The word ‘artisan’ when placed in front of the word ‘bread’, immediately brings out the assumption that you couldn’t possibly bake one! Artisan conjures up images of little bakeries in far flung places, using mysterious ingredients, known only to the bakers in these secret hideaways! It is of course, not true.
A true artisan bread is almost always made from very few basic ingredients to form the dough – where people get confused, is that many breads are now advertised or called ‘artisan’, because the manufacturers want you to believe the myth! With food items such as cheeses, olives, sundried tomatoes and a multitude of other ingredients, generally Mediterranean based, all added to extend the myth and whet your appetites even more.
The word ‘artisan’ means a skilled worker, highly practised in their trade, or who has created a unique product from their skill. When selling bread, the artisan part is intended to be descriptive, and to promote sales of the bread – it does not always have its’ true meaning! If this was the case, you can make artisan bread in your own kitchen at home, particularly if you have taken one of the TryMyKitchen breadmaking classes!
This is not to say that making TRUE artisan bread is an easy process – it is not just about the ingredients, it is more about the skill involved by those trained to be artisan bakers in the mixing and fermenting procedures needed to make a hand crafted loaf of bread. It is a process whereby the artisan baker knows some of the science behind breadmaking, the chemical reactions between the various ingredients, and the most beneficial environments in which the bread is able to develop correctly. If you want some fun, next time you go into a high street bakery and you see artisan bread or artisan loaves description in front of a loaf of bread, ask the staff how it was made and with what – frequently, they won’t know, or, it won’t be true artisan.
The basic ingredients in an artisan bread are purely flour, salt, water and yeast, unless using a sour dough mix where you will not necessarily require yeast, due to the chemical reactions when the mixture is made. By all means add herbs such as rosemary, or other ingredients including cheese, olives etc., but again, these can only be added in the right quantities to maintain the texture, shape and quality of the bread and crust. It is important to use a high protein content flour (many true artisan bakers use French flour or ‘levain’ flour to maintain this consistency), whereas normal white or brown loaf wheat flour has around 50% less protein content.
It is a fact now that ordinary standard bread is on the wane in supermarkets, with that specific section decreasing in size and with artisan ‘style’ breads increasing since 1998. Just don’t be fooled by the word artisan even though they may look extremely attractive, they will almost undoubtedly be mass-produced and not necessarily under the right conditions.
Stick with small bakeries that you know bake on the premises – you have more of a chance of traditional artisan baked bread, even though with busy lives it is not always possible to go to one specific shop just for bread!
Even better, invest in one of our recommended bread making classes in London by TryMyKitchen and learn the art yourself and have beautifully fresh-baked loaves whenever you have the time. Below are two links for London Artisan Bread Making Classes: