The World's Greatest Bread.
Read it and weep.
Indeed I weeped wishing I can live in Europe.Although American Artisan breads are really good now, I think it's the wheat which makes European bread so much tastier.
Sourdough, poolish, 48H in fridge or whatever we do, just cannot beat. Especially, red wheat (almost all KA flour for bread are 100% Red) is just so bitter and I cannot like it much :(
I subscribe to Intelligent Life but when I read the article I wasn't too impressed. It was light hearted and well written, yes, but not really about the WORLD'S greatest bread, it was mostly bread baked in England and, as usual, London or at least Home Counties-centric.
We in other parts of England (Yorkshire in my case) also produce great breads, so do (I'm told) bakers in continental Europe. But unless you test breads from all over the world you can't make such a claim. Taste is subjective so you need very many consumers to make such a judgement.
On Whidbey Island I had some wonderful bread, In Iceland I couldn't buy - yes buy! - enough of one type and even brought some home. I've baked some great breads in my own kitchen - and some in my wood-fired stone oven.
As for red flour which is, I assume, made from Canadian red wheat, I prefer using that to almost any other kind. Wheat grown in western Europe doesn't make the best bread, in my opinion. I use a lot grown by a local organic farmer to support him but it doesn't have the same strength as the Canadian so I usually mix the two.
There are so many variations ...
Mary, of course you are correct; sub-editor's hyberbole, as usual. I think what shocked me most about the article was the thought of anyone paying 21 GBP for a loaf of bread. ANY bread.
I have to say, I don't afford the writer of that article much credibility at all. As soon as I read the part about home bakers having no hope of matching the quality of professional artisan bakery breads, I wondered about this guy's experience with bread. Ditto his claim that home baking of bread is SO time consuming and inconvenient, or whatever he wrote.
Mary Fisher made some very pertinent points, and I have a few more to add.
As mentioned multiple times before, I had the good fortune to live in Germany for a year, part of the time in Munich and part in Cologne, and it was nothing short of a bread revelation for me. The variety and quality of the bread - mostly sourdough - was staggering. I'd never experienced anything like it (this was back in the 80s).
On returning to Australia with something of a bread obsession, I spent many years in fruitless quest of bread anywhere near as good as that I had enjoyed so much in Germany. This was prior to the artisan bread revolution, so the choice wasn't great. Nevertheless, a few SD artisan bakeries began to pop up in time, and although that gave cause for hope, still nothing came close to the German bread. That remained the case until my quest ended at the most unlikely of locations - my own kitchen! I stumbled into the world of home-baked sourdough online, after becoming addicted to baking pizzas at home. Until then, I had no idea it was even possible to make sourdough bread at home.
I hasten to add, that comment about my quest ending in my kitchen is not a boast about my baking skills. Rather, as many of us know, it is easily possible to turn out AMAZING bread at home, and that is to do with the process and ingredients, not advanced baking skills. I believe the home baker has certain advantages over the professional.
eg: I use only filtered water, pure sea salt and organic (and mostly biodynamic) flours that would be too expensive for most commercial purposes. In other words, my flours are of generally superior quality to those commonly used in a commercial context, except by the most exacting and non-compromising of artisan bakeries.
Secondly, home bakers can afford to retard their dough in the fridge overnight, extending the fermentation and thereby enhancing the flavour of their breads. Refrigeration costs on a commercial scale are often prohibitive, and can preclude extended fermentation overnight.
Thirdly, we can customise our breads eaxctly to our taste, tweaking bake by bake until we get it how we like it.
Fourthly, the variety of breads accessible to the home baker are literally endless. Many of us here have a small (or large!) library of books by the bread gurus, full of proven (no pun intended) recipes from all over the world. Further, we have fantastic communities like this one, where home and pro bakers from all sorts of backgrounds freely share their knowledge, techniques and formulae. That's a marvellous resource, and to be honest, the great majority of my favourite recipes have come not from the published gurus, but from home bakers on TFL, Wild Yeast and Sourdough Companion.
Of course, home bakers do not have the shaping skills and expansive knowledge of good pro bakers, and I would never claim otherwise. Neither do we have the sophisticated equipment, like pro steaming ovens, that are necessary for optimising the quality of certain types of bread.
However, we are able to improvise our ways around most equipment shortfalls. And my firm conviction is - and I base this on many years of questing unsuccessfully after great bakery bread, and on the VERY high benchmark set by the German breads I came to love so well - that the flavours and quality of bread we are able to attain at home once we have sufficient knowledge and experience, and assuming we are using only the very best ingredients, are right up with all but the elite artisan bakeries. Many might disagree, but I can only express my honest and considered opinion.
I wonder just how considered the views of the writer of that article are.
Ross, you nailed it. One can make bread at home at least as good, if not better than, that produced by any bakery in the world. I really believe that.
We have so many excellent bakeries in San Francisco where I live, but none of them compares to a loaf of homemade bread warm from the oven.
I will say this though: they are MUCH more consistent. I experiment, and occasionally produce flops that would be un-sellable.
BTW, where the heck do you buy biodynamic bread flour?
Well, just to clarify, my claim was a lttle short of yours. I have no doubt there are top quality artisan bakeries that do better bread than even the best home bakers can achieve...but I haven't come across one yet - not since I've been baking sourdough bread at home, that is. I've already raved about the quality of the German bread of all those years ago...
In a sense, though, I don't think these pro vs amateur comparisons are very meaningful. The main point I wanted to make was that for flavour, home-baked bread at its best is wonderful, and without doubt far better than most commercially available bread, including that from artisan bakeries. I didn't mean to include all artisan bakeries in that claim, though. That would be arrogant. I just thought the writer of that article was selling home-baked bread way short, probably through ignorance of what is possible for the home baker.
Completely agree with you re consistency. That's one of the points of differentiation between pro and amateur bakers.
The biodynamic flour I use comes from a farm in country Western Australia: the brand is Eden Valley. I find their flours superb. The bakers' flour is 11.7% protein content, which I think is about the same as your King Arthur bakers' flour - or AP flour, maybe? Whatever, I'm sure you guys have biodynamic flours available locally. Just a matter of doing some research and chasing it down, I imagine.