Really Fresh Baking

by jefftkjefftk1 min read10th May 20208 comments

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CookingWorld ModelingPractical
Personal Blog

Many baked goods are much better when they still have their cooking warmth. Some foods, like pizza, are nearly always served this way, but others are only done this way occasionally. Several companies have used this to offer a much tastier product than you'd normally get:

  • Midwest Airlines chocolate chip cookies, which they would bake fresh on-board. Good for a cookie, let alone an airline cookie.

  • Bertucci's rolls, a somewhat typical roll that is famously delicious because it's served just out of the oven.

  • Krispy Kreme doughnuts, with a "hot now" light so people know when they can get them right out of the fryer.

Some of this is that in cases where it's not that hard to serve it fresh it's unexceptional to serve it that way. You wouldn't normally eat waffles, pancakes, crepes, popovers, or pasta except completely fresh. Thinking about why we do these this way, I think it's that they're operationally simple: short cooking times and small minimum batch sizes. Bertucci's and Midwest handle this by serving the same product to everyone, which really only works if you make it a central aspect of your identity.

If we could sort out the operational aspects of timing and preparation, it seems like we could be generally eating a lot tastier food. Burgers on fresh-baked buns, etc. Improvements here could be well-received!

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Not just baked goods. Most cooked food is best when still very warm from it's original cook, rather than cold or re-heated. Further, most vegetables are better when eaten within a few hours of picking. I think you're underestimating the logistical problems, though. The convenience and cost savings of storing and transporting pre-prepped food items is enormous.

I heartily endorse this service or product.

Been meaning to write a version of this for a while, but more detailed.

Many meals have prep work which scales extremely well, but are incompatible with small sizes.

A way to take advantage of such a property would be to have a central facility produce lots of high-quality meals for lots of people, serving them hot and fresh at the appropriate time.

Having invented the cafeteria/mess hall model of dining, the problem is in implementing such a result over a large enough scale to be viable. That scale is going to be roughly the number of people that will eat a batch of bread in a sitting while it is still hot and fresh, where the batch size is near the capacity of one person.

Solving the schedule problem and having enough people share mealtimes to make that worthwhile seems difficult on the 10-50 person range, but might get easier above 100 (since the serving window must be longer, so the batches can be timed to be ready at intervals during that window with little extra effort; putting a couple trays of cookie into the oven every 10 minutes is reasonable if you have 10 trays and a 1-hour serving window; having a 1-hour serving window for hot cookies is unreasonable if you are only making a couple dozen.)

When I worked at a summer camp with a reputation for good food, one of the meals they would make involved two baguettes per table, still warm from the oven, and it was super popular.

Cafeterias seem like they would be a good candidate for this with a lot of people and predictable demand, though they're often trying to feed people as cheaply as possible, and with a captive audience they don't have much incentive to improve. Fancy tech office cafeterias seem like they could do this if they wanted to?

In my experience, cafeterias are more likely trying to be inoffensive to everybody than to be trying to reduce costs, and in any case their costs per person are lower than the per-person costs of preparing comparable food at most, if not all, qualities of food.

The line between cafeteria and buffet restaurant isn't perfectly defined, and I think that there are already businesses that operate on a cash-per-eater basis that are substantially high-end cafeterias. Shifting to a pay-per-month basis for them seems plausible, but I'm not sure if they get the price per day down to commercially viable levels without sacrificing quality.

I think a tech office cafeteria is going to have a disadvantage in that it is going to provide mostly one real meal per day while also being required to provide snacks and beverages throughout the day, but it might have sufficient funding to be an interesting example.

To test the concept properly I'd want to have a cafeteria located near (within a short walk during lunch break) some (tech?) office buildings that offered monthly memberships as well as daily sales. A company-owned cafeteria for employee use is going to have illegible, although likely higher, value/cost.

You could use a small breadmaking machine. Make a large tub of flour mixture and a vat of wet ingredients with a dedicated scoop for each. Or scratch a mark on the bottom of the bread machine itself for the level the wet ingredients should be at, so you don't have to deal with washing an oily measuring scoop. Then just pour them in and turn the machine on three times a day. Many models have a delay start timer so that you can wake up to fresh bread.

Based on this, it sounds like you could have a hot fresh loaf every meal in exchange for a few minutes of pouring ingredients, mixing, and cleaning.

Here's the catch.

The small machines make 1-lb loaves. A grocery store loaf is 1.7 lbs. Industry standard is 18 slices per loaf, so a 1-lb should give you about 10 slices. If you like 2 slices of bread per serving, each "small" loaf is enough for 5 people who want bread every single meal. Sounds workable for a family of 4-5 or a cafeteria setting.

If you were cooking for just yourself, you'd be throwing away about 2.5 pounds of cold bread every day. If you were cooking for yourself and a partner, it's more like 1.2 pounds, but try convincing most people to not feel bad about that kind of food waste. Can't just give away the extras, because it would all be partly-eaten loaves, not nice pretty whole loaves.

My guess is that the end result for 1-2 eaters would be you'd make one loaf per day and eat cold bread the rest of the time. That might still be an improvement. But then there's that pesky hedonistic treadmill to worry about...

In my imagination, we'd have fresh-baked bread vending machines every city block instead of little free libraries. Bread takes around 1-1.5 hours to cool enough to serve. The vending machine produced bread only at high-demand times and could slice bread internally so that users could take away just the bits they wanted. Meeting the neighbors at the vending machine in the middle of the block to get your bread could be a pleasant social bonding experience.

You could combine this with a hydroponic GroShed. If it works as well as intended, you'd probably need to spend around $15,000 to for a GroShed big enough to make produce for a family of four. Imagine that it lasts 10 years and costs $100/month to run, and you're looking at a roughly $2,600 per year for year-round, garden-fresh veggies. Unfortunately, you'll still have to buy your fruit, and possibly your tubers, at the store.

If Whole Foods veggies cost an average of $3 per pound and your family eats its FDA-approved 5 servings per day of produce (roughly 1 pound per person), that might cost $4,400 per year. So you'd potentially be achieving some significant cost savings.

I'm being nice to the GroShed here, and not considering the opportunity cost of the square footage.

Your risk is that the GroShed doesn't work out for some reason:

  • It might be tiresome to set up or operate
  • Hydroponic produce might not taste very good
  • Perhaps it's limited in the variety or reliability of its output
  • It might break or be expensive to maintain
  • You might not actually follow through on eating 5 servings of garden-fresh veggies per day

This seems like another initiative that might be best executed on the scale of a city block.

Imagine if we altered the zoning of residential neighborhoods slightly so that it was normal for one chunk of every block to contain an automated garden + bakery. That sounds like fully-automated luxury gay space communism to me...

Bread takes around 1-1.5 hours to cool enough to serve

I think we're talking past each other a bit. I'm talking about serving bread that's had ~10min to cool, and is just cool enough not to burn you