The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Turned in Novice Artisan Bread Baking Permit

Mike Jordan's picture
Mike Jordan

Turned in Novice Artisan Bread Baking Permit

Well, as much as I've tried, I've found that I'm just not an Artisan type of bread guy and I just don't have the pallet that a lot of people seem to have that say Artisan bread taste better. I guess my taste buds are just not European enough to think it's better. Yes, it's easy to do and you can mix it up ahead of time and then bake it when you need it (or is that noneed it?) and it does add to the flavor if you let it sit in the fridge for one or more days... but, I just don't find the great taste that everyone seems to rave about in their bread. 

I've pulled a few recipes off of the internet for French bread that are pretty much the same as out of the books I've been following (same salt, flour, yeast, water), but they don't go into the fridge (although I suppose it could), they don't have autolyse done (although it probably could), or use poolish or biga and you actually have to do some kneading. But the whole thing, from start to out of the oven is about 3 1/2 hours (it would be less if I proofed warmer).  I don't let it cool for an hour but slice it up hot and put lots of butter on it right out of the oven and the bread tastes great with more flavor than almost all of the ones I've done out the books by the experts I've tried (and I'm counting from when I got consistent and not all of my early attempts). 

I have learned a lot trying to do the Artisan thing, including about how the whole process of making bread works and how the different ingredients interact with each other and what causes them to act the way they do... that part has been real interesting. It's going to help me with just plain ole bread as well. I've come to like being able to use a the scales to bake with (that probably comes from spending a lot of years mixing my own dark room chemicals by weight and also using scales to mix different color glass powders in glass fusing by weight) but a lot of recipes on the internet are by volume and not weight, so I won't be using the scales that much unless I find some really good recipes I want to keep making and figure out the weight for them so I can keep it consistent between batches.  My wife will be glad to get some of the counter space back as well not having to keep moving that cast iron dutch oven all of the time, and all of my buckets and trays and...  well, you know, all that stuff that comes with baking bread. :D

So, I'm turning in my Novice Artisan Bread Baking Permit and going back to baking just plain ole country bread that a lot of us, that didn't live near the big cities, grew up with.




adri's picture

And why isn't your country bread artisan?

Do you produce it in an industrial style or use an automatic bread maker?

wassisname's picture

Actually, I think you just graduated from making their bread to making your bread.  Happy Baking!


David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Hey, if you've made bread that tasted better and takes less time than the Tartine Basic Country Loaf, then post the details! I just baked the best loaf of my short baking life but am willing to try something new. 

I have to say, though, that baking by volumetric measurements is a step backwards and I see no reason at all to even try such recipes unless you know they are using the word "cup" to mean 3x the 1/3 cup serving size by weight listed on the package (and you know what package they are using). 


ericreed's picture

As I understand it, there are two main issues in quality with straight doughs which comes from 1) a short fermentation and 2) overmixing. If you're kneading by hand, it'd be pretty hard to overmix the dough, so that's gonna help the taste right there. The time frame Hamelman mentions in his book "Bread" as too short is start to finish 3 hours, so you are close to that. You might try a comparison between your 3 1/2 hour bread and one that ferments a total of 41/2 - 5 hours and see if you don't prefer the latter. For a basic lean white bread, about 0.4% instant yeast in the formula should give a bulk fermentation time of 3 1/2 hours and final proof time of around 1 hour.

But, part of that longer proof I think is about keeping quality. As I understand, the lack of acidity that comes with short fermentation means the bread stales quickly and pretty much has to be eaten that day. If you're running a bakery, that could be a big issue, as someone just making a loaf for personal consumption, probably less so.

Breadbabe's picture

As i understand previous threads, 'artisan' means small batch, handmade. So yes, you have artisan bread!

Your permit can now be re-hung in the kitchen ;-)


BetsyMePoocho's picture


Quite a few years ago I had a very similar experience - Man, I hit the wall hard!  Nothing I was doing seemed to be any good.

I took some time off and regrouped.  Found out that I was actually "over engineering" all my attempts.  In other words just lost in too much detail...... 

So I went back to a basic recipe for white bread.  Just made a round loaf many times and kept notes.  Hey, it started to be fun again!  And after a while I gradually eased back into ferments, auto lease, and other fun stuff....  BUT I used my same "tried and true" basic dough recipe.

It seemed to work and I was more at ease with the process......

Sounds like you have a good plan, just get happy again and ease back into the game.......  It's like golf-- every now and again you make a great shot and it keep you in the game.

Keep going......




Wild-Yeast's picture

Just go to the grocery store and buy a loaf of their cheapest bread. Try eating a slice. It will snap you back into "artisan mode".

Actually repeating a simple recipe until you become proficient is good advice. Bread making isn't difficult - the ability to recognize what the dough is telling you is the art - it only comes with the repetitive practice of observation, taste, feel and crackling sound of a cooling crust...,


BetsyMePoocho's picture

Well said, Wild-Yeast....!  Sometimes we (some of us) get lost in the "bake by the numbers" and loose sight of the fact that, like you said, listen to what the dough is telling you..........

Enjoy the "art" and hey, flour is not all that expensive.......