The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Artisan vs Hot/Hearth

hjp's picture

Artisan vs Hot/Hearth

Can anyone bring clarification to the terms "artisan" and hot/hearth" breads? i've seen both terms used and the same breads (Italian, French) seem to be included in each category. I asked a friend at a research company that tracks sales of these breads and they don't seem to have a clear definition either.

scott lynch's picture
scott lynch

I've never seen the term hot/hearth breads, but I will say that as far as I know it, hearth breads are those baked directly on the oven floor, as opposed to pan breads which are baked in a vessel (bread pan or sheet pan).  I'm sure there are many breads for sale in supermarkets that are mistaken for hearth breads (mass-market sourdough boules, etc).  I would also guess that nearly all hearth breads (by the above definition) will be very lean doughs--very little in the way of added fat or sugar, as they would otherwise cause problems on the oven floor, such as sticking or scorching.

As for artisan bread, I think it was Peter Reinhart in BBA who defined it as bread on which at least some of the processes are done by hand.

My suspicion is that there will be significant overlap between these two, but that they do not necessarily go together.  I also suspect that a lot of retail outlets may use the term "artisan" to refer to any crusty free-form loaf irrespective of how it was made (perhaps more out of a lack of a standardized meaning for the term than any desire to deceive).

Any other bright ideas?

I'm sure the European Union has a 40 page document detailing what all the terms mean. . .

rcornwall's picture

The word artisan itself refers to a traditional way of doing something. A kind of time honored/proven method. In bread baking an artisan baker uses a long tradition of means and methods to prepare/bake bread. Like using a natural levain, long fermentation, etc.. Hot hearth refers to a bread that is baked on the oven floor, typically in a wood fired oven. I agree that the word is probably often used where it shouldn't be sometimes, particularily from commercial bakeries who use lots of modern short cuts to produce pretty, but unflavorful loaves in recored breaking time.


DavidAplin's picture

Hi Everyone, I agree with what rcornwall sez. The word artisan is descriptive of a process which involves a degree of skill and (mostly) manual labour. Think of a glass blower or a smith, their traditional ways of manufacturing their products would put them into the catagory of artisan. Various vocations may see changes occurr in the way things are done, some to save time and munny. Once the process becomes industrialized and mechanized it loses it's connection with "artisan", so we would never refer to workers in a light bulb factory as artisans. Bread production today is done on a huge industrial scale, and that is what we here at the fresh loaf distain, we crave our manna to be made by hand using the the age-old processes that are proven to be healthier and tastier than anything that WESTON BAKERIES might produce. Large companies know this and they attempt to appropriate peoples desire for better bread by using various buzz words such as "whole grain", "healthy", "artisan", and... "bread"


Speaking of the EU, I would be interested to see what their description of the term "artisan" means legally speaking. As we all know their are certain words that you just can't bandy about... you can't make white sparkling wine in Provence and call it champagne, and if you wanna sell pizza in Rome and call it "pizza" it has to conform to some very narrow rules, dough containing only unbleached flour, water, sea-salt and yeast, the topping ONLY roma tomatoes and mozzerella cheese, NOTHING ELSE. I like that. It keeps out the riff-raff. The French have the same stringency for baguettes.The Germans for beer, the Russians for embezzling state funds. Here in North Amerika companies get away with lying about just about everything about what goes into their stuff. Hey! I just the used the word "about" 3 times in a sentence!

Here's what Maple Leaf Foods sez on their website:

Artisan Bread: The traditional process for baking bread that is time and labour intensive, resulting in a crusty exterior and highly flavourful high-value products.

FroBake: Frozen dough that is shaped into bread products and directly baked by the retail or foodservice customer without the need for intermediate proofing (time required to allow the dough to rise). FroBake delivers a superior product that skips the 3-5 hours proofing and retarding phase required to take conventional frozen dough from frozen to oven ready.

Genetically Advanced Pigs (GAP): Genetically Advanced Pigs (GAP) is an affiliate of Elite Swine, Inc. Maple Leaf’s hog production company, which uses advanced selective breeding to achieve genetic improvement in hogs, resulting in improved growth rates, meat quality, reproduction, and animal size and consistency.

Mmmmmmmmmm! Yummy-Good!

Too bad that commerically produced bread wasn't required by law to say:

"Made exclusively by machine using...

A method of making a baked product having improved anti-staling properties comprising the steps of: forming a baking dough from ingredients including flour, yeast, an antistaling agent and water; and baking the dough to produce the baked product; characterized in that the baking dough includes from about 1 percent to about percent by weight of polydextrose anti-staling agent, based on the weight of the flour. The method of any one of claims 1-5 and 7, characterized in that the dough further includes a second anti-staling agent selected from glycerol monostearate, mono-diglycerides, sodium stearyl lactylate and Datem."

Gotta get me some of that good stuff :)

NOBODY would ever buy it !!!!!!      !!!!!     !!!!!!   ~^~

Thanks for reading my rant. Now, I'm gonna post some pics of ciabatta I made at the cottage in the old Moffat oven.


-David Aplin




rcornwall's picture



pudnpie's picture

Hi - as far as I know, here in the EU, artisan has no legal meaning. It hasn't been picked up up yet here in the UK by the supermarkets or mass food producers but I am sure it wouldn't be long before they do. Many food producers use words like "farm fresh" and they have no legal meaning at all. They are just marketing terms. The Denomination of Origin and other naming rules which we have in the EU are set up to protect specific products from the marketeers. However, they do not always guarantee quality. For example, the term Extra Virgin Olive Oil has to be produced in a certain way and the bottle must state that it is produced by mechanical means etc. However, most of what you buy in the supermarket isn't that good - OK for everyday but nothing special. On the continent, they keep all the best stuff for themselves!

 EDIT: I should also add that our food producers get away with everything as well. For example factory made bread that is promoted as being "heart healthy" with two tons of additives. Processed cheese advertised as "full of calcium" as well as god knows what else. The government is supposed to be cracking down on this kind of thing, but they never will because they are in thrall to big business. Alison