forget ordering from a bakery, the way to go is in house bread, and it doesn't have to take up a lot of time or space, no bread warmer needed if you fire the bread 45 min. before service. How, you might ask is this done? Easy, a simple foccacia takes 10 min. to mix a couple of hours to proof, shaping is minimal, you can do anything from olive, to roasted r. pepper, to roasted onion and garlic, the sheet style bread makes for uniform slices, and to top it all off , it's awesome. nuff said
post #6 of 18
Order baguettes from the expensive grocery stores. Ask for a discount, but you might have to pick them up. Maybe put the bread in plastic bags and put them in the warmer. That might work a bit better.
post #7 of 18
Have you tried putting them in the proofer for a couple minutes first?
post #8 of 18
I would go to your local Whole Foods or equiv. and see what small artisan bakeries they sell there. Then contact those bakeries. Most will deliver. Keep in mind though that if you are looking for good authentic artisan, french styled bread then it is going to be crusty (they work hard to get it that way) and is often considered too dark (on the outside, again a matter of taste, as bread snobs almost always look for dark loaves), and rolls wil be at a premium, if they are made at all.

If you are currently getting breads that utilize a lot of yeast then yes you are are going to get a substandard product that is spongy or sweet.

Keep in mind that diners don't actuall think about where the bread comes from just that it is in your restaurant. And a restaurant is only as good as its worse dish.
"Just can't wait to get on the road again."
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"Just can't wait to get on the road again."
Willie Nelson
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post #9 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thank you for all the imput. I already make killer quick breads like pumpkin, zucchini and banana. The problem is, being a high end French place, we are expected to have the best baguette around. It's the whole poolige thing, developing that slow fermentation and complex flavor. Gradually, I will get it if I keep pressing on.
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post #10 of 18
Have you contacted Sara's Breads in the Chelsea Market? I know they service many grocery stores and likely do restaurants too.

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post #11 of 18
Why don't you see if you can hire a morning baker? That way you can do the bread and a coupla cakes as well?
post #12 of 18
When I was a prep cook I made bunches of rolls per day in the convection oven. I seem to remember that we bought the dough pre made and frozen. It was a southwest style joint, so I'd add chunks of cheddar, corn and chopped jalapenos. I'd let them cool then put them in big plastic bags til service. People loved them. And it was easy and only took a few minutes for each step. (Make sure day before that dough is thawing, mix in cheese/corn/jalapeno, form rolls,[I'd make three ping pong ball sized blobs and put them in a muffin tin] proof, throw in oven, take out of oven, cool, throw in bags.)

Seems that if you got a good dough purveyor you could, I dunno, throw some tarragon or rosemary in them and brush with butter.

If you want the bread delivered, have you tried the Rock Hill Bakehouse? Excellent breads---organic, quality ingredients, plus I know the owner and he's cool. (prob. expensive, tho)
post #13 of 18
one of our top restaurants has a mixed bread basket....makes small angel biscuits...you know the ones where the dough can be in the fridge for days and is cooked off as needed. Pretty sure they make everything in house and they are not fussy. I was surprised to hear the biscuits were angels.....hadn't made those since high school home ec class.

I'm trying to remember what else is in the basket, may mean a trip downtown is necessary.
cooking with all your senses.....
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post #14 of 18
Thread Starter 
We have been trying some in house baking, the frozen par baked bread was sub par at best. Very gummy and dense. Our quick breads like muffins and squash loaves are great, but those are easy. It's the fermentation/proofing process that is taking some time to work through. we seem to get "stuck" fermentations, dough that doesn't rise much.
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post #15 of 18

Focaccia!

I have it easy with an Italian restaurant, we make 4 sheet pans of focaccia a day and 2 or 3 baguettes for our bruschetta. The recipes are mine (I baked for about 5 years) so I just hired someone with baking experience and showed them Exactly how I needed it done. Since then I've offloaded our other desserts as well, and it all is working out fine. If you can find a way to bake your own bread -do it. But as far as french baguettes, there must be some small artisan bakery where you can get great ones, all of my favorite french places just have the baguettes in a basket by the service station. the servers just hack off a 8 in. piece and then cut slices mostly through and serve with room temperature butter, it's fantastic -no warming and it still looks elegant. Just me, but I always hated dinner rolls, if they're not handmade they just seem kinda "commercial steakhousey"
-ciao
-mike
nel maiale, tutto e buono!
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nel maiale, tutto e buono!
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post #16 of 18
sullivan st bakery

the place where peter lugers gets their bread from:

tribeca oven

Tribeca Oven: Home

447 Gotham Parkway Carlstadt,
NJ 07072 T 201.935.8800 F 201.935.6685

i have a friend in the bread business... i can get you a name and number if youd like to speak with someone to set up a bread route... i know for certain they work with european breads and cater to high-end restaurants in nyc.
post #17 of 18
Fresh From Calandra's

(however not sure if they deliver to LI/NYC.)
post #18 of 18
Gladyce, how are you making out with your quest for the perfect baguette?

My favorite baguettes are "old school," with a natural yeast starter, and slow long rise in the retarder, quite a wet dough. My favorite starter for begins by capturing the yeast from unsprayed apples once, then continuing to feed it with flour and water. I have other starters, but the apple one seems to make great baguettes with the crumb and flavor I'm after.

If you want to use commercial yeast (and need something simple), it crossed my mind you might do well with Philippe Gosselin's method. The flour is mixed with ICE COLD water, NO yeast or salt yet, and left to stand in the refrigerator overnight. This allows the amylase enzymes to go to work on the flour. Then the next day it's mixed with yeast and salt and the fermentation and proofing proceeds.

Peter Reinhart has simplified this a little in his book The Bread Baker's Apprentice. He said that he discovered that if you keep everything really cold, that you can add the yeast and salt with the flour and water the first day, and retard it all. The percentage of water is 79.6, as opposed to an average commercial baguette with 60% water.

I would think your problem with getting a good bakery also has also to do with the fact that baguettes are generally only good for a couple hours, I would say three hours is toward the max, so to find a bakery that didn't bake your baguettes at 6am would be part of the issue. If you decide to still seek a commercial bakery vs in-house, I would say perhaps find a bread with higher % water to help it hold longer.

As for your "stuck" rise, could you possibly be using too much yeast? What temperature are you fermenting at and for how long? What flour are you using? What % water?

BTW, I find I never have issues with natural starters pooping out like that, if you feel like crossing into that fronteir. Your starter will love you if you're baking with it every day.;)

But if that's too much to get into, I would say you could consider trying the Gosselin method, or Reinhart's adaptation of it (it is the Pain a l'Ancienne recipe in The Bread Baker's Apprentice).
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