The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Artisan Baking?

foolishpoolish's picture

Artisan Baking?



sphealey's picture

Sorry to hear that. Personally, my goals are to:

  • Make and eat bread I like
  • Learn something new every week
  • Play with new tools and techniques
  • Share what I know and learn with others
  • Have fun

I don't really care what term I or others use to describe those activities; I am aware of lables but generally find them empty of content.


Paddyscake's picture

designer labels..for jeans, cars, the food they eat...I think I can safely say that the
majority of TFLers are here to bake bread that they enjoy to eat and share, and to learn. I don't think they consider themselves "Artisan Bakers". I second sPhs post...
it's just our passion :  )

AnnieT's picture

Paddyscake, I "third" sPhs post! While many members are advanced bakers and rightly proud of their achievements, some of us are still chugging along, happily learning with every loaf. Even the duds, and I had two of those this week. But I am not downhearted, and while I don't claim to be an artisan baker I am content to keep baking - and my family and friends are happy with the results. Passion, obsession, call it what you will - it keeps me off the streets and out of the bars! A.

Uberkermit's picture

Manufactured? Sold? Where is the industry that profits from baking with wild yeast? Wal-mart has exactly everything that it would much rather sell you than minimally or unprocessed flour for pennies per ounce. Even bleached flour is "value added" and thus more profitable (until us "lifestyle bakers" refuse to buy it). I think whatever ideal you thought you were pursuiing had nothing to do with the artisan movement, but it does sound unhealthy: I'm glad you've gone back to "just baking bread". Somehow I've never seen the conflict between the two. Another place where I think you're mistaken: Expecting someone to tell you when you've "become" an artisan or "achieved" artisan bread.

JMonkey's picture

I certainly sympathize with some of your sentiments. I recently realized that I had been neglecting the pleasures of a simple straight dough, myself. However ...

It has become increasingly clear to me that unless I am to pursue the subtleties of hard-to-find flours, milling my own flour, preparation and care of levains with military/scientific precision, professional equipment etc.. I will never truly achieve what others consider to be 'artisan bread'. What I see is that tradition has become fetishized as 'artisan' in the same way that 'authentic pizza must be made with Caputo flour and San Marzano tomatoes from the hills of Vesuvius'....
I disagree. Whatever you want to call it, all I think most folks here are aiming to do is make tasty bread. Like any hobby, some people get more into it than others. Those who find milling interesting will post in great detail about seives; those who enjoy going after the perfect levain will post about different feeding ratios, temperatures and timing. Those who seek the "perfect" pizza may obsess over ingredients. And there's nothing wrong with that! But most people who post here are mainly just having fun baking.

Besides, who cares what others think about your bread so long as you and your dinner companions enjoy it?

Take a look, for instance, at the top rated posts here at the Fresh Loaf. Of the top 15, two are basic primers on basic baking (Your First Loaf and Shaping a Sandwich Loaf), two are straightforward straight doughs (Pita Bread and Memo's Brown Bread) and one is a quickbread classic straight from the 1970s! (Banana Bread)
Anything that could be considered innovative, or experimental is rarely embraced or encouraged without first the endorsement of influential authors, important figures in the food industry etc. - ironically the people who are most likely to be influenced by the tides of commercial interest and globalisation that the 'artisan movement' claims to stand against.
This, I find, is definitely not true here. You'll be hard pressed to find artisan authors who write about 18-hour sourdough fermentations, stretch and fold, the French fold or cold-start baking -- all techniques that I've learned here that have not only made my breads better, but have reduced the amount of effort I have to expend.
Alas, I've had to consider the possibility that 'artisan baking' for the home baker is really just part of a 'lifestyle movement'. One that has been manufactured to make us feel good about ourselves and appease us in the face of a Wal-mart, convenience culture. The question becomes - is this really something that is accessible to the average home cook? I suspect it has in some ways been engineered and sold to people like myself as a rather seductive ideal - something to aspire to...something which will always remain 'just out of reach'. I'll leave artisan baking to the *true* artisans.

I can only speak for myself, of course, but I'm definitely aiming to bake better tasting and, hopefully, more nutritious bread because it makes me feel good. Heck, if that's not a worthy motivation for doing something, what is? Certainly, I want to make better bread that I can buy at the supermarket, but I hardly see how that's a "manufactured" desire. And while I certainly don't think a good "artisan" loaf is out of reach, I do think that what makes any hobby satisfying over the long run is the possibility for continually learning something new -- and that's certainly true with bread baking. But in truth, baking good bread doesn't really require specialized tools -- sure, they're fun, but one can make fantastic bread with little more than a bowl, a spoon, measuring cups, measuring spoons, a baking sheet, flour, salt, water and yeast.

I do grind my own flour, for instance, and that is indeed a lifestyle choice. But it's not because I've latched on to some sort of fad. I make all my family's breads, I usually use whole grains, it's much cheaper to buy wheat berries in bulk, and I really like the taste of freshly ground flour. It's not something I think everyone ought to be doing. I do it because it's fun and also has the benefit of being tasty and nutritious. (For what it's worth, I've also made great whole-wheat bread from store-bought flour, too.)

The conclusion I have come to could be considered somewhat narcissistic but I would argue pragmatic. What do I want? I want good bread. I want bread that I enjoy making and eating (and hopefully others too)
And I think most everyone here would ultimately agree with you on this!
Susan's picture

Susan from San Diego

proth5's picture

Artisan – a skilled workman


As someone who is perhaps guilty of taking an enthusiasm too far on these pages, I can understand how someone might get the impression that only those who do can be considered “artisan.”


But as someone who turned out pan loaves of Betty Crocker recipe breads with store bought flour and little packets of dry active yeast from a very tender age, let me assure you that “artisan” is a big tent indeed.  To be an artisan is to apply your skills in whatever way you choose.  Are we to judge a soft, fine grained sandwich bread made with skill and care inferior to an open crumb whole-wheat levain?  To do so would be to deny the infinite variety of human taste and preference.  To call the baker of one bread an artisan and the baker of the other “not” is to say that skill can only have one expression.


Our teachers inspire us, but, I think, they do not define us.  Every student’s duty is to attempt to surpass their teachers.  We cannot always do this in isolation.


Similarly, we must be the change we desire to see in the world.  If we desire better bread, when we find better materials it is important to share that information so that those producing those materials may continue and prosper.


So change the direction of your baking to follow your heart, your palate, and your skill, but as you do so, allow those of us with our “little enthusiasms” to ramble on and do not be offended.  Be assured that I do not fret over farinograph tests and scholarly papers on flour aging because I aspire to achieve a certain lifestyle.  (What lifestyle would that be, anyway? – Not one that would achieve widespread popularity, I am sure.)  That’s just the way I am.  About everything I do.  Always have been – hope I always will be.  What I have been best pleased with is that here I have found a forum where I can interact with one or two like minded people.  In doing so, I can grow and improve (and not bore the pants off my dinner guests.)  That is really all I can ask.


And from time to time, I put aside the peels, sieves, mills, stones, and steaming and bake a big old loaf of Betty Crocker classic white from store bought flour.  I rub the top with butter to keep the crust nice and soft – just like Betty told me.  It is - delicious.

hullaf's picture

I'm spending a lot of time this winter season in my heated up kitchen -- due to a hot oven, baking bread, and having a little obsessive fling . . . but I am truly enjoying myself and the TFL. And I know I'll calm down when summer comes and heat is too much. But bread baking will always be fun and if we switch or change our focus, it might mean we're flexible and growing. 

And it all boils down to good tasting bread that envelopes friends and family around a common table.  I say thanks to TFL.  

susanfnp's picture

My rules about bread baking, short version:

1. Make bread you enjoy eating.

2. Have fun doing it.

3. Use whatever tools and methods you like to achieve (1) and (2).


Long version:

What everyone else has already said.


Does that make (or not make) me an artisan baker? To tell the truth, I have no idea, and I don't really care.



holds99's picture


I wouldn't normally comment on personal philosophy or expound on my experiences but in this case I'm going to weigh in, for what it's worth.  I studied Haute Cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and received my Grand Diplome from that school many years ago.  What that experience did for me was provide me with the tecniques and knowledge to think "outside the box", so to speak and begin "doing my thing" in cooking.  In other words, being creative.  So, what's that got to do with baking bread? you may ask.  Well, my point is this, I don't see a lot of difference between cooking and baking re: systematic processes.  Anyone who thinks they're fed up with regimen, etc. should try spending a year as an apprentice to a top rated French chef.  Marine boot camp is about as close as you'll come to it in this country, only they speak English at Paris Island, S.C.  That regimen is the main reason Lionel Poulaine wouldn't hire French trained bakers.  He didn't want to have to have them "unlearn" their old craft and "relearn" it his way, It was easier for him to start with bakers who didn't have preconceived, dogmatic ideas.   But, both schools of thought and methodologies have their place and can and do co-exist.  Creativity flows from accumulated knowledge proficiency and inquisitiveness.  Remember, it's human nature to resist change.  So, if you're doing something new or different you're going get resistance.  The status quo is a very comfortable place to rest on one's duff but nothing creative happens there.  With all due respect FP, I think you're taking it all too seriously.  If you do that, the fun will go out of it for you.  When things seem glum just remember that Van Gogh sold only 2 paintings in his entire lifetime (for chump change) and Napolean lost 30,000 chefs during his retreat from Russia. As Cicero used to say: Illegitimate non carborundum (don't let them grind you down) AND keep on doing your "thing".


bobkay1022's picture



  Just having fun as a Novice.


amauer's picture

I missed the post, but get the idea if it. It is funny, because today I gave an all day seminar and introduced myself by stating things I enjoy. I said my passion is dogs, I love to write, bake and cook and that I am an Artisan Bread baker "in the making" (with any luck). A better analogy may be a work in progress. I agree with the above. I have some bread I have been very proud of and some real duds. The good news is that with each triumph and failure, I figure a little bit more what I am doing right and what I am doing wrong. In MN after a long very cold winter, our flour is very dry, so I have to really pay attention to the texture and hydration of the dough and not follow the recipe too closely, as the breads would be too dry. I am getting a feel for that, but vacilate between just right, too dry, and too loose so the loaves spread too much. I will keep trying and my family never complains about having to try out my new recipes!

bobkay1022's picture

Hi Amaeur,  Best post of the day. I have the same problem it seems weather is never the same where I am. When I stop for 4-5 months the birds in back of my motor coach are complaining I have a good day and they get no bread for the day.  Strange I never thought of flour drying out.  Same recipe and same conditions with same % and I never know if it will be up to my satisfaction. Course the birds and some times the neighbors love it.

Have a nice week end. 

My little humor in this post is not intended to  criticise the author of the original post or replys. 


amauer's picture

My crows know me very well. I live on an acreage and they give me fly-bys if I haven't fed them. I have to put the bread or other leftovers way down my driveway or my dogs would be happy to eat it too. They get leftover bread and whatever else is getting old. Last week it was 1/2 a chocolate macaroon Bundt cake and some Italian loaf that was a few days old. They ate every bit.

bobkay1022's picture

No sure how many acres I sit on but thousands

Home below. lol