The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How to achieve the artisan bread standard

FrugalBaker's picture
FrugalBaker

How to achieve the artisan bread standard

Hi everybody, I have been baking sourdough bread for months now and am having some good bakes too, all thanks to the helpful TFL community. 

One day, as I was speaking to a commercial baker, we got into a conversation, nothing other than bread. I showed him some of my bakes on my phone and he told me a few things that left me puzzled till now. 

  • Why do I bake with such high hydration dough...mine is usually 70% and above nowadays
  • Why the crumb size are not uniform
  • Those big holes are unsightly
  • Why the shape of my bakes are uneven

Now, I do understand my bakes are in no comparison with the professional but I do know one thing....artisan bread is supposed to be free form, imperfect and injected with plenty of character and personality. No two loaves are identical, right? 

This baker has about 40 years of baking experience but he confessed that he's only baked with yeast, not with any natural leavened bread such as sourdough. Did he raise a valid point so far? Hope TFL will have plenty to debate on this as I am eager to know. 

P/s : please feel free to check out my blogs and comment.

 

Regards,

FrugalBaker

RoundhayBaker's picture
RoundhayBaker

The ethos of artisanal baking is the absolute opposite of conventional commercial mass production. If you've been doing the latter for forty years, I can see how it's an affront. I've seen local bakers struggle to come to terms with the artisanal approach. What, no additives? No bleached flour? Just flour, water and salt? Doughs fermented for longer than an hour? Twenty-four hours? Forty-eight? An open crumb? You're having a laugh! Then they try to meet demand and sell their own 'artisan' loaves. They are terrible. Just standard loaves with seeds added and a bit of fancy slashing. It takes a brave and adventurous baker to overcome all the years of mass producing not-very-good bread and switch to true artisinal baking. A lot do. But a lot never make it. And they have no interest in ever doing so. No big deal, that's just how it is.

FrugalBaker's picture
FrugalBaker

for your feedback and I am really looking forward to more comments like that. Happy Baking :) 

Regards,

FrugalBaker 

drogon's picture
drogon

That's an issue - because there really isn't a "standard" definition. Some think it means hand-made, some "made in a traditional manner", I've even heard some people dismiss traditionally hand-made yeasted breads as non-artisnal as they're not sourdough...

I've actually started to use the term "craft bakery" for my little bakery operation now. I think it has more meaning - especially here in the UK when the supermarkets are trying to use the term "artisinal" to their breads (and baked beans, etc.) The word artisan has basically been used/abused by marketing people now, so its lost any formal meaning (if there ever was a formal meaning)

Back to the questions:

Most commercial bakers don't use high hydration doughs for a variety of reasons; e.g. harder to handle. People in-general don't want big bubbles in their daily bread - they don't see big bubbles as a feature - they don't hold marmalade and are seen as ugly defects...

Non-uniform crumb size & uneven shape - that's down to handling and shaping high hydration doughs - reduce the water, the crumb size will be smaller, the dough will be easier to handle and you'll be able to shape it more consistently.... But you won't get your highly sought-after big bubbles...

I bake my breads to no more than 65% hydration at the high end and closer to 60% for the most part. It's a good trade off between a little more hydration than normal and something that's easy (and quick) to handle and shape and that produces good (IMO) daily bread.

My artisinal (aka craft) bread loaves are as identical to each other as I can make them - the dough is scaled (weighed) so that it's the same weight to within a few grams, all hand shaped then using a couche or bannetons/baskets to prove in. Some of my artisinal (craft) breads are proved in tins.

This is real bread, according to the Real bread campaign. It contains white flour, water, yeast and salt. Nothing else.

 

but is it artisinal? I think so, yes. Made in small batches, 10 hour ferment, hand shaped then put in a tin to prove.

And what is traditional - the Chorleywood bread process is now about 50 years old. Does that make it traditional? Some are suggesting it is...

So at the end of the day make bread that you want to make - and enjoy, but realise that most of the people who regularly buy bread don't want surprises - they want consistency... My experiences anyway.

 

Some reading:

http://www.teagasc.ie/ruraldev/artisan_food/artisan_food_in_ireland.asp

http://www.sustainweb.org/realbread/what_is_real_bread/#is_read_bread_the_same_as

http://www.sustainweb.org/news/may15_asa_recognises_real_bread_definition/

 

-Gordon (craft baker :-)

Boron Elgar's picture
Boron Elgar

This loaf looks lovely, Gordon. Any special recipe?

drogon's picture
drogon

Other than adding a bit of love ;-)

But really - 960g white bread flour (I use Shipton Mill organic No. 4 - about 12% protein), 625g water (so 65% hydration), 12g salt and 3g dried yeast. Mix, leave it covered on the counter for half an hour. lightly knead and leave in a covered container overnight. In the morning, weight/divide into 3, simple shaping into a boulle, 5 minutes rest (while I'm scaling/shaping other breads), then gently degas and shape into a log then transfer into the tins to prove - takes about 2 hours (due to the small quantity of yeast) then into a hot oven - 250C for 10 minutes then down to 210C for another 22 minutes.

I have some nice steep sided "1lb" loaf tins which work well for these loaves - so they're standard small/400g loaves when baked.

So it's fluffy white bread, but has more texture and flavour than the usual shop-bought stuff. I think it would make good toast, but I've never had one long enough to find out...

My wife calls them "Wallace and Gromits", but I think you'll need to have seen "A Matter of Loaf and Death" to appreciate that one ...

 

Cheers,

-Gordon

FrugalBaker's picture
FrugalBaker

for sharing those sites....I had plenty to read but it was delightful. Hope to see more crafts from you soon. 

AlanG's picture
AlanG

As Gordon notes there really is not an 'artisnal bread' standard.  Commercial bakers that have to produce many loaves of bread each day have different requirements from those of us who maybe do 2-4 per day and then maybe only once or twice a week.  We have several Whole Foods markets in our area than the bread that they sell is produced on site and their taste is pretty good.  It's additive free and they have a variety of whole grain breads in both oval and boule shapes.  Is this artisan bread?  The loaves certainly look like those in any of the current 'artisan bread' books.  Obviously this is in contrast to the large commercial bakers such as Arnold and Pepperidge Farm (US brands for those abroad) that are mass produced and come packaged sliced.

suave's picture
suave

"artisan bread is supposed to be free form, imperfect and injected with plenty of character and personality"?

 

I don't think so.  An artisan is a highly-skilled craftsman, not a hack.

Arjon's picture
Arjon

Some highly skilled craftspersons produce extremely similar products over and over again. But others only make items that are unique. 

IMO, neither does imperfect, as used, necessarily mean of poor quality such as would be produced by a hack. 

suave's picture
suave

You are mistaking craftsman and artist.

Arjon's picture
Arjon

on how you define the terms. For example, is a Japanese master sword maker who strives to make each katana better than the last a craftsman or an artist? 

suave's picture
suave

Look, what I am trying to say is that making a "free form" loaf with large irregular holes by design, while at the same time being capable to produce a perfectly shaped loaf is one thing.  Doing it because that's the only way you can do it is something else completely.

Arjon's picture
Arjon

Highly skilled artisan / craftsperson and virtually unskilled hack aren't the only two possibilities. Within the entire range in between, where is the line that determines whether someone is skilled enough to be considered the former?

 

suave's picture
suave

I know it when I see it.

Arjon's picture
Arjon

within your personal frame of reference where your opinion is paramount. I'm merely trying to point out that other opinions can differ and still be equally valid. 

suave's picture
suave

FrugalBaker's picture
FrugalBaker

If vandalism is legit, I'll pull them off the shelf without you asking. Thank you suave for your contribution : ) 

Regards,

FrugalBaker

arlo's picture
arlo

Honestly, if you bake at home, its about baking whatever taste good to you.

I've been on TFL for quite a few years, and professionally (supporting my life & wife) baking for close to seven years now. I've worked at bakeries of all sizes, operated wood fired ovens, only used sourdoughs, and currently am growing and milling the bakeries wheat for daily use, and can say that in my opinion, 'artisan' is simple word thrown on to so many things now days.

I have seen your loaves, and many others on here, and love what I see. Because it is baking. It is simply and wonderfully, baking. With certifications, a degree, midnight schedule, and doing it from soil on up - I just consider myself a guy who is lucky to bake a nice loaf every now-and-again, and hope to feed the community something nice. I still don't understand bread, and I never will.

I'll have my own bakery with my fellow baker and wife, one day, hopefully soon, and I won't sell artisan breads. Even if the hydration is 80% with 50% pre-fermented flour, locally grown. It'll be bread. And a matter of personal taste to whether someone appreciates it or not.

Strive to find what makes you happy, not just in life, but in loaf. Thats what I think ; )

 

Grob's picture
Grob

As a professional baker for over a decade I can tell you that the person you were speaking to doesn't very much sound like an artisan.

That said, as a professional my goal is to have consistent results every day.  I want my loaves to look the same despite being hand-shaped, I want them to taste the same every day even though we have 3 sourdough cultures to tame. I want an irregular hole structure in most of my breads(intensive mixes like pain de mie I want a regular crumb) but giant holes are usually a sign of poor shaping and not a show of proper technique(not including ciabatta).

As an artisan I have put a lot of work and practice into my craft and am somewhat offended by the idea that "artisan" means unevenly scaled, always changing tastes and no consistency.  I disagree with most of what the baker you spoke to said but an artisan is still a skilled position and the number one skill one has to master to become an artisan baker is being able to control variables for consistent results.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman
Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Brownman, That's about the best definition I've seen. Bookmarked it for reference the next time this perennial discussion arises..., 

Wild-Yeast

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Can't we talk about something less controversial? You know, like sex, politics or religion?

If you click on the link to "Sourdough Artisan Bread," you will discover that it is "Flour, water, salt and yeast" with "sourdough added," just like some breads have milk or oil added. Sheesh! Gimmee a break!

David

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Agreed

RoundhayBaker's picture
RoundhayBaker

...beautiful looking 'artisinal' loaves and, naturally, I asked them where they got the bread from? Oh, they said, it's from France. It's made over there, then frozen, and we bake it in our oven. I tried some. It's good, not sourdough, but with an excellent crumb and a good shape. Tasty too. However, I could not help but feel upset that local bakers - and there are some - are squeezed out by frozen mass-produced 'artisinal' loaves which have travelled four hundred odd miles to be sold. Ironically, the deli is - at twenty-five miles - outside my delivery range but, even so, I hesitated to start an argument about what is artisanal or not with the deli owner. I could picture the look of bafflement on her face if I tried to explain. I got the impression that if she's told it's artisinal when she buys it, it is.

FrugalBaker's picture
FrugalBaker

Hi RoundhayBake, thank you so much. To be honest, I felt uneasy after all these unwanted attention as it was never my intention to debate. It was just my impression and what was told and seen in France, all these while. A few kind souls pointed me to a direction where I feel at peace at last. It's just not worth arguing anymore since there's no formal meaning to it. We can only blame our ancestors for not safeguarding a certain terms. We shall learn from our mistakes and history. Should you or I be able to make something that is close to perfect, trademark and own it at the same time too! Voila....no one will ever fight again ;)

Have yourself a good weekend there.

FrugalBaker

drogon's picture
drogon

There are many places doing the part-baked or "thaw to serve" process - even a UK producer who achieved national fame a couple of years back with a TV series - who's also founding members of the Real Bread Campaign. I only found this out after my local(ish - 3 miles away) Deli were selling their bread and I queried it with them (As this bakery is some 150 miles away)

The part-baked stuff has come under fire recently too: sold by "bread tanning salons" as they're nicknamed here now and an Australian supermarket chain was recently taken to task for calling it freshly made - when it was part-baked in Ireland, frozen and shipped half way round the world )-:

Transporting and storing frozen food is much easier than trying to transport ambient product though - at an increased cost of energy usage to freeze it and keep it frozen though, so an interesting trade-off for producers wanting to get their product out further.

Doesn't make it right though.

I've plans to chat to this deli at some point in the future, but it's easier for them to sell bread from a household name, than from Johnny no-name in the small town down the road....

(And the town that deli is in has a proper bread shop too! The woman who runs it makes some really good bread, but as far as I know doesn't sell-on to anyone - she opens when the first loaves come out the oven and closes when that days bread has sold out)

-Gordon

Arjon's picture
Arjon

albeit I never worked with food products, I can say with absolute certainty that companies will push the boundaries of what they call and how they describe their products as far as the (lack of) regulations lets them. So for example, unless there's a regulated definition of what conditions must be satisfied to qualify as "freshly baked", producers can define the term very loosely. All they really need to do is avoid going so far as to commit fraud. 

FrugalBaker's picture
FrugalBaker

100%..... Thank you for all the efforts. 

FrugalBaker's picture
FrugalBaker

as you are threading into a risky zone although the intention was good. Try not to touch a nerve whenever possible. 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

Artisan is a term used my marketers to try to associate their inferior products with a name people think means the best quality made by the best craftsmen.  They assume,correctly, that many people are easily fooled and wouldn't know what real quality is all about anyway,  Artisan is a completely meaningless word and no one in their right mind would want to be associated with it even though it's traditional meaning  - the best bread, made by the best bakers using the best ingredients,made by hand in small batches without the use of machines and baked in wood fired ovens actually was a very useful word that meant something not that long ago.   At least there are still some real artisan bakers making real artisan bread the world over.  Sadly their moniker has been tainted and spoiled by those who could care less that words mean something - they deserved better.

happy non artisan baking ,

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

All they needed to do is join an association that has rules and regulations which define it the way you do, and the could have trademarked the name "Certified Artisan Bread" or some such nonsense as the folks over in Naples have done with VPN Neapolitan Pizza.

Arjon's picture
Arjon

very difficult in practice.For instance, depending on local laws and regulations, trademarking "Certified Artisan Bread" may or may not cover variations such as "artisanal bread" or "artisan-style bread". There's also the matter achieving consistency across jurisdictions, not just in terms of different places using the same definitions but of having regulated definitions everywhere to begin with. 

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

It has been done with pizza. You just create a trademark, and limit its use to those who follow your rules.

Arjon's picture
Arjon

to those countries / jurisdictions where you own the trademark or have agreed to honor another country's. 

suave's picture
suave

The problem is that at least here PDO is not a cause food manufacturers would get behind.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

What is "PDO" and who cares if a "food manufacturer" would get behind an artisan bread certification organization? It isn't like the artisan bread folks would want them in the club.

suave's picture
suave

You can possibly think that any regulation related to food can exist if Kraft, Nabisco and the like do not want it?

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

First of all, it isn't "regulation" it is the use of a trademark that will be limited to those people who choose to associate with one another. It is no different from using the name "Papa John's".  You start an organization called "True Artisan Breads" or "Certified Artisan Bakers of America", whatever name is available nationally or globally, set up bylaws outlining what must be done to be a member -- use of machines, no use of machines, use of comercial yeast, no use of commercial yeast, wood fired ovens, brick ovens, gas ovens, whatever. 

Then  you market your organization so people know what heck you are all about, and you see if anybody cares enough to buy your products over another.

FrugalBaker's picture
FrugalBaker

That's one way, a good way to tackle such issue actually! 

Edo Bread's picture
Edo Bread

As has been noted some of this idea has been done in other places and the "Real Bread" campaign was mentioned. Under their "How do I start this in my country FAQ - they suggest "join us":

 http://www.sustainweb.org/realbread/faq/#start_a_campaign

I have no idea how this group is doing, but you can see a lot of work and thought on their site. The goal is good and some group support around it makes sense. The umbrella of some name like "craft","real" allows many people to be involved. But the other option is a "one shop" approach somewhat like Davie Esq. says. I don't think a "artisan", "craft", "real" bread label on a loaf of "Tartine Bread" (one example)  would change it's value. Now if it did carry that, and their were guidelines, that would spill over to help other bakers doing the same thing.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

http://work.chron.com/become-master-baker-26163.html.  Hammelman is one 

But it doesn't have much to do do with traditional artisan baking, in small batches, by hand,without the ue of machineds and baking in WFO