The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Chad uses mixer? Stretch and fold not?

baliw2's picture
baliw2

Chad uses mixer? Stretch and fold not?

Was watching youtube video with Chad in Denmark. Says he uses a mixer for @ 14 minutes on slow in total.

Stretch and fold I thought? Anybody else see that?

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Well, looks like Chad has used mixers for a while (probably since 1999, but certainly since 2009 prior to publication of Tartine Bread):

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/13525/my-imitation-chad-robertson039s-country-sourdough

I think that thread covers his process in better detail. 

More recently in Food & Wine: 

Using nothing but flour, water, French sea salt and wild yeasts, he made hundreds of loaves a day in a wood-fired oven, all by himself, all by hand (with help from one very gentle diving-arm mixer.) 

Source: http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/lessons-from-chad-robertson 

I'm not shocked; based on daily volume of production at Tartine and number & style of loaves, using a completely non-mechanical process (such as trough kneading & folding) is likely not efficient enough. 

emkay's picture
emkay

The book's recipes

imaloafer's picture
imaloafer

Once mechanical devices are used, it is no longer "Artisan" in the strictest definition. That being said, I think most successful artisan operations reach a point where a decision must be made on volume and earnings, thus a mixer, or not.

 

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

The term is romanticism at best and somewhat pointless. The real point of "artisan" breads is that they are made using good core ingredients (flour, salt, yeast, water at the core) with no chemicals or additives and that they are made using a good long process to develop flavour and maximise nutrition.

The concept of loaves being hand-made is, imo, meaningless.

I say this because:

The soil that the wheat was grown in was prepared and fertilised using machines (tractors that ploughed the land)

The wheat seed itself was sown in the field using a machine (a tractor and seed feeder), not sown by hand.

The wheat ears were harvested using a machine (combine harvester), not collected by hand.

The wheat grains were separated from the chaff and cleaned using specialised machines, not cleaned by hand.

The wheat grains were turned into wheat flour using machines (a flour mill, water or wind), not ground by hand

The flours were then sieved to create white flour and bran using machines (mechanised filters), not sifted by hand

So even before the baker gets involved in the product, machines have done everything up to that point. To quibble whether the term "artisan" should then have some dependence on whether the dough is hand mixed, or mixed by machine is somewhat mute to the point of being meaningless. What real difference is it going to make? The bread product is formed by the chemical reactions of the various ingredients and the time and temperature they are managed with. Those ingredients don't give a fig if they are being mixed in a bowl, a trough or in a bucket ! Whether mixed by hand or machine, Nature will just get on with its thing once those ingredients come together.

For me, an "artisan" bread should be one with natural ingredients, no chemicals or additives. Honestly I wouldn't care if the entire process were automated just so long as we are creating good "real" bread.

To consider the flip side, would you be happy to buy an "artisan" loaf of crappy supermarket bread that followed the Chorleywood process but did every stage by hand? I wouldn't !

EP

imaloafer's picture
imaloafer

While I agree with much of what you are saying, the definition, in most circles, is one who makes by hand. In any event, there is no denying the science based fact that use of a mixer on dough, has detrimental effects, to color, and flavor, no matter how small. 

It is not my intent to state here that Chad is not an artisan baker. I am a huge fan of Tartine, employ his techniques often and have taken most of my baking classes to Tartine as an example of how high the bar can be set. Just pointing out the fact, like Chad and Tartine, most successful "Artisan" bakers will at some point have to choose hand made, for machine mix, based on what their personal beliefs are, and if they in fact want to boost that volume. 

I think we can agree that in many "Artisan" food categories, there have been those who have gone large scale, and the product has not remained the same. It doesn't mean it's not a good product anymore, it's just not the same small batch product that started out.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

not have anythng to do with machines that plant, harvest and mill grain.  Bakers arenlt farmers, or millers and no one expects them to be anythong but a baker.  Artisan bakingm can only be done by an artisan that makes bread by hand, without the use of machines and bakes it in a naturally wood, coal or nthoer naturallu fired oven instead of in a gas or electric machine providing heat and or steam.  But, baking bread without the use of machines isn't enough to be called an artisan baker who makes artisan bread.  The bread also has to be recognized as the very best of its kind by the artisan's peers - other artisan bakers who also bake without the use of machines - hand mixing, fermenting,  shaping and baking their bread without the use of machines.

There are many great artisan bread bakers all the world over who carry on the age old traditions in the crafting of their truly artisan bread.  Those who claim to be artisan bread bakers or that their breads are artisan but don't actually meet the standards,  are just those wanna bees saying  'me too' when they clearly do not meet these clear, simple if few standards - not to mention their bread is'.t good enough anyway. 

There are other fine, honorable, just and difficult titles to attain for those great bakers who use machines. - like Master Baker .   Mr J. Hammelman attained and deserves that one so well.

Happy Non Artisan Baking - nothing at all wrong with that.     

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

Look up 'artisan' in the dictionary.

Quote:
 artisan

n 1: a skilled worker who practices some trade or handicraft
     [syn: {craftsman}, {artisan}, {journeyman}, {artificer}]

It's not about which tools you use or eschew, it's about whether you're skilled in their use. If you want to use a mixer, go for it. It doesn't make you any less an 'artisan' baker than the purist who kneads only by hand and uses only wood fired ovens built by gnomes, of only the purest clays taken from creek banks at the second dark of the moon following the autumnal equinox. 

The only criterion is, do you know what you're doing and apply those skill to your baking. If you do, you're an artisan baker.

cheers,

gary

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman
gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

The Wikipedia article disagreed with nothing I wrote. The wisegeek article was pretty much all over the place with not a few inaccuracies. No chemicals? What the hell is salt? Oddly, I saw no mention of milk or butterfat, which have been used in bread for hundreds of years. The Jews would not have used dairy because it would have made the bread non pareve. Wisegeek read more like a hippy-dippy religious tract.

g

gerhard's picture
gerhard

No chemicals? What the hell is salt?

A mineral ;)?

gerhard's picture
gerhard

I think the tools have little to with what makes an artisan, the process and lack of chemical shortcuts is the important distinction.  Where would you draw the line, is thermometer ok, plastic spatulas, are you allowed to have an air conditioned building, how about a stainless steel bowl, stainless steel work surface, should the oven be heated with camel dung..........  

If somebody wants to work in the stone age hey that's fine by me but I don't think that makes him more of an artisan then the person that uses a mixer and modern scales and other implements.  Don't think this trade is not large enough to make such arbitrary distinctions.

Gerhard

proth5's picture
proth5

It cropped up - along with other unfortunate things -  on these pages years ago.

Here is what I should have written then:

The Meaning of Artisan

Merriam Webster:

1.a  worker who practices a trade or handicraft

2. one that produces something (as cheese or wine) in limited quantities often using traditional methods.

 

From the Oxford English Dictionary

  1. A worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand

“Artisanal” is the adjective form of artisan.  They are both words recognized by Merriam Webster and the Oxford English Dictionary.

I use these sources rather than Wikipedia since they tend to be held to higher standards and have demonstrated a certain level of credibility.

It’s a controversial topic, and the debate has raged long.

“Artisan” is a term that has quite a history and really served to separate those toiling in areas that required a particular focused skill (like blacksmithing or dying or weaving) from ordinary farmer folk – who might have some rough skills in those areas, but did not have the level of skill of the skilled craftsperson.

Guilds codified the artisan system eventually producing the ranks of apprentice, journeyman, and master.  The journeyman might be highly skilled, but did not own his own establishment, only the master was both highly skilled and owned his/her own shop.

All labored with hands and tools.  The blacksmith could not operate without an anvil, nor the weaver without a loom.  Tools and skill have always been a requirement for an artisan.  Each master had apprentices to provide certain amounts of muscle – the arms of the blacksmith’s apprentice at the bellows – the legs of the baker’s apprentice at the kneading trough (now there’ a “traditional” method that few today will use!).

But on to a less controversial trade – woodworking.

Most of you have seen turned wood – it comprises the spindles on the back of chairs or the spokes of a wheel.  In its most utilitarian sense they only need to be roughly done – after all they are only performing a function. But all require a lathe.  Woodworking not being my primary craft – I don’t know an entire history of lathes, but I’ve seen quite a few.  I’ve seen them turned by steam or water power and I’ve seen the contraption called a springpole lathe that involves a springy stick (or sapling), a strap of leather, and a crude treadle.  In my mind I see lathes run by more sophisticated treadles or by the sweating efforts of the young apprentices – these may be a fantasy – I don’t know.

But what I do know is that it is the skill of the woodworker – the artisan, if you will – that makes the difference.  He is the one whose eye and mind choose the chisel and it is his eye and heart that will take the effort to select wood so that the grain matches on a series of spindles or spokes.  When at work, it is his hand and eye that will guide the depth of the chisel so that the wood isn’t blemished and so that each part will have a pleasing shape and will look the same.  It is a considerable skill.

That he should lose his claim as an artisan when he reaches over to turn on the switch of his electric lathe is a step that I do not have the hubris to take.  He still needs to supply the considerable skill – all he has done is to use a certain version of the tool.  A version unavailable those who went before him for centuries, but one that might have been eagerly embraced by them if it had.

And so on to bread.

I have stood at the mixer with bakers who are not just self proclaimed experts.  These are bakers who have produced fine breads over many years of perfecting practice. Bakers who have honed their skills in the refining fire of competition and have had people from all over the world proclaim them worthy.  Theirs are the shoulders on which we as home bakers and others as professional bakers stand.  I have stood with them at their mixers and let me tell you it is all about human skill.  I won’t even say hand skills as that is too narrow a statement. I hear the voice in my head (which I hear as clearly as though the individual was standing next to me) – that voice that encourages me to do better and try harder – telling me to (literally) listen to the dough, to smell the dough (which is why fresh yeast is the experience that it is…),to taste the dough (to check for salt, mostly), to look at the dough, to feel it before the mix, at pauses in the mix, and even during the mix (“spiral surfing” I call it – so cool…). I’ve seen their skills as they participate in every step of the process.

I don’t think I am qualified to make the call that the simple act of pushing that button on that mixer has caused them to stop being artisans.  They employ a tool to provide the muscle.  It doesn’t diminish their considerable skills in the least.

That some bakers choose not to use a mixer neither diminishes nor exalts them – they have chosen their tools.  The bread always speaks for itself and that is how it should be.

The same holds with the choice of ovens.  Not only does debate rage amongst bakers as to whether a wood fired oven really bakes bread in a superior way to a well constructed deck oven, but the choice of the tool does not the bread make.  I have eaten terrible breads pulled from wood fired ovens built with authentic 18th century methods and materials, and I have eaten wonderful breads pulled from modern deck ovens.  What is defining is the human skill that must apply.  Does the baker‘s judgment (not the timer on the oven control) tell when the bread is done? Does the baker’s skill control the process?  If the bread tells the story of the baker’s skill and the bread is wonderful – we have experienced the work of a master or journeyman. If the bread tells the story of the baker’s skill and is less than wonderful, we have at best, an apprentice. But all are part of the continuum of “artisan” – a skilled trade.

That a merchant decides that only those who use this or that tool will line the shelves is another matter.  It shows the prejudices of the merchant – or perhaps the customers who buy – but neither reflects on the baker.

That our world – where advertising is all pervasive, it seems – should have co-opted the word “artisan” (as it did with “commercial” and “gourmet” and “professional” and “extreme”) is only natural – if somewhat distasteful that the word is abused.  It robs us of a useful distinction (one that was not as useful prior to the twentieth century) between bakers who control the process start to finish and those who give over control to machines.  I recently attended a big trade show – and they divided the exhibition floors by the labels “Industrial” and “Artisan” – it told us what to expect and was, for the most part a useful distinction when used for that purpose.

While I don’t think the term of “artisan” is worth fighting about, I do believe it is worth fighting for. In an age where a machine can mix, shape, score, and bake bread without so much as the touch of a human hand so that it looks handmade (and I’ll admit to finding those machines to be very cool) we need a term for the individual who applies human skill to the process of making bread.  It is only fair to distinguish the machine operator from the artisan and the simple term “baker” will no longer do. I use artisan in its most traditional sense – it is a skilled trade – a trade where skills are learned through training and repetition.  It does not require the unlearned inspiration of the “artist”, nor will it accept a permanence of inferior results.  Each practitioner passes through a continuum of expertise using tools that leave the skill of the human in control. A baker that controls the process from start to finish is an artisan. It should be about the baker and the skill seen in the bread. Nothing more or less.

Trevor J Wilson's picture
Trevor J Wilson

Well said!

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

It is Star Date 2325. We are aboard the USS Enterprise. Food replicators provide us with any food or drink we want. James T looks at the machine and says "give me a loaf of 21st Century artisan rye bread" and out pops a warm 100% rye and caraway loaf, identical, atom for atom, molecule for molecule to that which is made by "artisan bakeries" today. Yet . . . no hands were involved in the making of this bread, no "artisan baker" was involved in the making of this bread. Is it then "artisan bread"?

More food for thought. Various definitions of the term "artisan" state that an artisan baker is one keeping to traditions. But which traditions make him an artisan and which not? Thousands of years ago man would grind wheat grains on a stone with a smoothed out hollow using another stone to grind with. Flour and water made for a flat and probably rather tasteless bread. I see no "artisan bakers" following this tradition. So clearly the choice of "tradition" is rather subjective. The Chorleywood process, hated by many, has been with us for some time. In 50-100 years time it might itself be deemed tradition. "It was how they made most of the bread back in the 21st Century". So would bakers in 50-100 years time be rightly deemed "artisan bakers"?

The term starts to become meaningless in so much as it starts to lose any identity with the most fundamental requirement of what most would wish to define as "artisan bread", i.e. that it is made from natural ingredients, with no chemicals, additives or artificial preservatives. What is important is that the bread is wholesome, healthy and nutritious. How it is made is entirely secondary to that requirement. There should therefore be a term to define and distinguish such bread and if that term is not "artisan bread" then a new term needs to be defined ("real bread", "natural bread" etc). If the term "artisan bread" IS defined as bread that is wholesome, healthy and nutritious and free from chemicals, additives and preservatives then we come back to the point that how it is made is not important (saving that the process itself is able to add to or support the wholesomeness). So whether hand-made or machine made is irrellevant, just so long as the end product is healthy, natural and nutritious.

proth5's picture
proth5

You will notice that as I discuss "artisan" it refers to the person - not the product. The baker is the artisan. The bread is, well, what the bread is.

We get tied up in your thought experiment when we mistake the product for the producer. If the producer controls the quality of the product, the producer fits in the continuum of "artisan." If the producer continues to make a product that people reject, the producer will never be a master (or in business for that matter...) and will eventually drop from the ranks. If someone has the skill to program our hoped for replicators in such a way that they produce a fine product - then that person may be an artisan of sorts. Perhaps not an artisan baker - since he/she is not using hands to bake, but perhaps an artisan programmer. We seem to view technology as completely foreign, but to those who appreciate, say, coding, there are people who do it well and elegantly and people who do not. It is not exactly hands, but it is consciousness, skills, and tools. Perhaps the word "artisan" in that context is too far a stretch under today's paradigms where we still rely on mechanical means to produce things, even though those mechanical means are often now machines rather than hands. We will find a term in good time. It should however, apply to the person, not the product.

When our machines become truly intelligent and even our thoughts and technical skills are not needed, we will need to come to terms with something bigger - what it means to be human at all - and will probably leave the debate on "artisan" in the dust to which we will return.

But even Counselor Troi, in a fit of discouragement over a letter from her mother, asks the replicators for "real chocolate" - but she can't get it. There are no artisans to make it for her. 

Peace.

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

side with some of your thoughts there.

First and foremost the "product" can not be separated from the maker The entire point of an artisan is that he/she is crafting a product. The maker is intrinsically associated with the product. The product is the heart and purpose of the artisan.

Herein lies a dilemma. Can a person who is hugely skilled, has long experience and uses traditional methods and who makes a largely UNHEALTHY product, be considered an artisan?

I come back to Chorleywood. There doubtless exist numerous bakers out there who have years of experience and expertise of making/replicating the kind of breads that follow the Chorleywood process, breads laden with chemicals, enhancers, improvers, additives, preservatives etc etc. Personally I have never made such bread, I don't know how to make it. Is such a baker an artisan baker?

I would say not because for me, the term artisan MUST have an association with a product of quality, naturalness and goodness. The product doesn't have to be a great seller, it's not about business, it's about producing something great. There are people out there who can make traditional Coracles (a dish shaped raft), there are people who can make birch bark canoes. Others can make "greenwood" chairs using manual techniques and craftsmanship. The demand is tiny compared to modern products made via automation but these people perpetuate the old traditions. What's important is that they are using natural resources to make great products. Whether by hand or using machines I don't personally care, the point for me is that the product is natural and good. If a piece of wood needs a hole drilling in it, it matters little if the drill bit is turning via man power or electric power imo. What matters is the wood, the resources, the techniques and the end product.

So for me the term artisan should apply equally to the maker and the product being made. If it doesn't, then the term has little or no meaning. The product must be an artisan product and the maker must be an artisan craftsman/woman.

I suspect however that the term is currently too loosely defined and lacks the necessary association with product quality.

proth5's picture
proth5

you are as committed to your point as I am to mine.

I am put in mind, though, of an interview with David Hockney. I'll need to paraphrase a bit, but I'm sure a little internet research will find it if you care to invest the time.

The interviewer wanted Mr. Hockney to talk about "art." He demurred and finally the interviewer asked about his work. "Oh, you want to talk about painting!" Mr. Hockney said, "that I can do..."

He further went on to say that he wasn't sure if there was such a thing as art - "But I am certain there is such a thing as an artist."

I think about this from time to time.

Again, peace.

proth5's picture
proth5

 

I was going to let this go. Agree to disagree and just end it. Although I do not have any illusions about changing people’s minds, I do occasionally like to present coherently argued “different points of view.” Add to that the chore of taking down the pumpkin vines, which while providing an opportunity to bask in the magnificent Colorado weather, is not intellectually stimulating. I was letting the mind roll ‘round and came up with a couple thoughts. Since the door has been opened, I’ll go ahead and walk through.

 

Of course the artisan and his (and folks, I get weary of typing he/she constructs, so just read it that way) product cannot be separated, but the person is an artisan and the product is a product made by an artisan. A subtle insistence, but one I believe to be important. It puts the human at the center, which, in this relationship is where the human belongs.

 

I’ll go so far as to say that when an artisan works in food, that the product should be “wholesome.” I don’t like to use “healthy” because besides bread, I make candies and while they are delicious and made with what I consider to be good ingredients, I cannot even pretend that they enhance anyone’s health (well, maybe mental health and happiness, but here in Colorado there are other things for that…)

 

But here is where things get tricky. There are people who believe that wheat is pretty much equivalent to poison. You’re not even supposed to feed grains to dogs anymore. So that organically grown, all natural, fresh milled wheat bread is nothing but a little loaf of death. I tend to disagree with this, but they are passionate.

 

So what becomes important here is that I am also passionate. The artisan must believe for himself that the food is wholesome and good. We give an entirely different name to those who produce food while believing it to be harmful.

 

There are those who think GMO’s will kill us all, there are those who think GMO’s will save the world and all the people in it. One of the camps is probably right, but as of this moment we don’t really know which, so how do we draw a line?

 

Given that we cannot currently reach an objective measure of “wholesome” or “healthy,” the artisan, the person who controls the outcome, must decide that for himself.

 

This Chorelywood process is an interesting matter. My understanding (which admittedly is limited) is that the process exists to wrest control from the baker. It is a manufacturing process: X minutes of mix every time, x seconds of bulk ferment, x minutes of proof, dough consistency always the same so that it can be machined properly. I think it is easy to see that such a process is not leaving the person in control.

 

But the actual ingredients – ah, here we must think a bit. The baker – the human being – is now in charge. So after years of study, of trial and error, of learning technique upon technique, the baker decides that only with the addition of a dough conditioner can the very best bread be made. He still controls every step in the process, but that dough conditioner – well, that’s the ingredient that will make his bread the very, very best.

 

I will not take away the title of “artisan” from that baker. I may disagree to the very core of my being, I may never, ever buy the smallest slice of his bread, and I probably won’t invite him over for dinner, but when others judged that I was baking poison, I knew in my heart that they were wrong and continued on my path. What sort of hubris makes me take that from another?

 

So the essence becomes about intent. As delicious or attractive or useful the product may be it cannot have intent. When I bring passion to my work, when I work hard to produce the very best according to my own good judgment, I have the intent to be an artisan. If my judgment is lacking, not even crows will eat my bread, and I refuse to even consider the wisdom of my peers, I eventually fail and leave the ranks. If my intent is to be do the minimum to produce a product that is “better than nothing”, I never even attempted to be an artisan and I really should not call myself that.

 

The French (bless’em) put their hope in laws to define who is an artisan baker and who is not, but the rest of us struggle. Of course the artisan has a product, and that product should be a good one. But only by focusing on the person can we discover more deeply the meaning and importance of the word and our actions.

 

gerhard's picture
gerhard

"Guilds codified the artisan system eventually producing the ranks of apprentice, journeyman, and master.  The journeyman might be highly skilled, but did not own his own establishment, only the master was both highly skilled and owned his/her own shop."

I think the guilds for various trades where more about maintaining the status quo and limiting competition.  It was difficult to go from Journeyman to Master because you needed to be sponsored by a Master and they generally only allowed their offspring to progress along that road.  Apprentices where the next best thing to slaves as they worked for room and board until they where skilled enough to be a Journeyman.  The whole thing had more to do with maintaining class structure by preventing the worker to move up to becoming the competition.

Gerhard

 

proth5's picture
proth5

so much of the "politicking" you describe is true - but the code was there.

My father went through the ranks and for awhile was a Master Printer without having relatives in the ranks, so, sometimes these things work out.

Pat

gerhard's picture
gerhard

I agree that this was not the way things have been in living memory.  My comments really were meant more at the origin of the trade guilds and that the origins had more basis in protectionism than some altruistic want to improve the trades.

Gerhard

proth5's picture
proth5

You probably have seen the whole thing more realistically than I. I'm going through a phase where at least I try to see the good in humanity. :>)

Pat

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Pat, Brava.

proth5's picture
proth5

I enjoy breaking the 140 character barrier. :>)

Thanks....

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

be one?  The idea that you can separate the Artisan Bread Baker form the Artisan Bread they bake doesn’t hold much water since one can’t exist without the other no matter what your definition of ‘Artisan’ is.  Bad bread isn’t usually made by Artisans and Artisans usually make great bread.  The perceived quality of the bread usually has to be as good as the perceived quality of the baker.  I say usually because even the best can burn a few loaves that were flat Frisbees when they went into the oven.  But, to get to the bottom of this nice debate, we have to get to where, when and why Artisan anything came into the lexicon of communicable life and what the difference is between a tool and a machine and how they effect tradition.  I will ignore the term ‘machine tools’ since it is too difficult to understand – just like Artisan…..

 

Before machines, for the most part 120 -150 years ago,  read before electricity and non man powered engines, there were bread bakers,  really good ones in fact, but there weren’t any Artisan Bakers or Artisan bread.  These ‘Artisan’ tags didn’t exist but people knew who the good bread bakers in town were and who were not so good at their craft.

 

But, and there always is one, everyone made bread pretty much the same way.  No machines since they didn’t existywt.  But they had tools like all craftsmen do; dough scrapers, spatulas, scales, flour shakers, etc.  All bakers made their bread by hand using pretty much the same methods.  Everything in the entire process was done by hand which means that the amount of bread made was naturally limited to what we call small batches today, by how much a man or woman could physically produce.  All, of the bread was baked in a naturally fired oven of some kind that didn’t use natural gas or electricity.

 

What separated the bakers, then as now, was their finished product and its perceived quality.  Some very few bakers used sourdough an ancient leaven, some used barm, the workhorse dough riser since ancient times, and many had or were converting over to the new commercial yeast as it became more available and less expensive.  There were all kinds of dough enhancers and conditioners even then too but, they were more natural ones rather than ones we use today that were created by modern chemistry and science.

 

Some bakers used to put all kinds of really bad things, ash, plaster, sawdust and other stuff in their bread back then but this made their bread really bad and people didn't like it.  Sour bread, like today, wasn’t very popular either but bread made with barm and the new commercial yeast was very popular because it tasted better to most people and why barm bread was the king for thousands of years.  So  the way bread had been made was the same for thousands of years, by hand by in wood or coal fired ovens.  After thousands of years. this was what we call traditionally mad bread – like in the old days.  This traditional bread eventually became the first ‘Artisan’.

 

Artisan baker and Artisan bread came into existence as a response by traditional bakers and later by marketing people, to machines and the effects they had on the traditional bread making process and the lowering of quality they perceived in the bread.  It was all to no avail though.  Traditional bread maker’s lost out to the new bread made by machines no matter how awful it eventually became.

 

They claimed, rightfully so, that the ingredients used were low quality and even unpronounceable, the machines were not as good as people in crafting really fine bread, that gas and electric ovens were inferior in making really good bread.  They were correct but they lost the war because their cost was too high.  It, like most things, came down to economics.

 

This has never been so true as today where Chad’s Tartine bread, which is not even close to a traditional ‘Artisan’ loaf crafted  in small batches without machines and baked in a naturally fired oven,  costs $9.  How many of the 50% of Americans on some kind of government assistance can afford that?  Heck, I’d like to think that I’m rich and even I can’t afford that!  But I can afford to make so,ething similar at home becsye it isn't a secret and it isn't Artisan.

 

But, there it is again, the idea that hnad made bread, using high quality ingredients,  traditionally produced and baked in naturally fired ovens is the very best possible (even though wrong)  eventually became Artisan Bread and those making it Artisan Bakers we know today.  It was the culmination of the revolt against the machines.  Marketers have used it in just about everything to say their Artisan stuff is better than other stuff even though their stuff isn’t really Artisan in any traditional sense either.

 

No matter what it is today; hats, furniture, bread, cheese, you name it, and people want to associate themselves and their product as Artisan becsue it is supposed to be the best.  They scream Me too!.... Me too.  I can’t blame them either,  it is a natural thing to want to be the best but they forget where it comes from and that it usually isn’t all that a good thing to be known as.  But, folks forget where it comes from and what its real meaning has always been.

 

The reason for this is simple too. People try to change the meaning of words to fit their needs and give themselves some sort of advantage or perceived status.  This happens all the time in just about every field and every thing.  The examples are everywhere and completely natural.  We can’t know how to handle the future if we can’t remember the past... is a saying to remember I’m thinking.  .

 

I remember the first time I went to London.  I was standing in Trafalgar Square, which is  a circle to my reckoning, smoking a cigarette and a guy came up to me and said ‘Can I pinch a fag?’  I had no idea what he was talking about but today if you said that, in many parts of the world,  some folks would want to lock you up for hate speech when all the guy wanted was to bum a smoke.  Marriage is another one.  For thousands of years traditional marriage was between a man and a woman.  In the not too distant future you will be able to marry your dog, pet rock and minneola tree at the same time and find the definition in the dictionary that fits it perfectly.

 

There is no doubt that when replicating machines become affordable and popular, people will think that traditional Artisan  bread making was epitomized by Wonder Bread once the right meaning folks change the meaning of Artisan from hand made to machine made when no one can remember what Artisan’s original definition was and still is today.

 

As a libertarian in most things, I could care less how people make bread, get married or replicate their food.  But words have traditional meanings even if only in a fleeting way – every thousand years or so.  But, sorry for that, we all need to realize that traditions are all tied up in fear, pride and ego - the only 3 things  that cause failure in all things – every time.   Tradition means you can’t or resist change and you will eventually fail –just like traditional bakers, who today are supposed Artisan bakers who were wiped out by other bakers who had the money to buy machines and mass produce a bread that everyone could afford and loved to eat.

 

Just think of it.  For thousands of years all bread used to made the same way and then, in a blink of an eye, less than 50 years, almost all bread was made by machines and hardly anyone today makes bread the traditional ‘Artisan’ way – even though the ‘Artisan’ bread is so much better in every way but price.  In business you can only have 2 of the 3 - quality, service or price.  Most people just cant afford ‘Artisan’ bread.

 

As Varda questioned a couple of years ago - Does Artisan really have any meaning  with all the different ways it is used by people today?  The answer is yes.  It has meaning traditionally and in a thousand other ways gthat people just make up to suit their needs..... which makes Artisan meaningless in every way as a result.

 

Plus, even the traditional meaning of ‘Artisan’…. produces bread that is inferior today anyway.  Who wants to be called Artisan when it means inferior?  .Anyone who produces bread by hand today, without using machines and baking it in a wood fired oven makes an inferior product most of the time – no doubt about it for sure.

 

I want an electric refrigerator to cold retard starters, levain and dough.  I want an electric proofer to heat up starters, levains and dough and get the humidity perfect.  I want a Mega Steam electric oven so I can precisely control the steam and temperature of the bake at short and precise intervals.  In the future, I want nano machines to tell me exactly when the dough is perfectly proofed and when the bread is perfectly baked but I will settle for my instant read electronic thermometer and bifocals today.

 

Even though I’m not a traditional ‘Artisan’Baker’ making traditional ‘Artisan Bread,’ mine is much better tasting and sometimes even better looking than what any traditional baker could ever bake.  Why any baker would want to bake the ‘Artisan’ way today is beyond me but traditions take a long time to die and they die hard most always.  Things change and they eventually change for the better most always too.   Remember to beware all traditions since they will keep you from changing for the better and…. if you don’t change…. you will die…Hard!

 

So, good advise is not to defend your or any version of’ Artisan’ too much  because it already means nothing and will need revising to mean even less tomorrow.... or before you know it at the very least.   Sadly, revisionists have a field day with the past even more than they have a field day with the meaning of words.   But try to remember what things used to mean and why it was so…. so you can keep the good part of the old, even if just for you, as you set about to change it for a much better tomorrow.  I’m just glad I’m not an Artisan anything and won’t ever be one.  I just want to make the best bread I can afford to make - one loaf at a time.  Artisan has and is getting an even worse bad name….. and for good reason!

 

Happy ‘Artisan’ baking your way.   And sorry for the length.

 

 

PetraR's picture
PetraR

I used to knead * french kneading * my sourdough loafs and not used a Stand Mixer for the kneading BUT since my Arthritis got so bad in my hands I am using a Stand Mixer for the kneading and I am done feeling bad about it.

There is NOTHING wrong with using a Stand Mixer for the kneading process :)

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

to mix and knead bread but switched to slap and folds.  The reason was simple.  I hate to clean the mixer and being lazy it was the only way to go..  Mixers work great for bread making especially if you make a lot of bread but if i was challenged with arthritis I would seriously consider no knead bread instead of cleaning the mixer - I'm pretty sure which way I would go and wouldn't include soapy hot water:-)

Happy Mixing

wassisname's picture
wassisname

Heh, heh, I mostly hand mix for the very same reason... but you're not supposed to tell people that!  No, it's because I am dedicated to "handcrafting" my loaves so that they harken back to yesteryear and echo with the soul of the ages and... yeah, OK, I'm lazy and the mixer is actually more work, but shhhhh...  ;-)

alfanso's picture
alfanso

I have a slew of my own thoughts about the whole Artisan issue.  But I'll reply to El Panadero here and his thoughts about products that are "unhealthy" as not qualifying.

One of the better Italian chefs in the USA is a woman named Biba Caggiano.  I think that most who know her would consider her skills to be "artisan".  In her Northern Italian Cooking book she replicates a cake from "the famous Il Cantoncino restaurant in Bologna".  The Little Corner Restaurant Cake uses 13 egg yolks, an additional six eggs, 1 cup of butter, 1 cup of whipping cream, 3 cups of whole milk and 2 1/2 cups of sugar, and then a number of other products.  For 8 servings.

Now I doubt that many contemporary nutritionists would ever qualify this cake as healthy, rather, they would likely label it as something akin to a "heart attack on a plate".  Yet, I also doubt that anyone would have a problem labelling this hand made beauty with all natural ingredients as anything other than artisan.

 As an aside, years ago I had asked Didier Rosada "what is artisan?".  I recall that he smirked and then danced around actually answering the question.

So much for trying to ID the elusive term.

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

I'm guessing you're referring to the fat. It would be true of the sugar if a person had a predilection to insulin resistance. 

In all well designed studies, high fat diets had no correlation, causal or otherwise, to serum cholesterol, heart attacks or strokes. The myth of the dangers of dietary saturated fats and cholesterol were started by Ancil Keyes, a well respected nutritionist who wrote extensively on their dangers. His work was based, apparently, on his personal food preferences for Italian food (the Mediterranean diet) and a dislike for French cooking (lots of eggs and fats). All of his studies cherry picked data that supported his hypothesis and ignored data that did not.

He used his position on the board of the heart association and political connections (he was from a grain growing state) to push the "food pyramid" under government ægis.

Sorry about the rant, but I really get my shorts in a wad when bad science rears it ugly head.

cheers,

gary

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

"One of the better Italian chefs in the USA is a woman named Biba Caggiano. I think that most who know her would consider her skills to be "artisan"."

This statement smacks of subjectivity. The world of language is not founded on subjective viewpoints. Words are added to dictionaries to support a given reason to distinguish one thing or another (or to provide alternative definitions for the same thing). The strength of popular opinion and subjectivity might be a force that leads to a word being added to a language, but it is the entry into the language that then defines the thing,

For there to exist such a thing as an "Artisan" or an "Artisan Baker" or "Artisan Bread" there must also exist the need to distinguish such things from other similar things. Otherwise a mere "Baker" would be the same as an "Artisan Baker".

The key to this particular discussion therefore revolves around what that specific difference is that the world feels is important enough to enter a separate term into the language.

What then is your distinction between a "Baker" and an "Artisan Baker"?

wassisname's picture
wassisname

Of course it’s subjective!  You act like “subjectivity” is a dirty word, but how else do we have a conversation about bread… or food… or much of anything else that humans make or use? 

Maybe we could look at the word “artisan” alone more objectively, and we could look at the words “bread” or “baker” all alone with little (or less) argument.  But as soon as you combine “artisan” with “bread” (or anything else for that matter) or “bread” with something like “real” you imply a judgement of quality that is entirely subjective.  The subjectivity is, in fact, the point. 

We give the bread a label in order to convey our opinion about it, whether you choose to agree with that opinion, or the label, is up to you.  In the case of bread “artisan” is obviously meant to mean “good”, but “good” is a really boring word (of course that is only my subjective opinion about the word “good”) so people say “artisan” instead.  This is where poetry comes from.

And so subjectivity is the distinction between a “baker” and an “artisan baker” – someone thinks the one is better than the other, and by extension that they, the opiner, are better because they are discerning enough to make the distinction.  And what could be more human (or more subjective) than trying to establish one’s self as better than someone else?  Isn’t that obvious from this thread?  Which really took a turn from the original post, sorry OP, hopefully this is all in spirited good fun =)

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

I tend to agree with what you say, but that underlines the point that the terms "artisan" and "artisan breads" have become misused and in some ways hi-jacked by a marketing force that would like us to impose its own definition on the rest of us, the better to get us to buy their products.

The OED definition of Artidan is:
"A worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand"

As DA rightly says though, this is no guarantee of quality or consistency of product. Quite often these artisan products can be a bit higgledy piggledy, clay pots all looking slightly different perhaps, coloring not quite matching, yet maybe for some that's a good thing, the individuality of them.

The result though is that the term "artisan" has become misused and as a result is inadequate for purpose.

What we need in our "bready world" is a term that consistently defines really good quality bread. Bread made with natural ingredients and no artificial additives. I'm somewhat surprised that the marketing world hasn't realised that and invented one. Maybe we could invent one for them and start a trend?

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

The word was "artisan" which was then co-opted as has been discussed.

Handmade is another thing you can use to differentiate manufactured bread from that made by a person.

"handmade with only flour water salt and yeast"  or "handmade with only flour, water, salt and sourdough culture made with  flour and water) also describe a bread with natural ingredients.

And, then of course, you can modify that with "Tasty" or "Delicious" or "Artisan" if you like.

wassisname's picture
wassisname

The word “artisan” has become more of a red flag than anything else these days as far as I am concerned.   I don’t think we really need a special word anymore anyway, because there is no word that can’t be abused.   One of the great things about this info drenched age we live in is that it’s hard to hide behind a few hollow words.  If we take an interest we can usually figure out who really cares about what they do and who doesn’t.  In any case the real trick is convincing the consumer that it matters at all in the first place.  So the good news is that now even the smallest market bakers can put up a blog or a facebook page and tell you why their bread matters.  Getting the word out is pretty easy.  If no one can tell you why it matters then maybe it doesn’t. 

I think part of what makes an “artisan” in the broad, dictionary definition sense is knowing that one baker (or whatever the craft may be) isn’t going to take over the world.  And that the way to spread the availability of products with integrity and character is to share and to teach. So to me it doesn’t matter much what adjective gets hung in front of the product because it’s not what you say but what you do that really counts.  And a bakery that guards its methods like some kind of state secret is to my mind either missing the point or trying to hide something. 

I suppose that’s part of the “artisan” distinction for me – If you are skilled enough to put yourself out there as an artisan then you have nothing to fear from sharing what you do because your product relies on skill rather than some secret shortcut, and no matter how much information I have about how you do what you do, I will never really compete with your product unless I dedicate myself to acquiring the same level of skill in the making of that product. 

Of course this is all speculation and may be utterly naïve on my part, but that’s OK because I make my own bread and, though I am in no way an artisan, I would happily share what I have learned with, well, anyone.  On those rare occasions when I buy bread from someone else I’m not nearly as picky as I am with my own bread.  So, in my little world anyway, it all sort of works itself out.  =)

alfanso's picture
alfanso

of your pissing contest, please.  What is your definition of "largely UNHEALTHY"?

(I knew I should have watched this one from the bleachers)

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

I can't agree that "by hand" shouldn't be a "requirement" simply because the ingredients used to make the loaf used a machine.  No more than I'd agree that an "artist" who paints a spectacular artwork by hand is not an artist because his paints were mixed by a machine.  

 The question is whether an artist can paint using a machine and still be called an artist.  The answer to that question is yes, because art is not policed by Websters. 

doughooker's picture
doughooker

I don't see what the big deal is.

I believe Tartine turns out around 200 loaves per day. When a bakery has to turn out 2,000 loaves per day, you can't have people fussing over each and every loaf, hand shaping each one. The time and labor costs would be astronomical. The now-defunct S.F. sourdough bakeries were mechanized to a large degree and no one ever complained about the quality of the finished product. Well-developed gluten is well-developed gluten whether it is kneaded in a Hobart or by stretch-and-fold.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Are there bakeries turning out 2000 loaves of bread a day that come out as good as a Tartine loaf?

doughooker's picture
doughooker

Are there bakeries turning out 2000 loaves of bread a day that come out as good as a Tartine loaf?

Do you mean a loaf from the Tartine bakery in San Francisco?

Well, there were the erstwhile S.F. bakeries I alluded to in my previous post. Those brands were in the local grocery distribution system and were in stores all over the area as well as in restaurants, so they had to be turning out loaves by the thousands every day. One old-time bakery collapsed under a mountain of debt, several were acquired by Interstate Bakeries, makers of Hostess Twinkies, and others just went out of business.

In 2014 there is the Acme bakery in Berkeley. There are a few other bakeries in the bay area that I have yet to sample and I don't know their daily yield. Acme must turn out a few thousand loaves per day easily with their several varieties of bread and retail distribution.

suave's picture
suave

He seems to be using an Artofex mixer.  If so, it's even more "artisan" than hand-mixing.

cranbo's picture
cranbo

I love that this thread became a passionate conversation about the semantics of the term "artisan", when the OP was whether Chad Robertson used a mixer or not :)

Some interesting points made about the marketing use of that term, and how the perception of health/quality plays into that term. 

Personally, I could care less about the term "artisan", it doesn't really mean anything to me.

I'm always suspicious of vaguely defined quality indicators. Whether it's "artisan", "healthy", or "hand-made", unless you have detailed, agreed-upon quality guidelines associated with them (like organic certification, Vera Pizza Napoletana, the AOC/DOC/AVA system for food & wine in Europe, etc.) the terms don't mean anything...

Those controls are in place with a program/process/system that enables a central organization to monitor adherence to those quality standards. In that regards, the use of the term "organic" probably carries more meaning than the term "artisan" here in the USA.

That said, even with quality controls in place, it's still possible to follow all the rules and make (or get) a crappy product. Perfect example: I've had plenty of cardboard-tasting organic tomatoes and flavorless organic oranges from the store, which pale in comparison to the flavor of the fruits that I get from my local farmer's market. 

And one last thing: quality standards always have their fare share of politics involved (i.e., trying to get people to agree on one set of rules to do something!).