The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

"Artisan" bread at the grocery store

ds99302's picture

"Artisan" bread at the grocery store

After making your own bread at home, are you ever tempted to buy the "Artisan" bread that many grocery stores sell just to see what it's like?

jcking's picture

They are generally very pale. I look but I don't buy.


AnnaInNC's picture

soft, too yeasty, yukky


mkelly27's picture

it's my favorite thing to do in the trendy supermarkets.  I peruse their selection of par bakes or weigh their selection of "bake house" produced Artisan breads.  None can compare to a loaf of well made hand-crafted true Artisan bread. 

  That said, I would admit I am working with a local bakery/ doughnut shop to produce a line of Artisan breads, but
I am holding them to a very high standard of quality before I let them call it "Artisan"


Wild-Yeast's picture


PaddyL's picture

But the patisserie up the road does a very good miche levain.

GSnyde's picture

My local grocery carries Acme, Semifreddi and a couple other good bakeries' breads.  I'd still rather bake my own.


LindyD's picture

Trader Joe's and Whole Foods feature some nice looking breads.  While in Chicago earlier this winter, we picked up a couple baguettes at TJs, which had good shape, color, and crumb.  Nice ears and a crispy crust.  While they weren't as tasty as my own sourdough, they were still pretty good for "supermarket" bread.

While on my home turf, I never venture into the bread sections of the markets.  I have noticed, however, "artisan" carrots in the veggie section.  Don't understand how a carrot can be "artisan," but that's what the label read.  

jcking's picture

If you water carrots with Artesian Well Water then they're Artesian. The veggie section people can't spell gud ;)))

G-man's picture

bonsai carrot!

johnster's picture

But, I don't always have the time (or advanced knowledge of my wife's dinner menu) to bake ahead. When I can, I make a very nice boule or slightly misshapen baguette. When I can't, Whole Foods gets us by.

sam's picture

Without naming specific vendors, there appears to be a couple of vendors which sell bread to the various grocery store + "gourmet" outlets in my neighborhood about an hour's drive of San Fran, CA.   In my opinion, it's a mixed bag.   All of them say, "Authentic San Francisco Sour", but the flavors range widely.  Some are too sour, some are OK, some are bitter, and some have zero flavor at all.

For structure...  again it is / was mixed bag.  On one hand, a decent tasting retail bread would have poor structure (no ears, closed crumb, no spring), but then a bad tasting bread has excellent structure (big ears, open crumb, great spring).   Go figure.   I thought at the time, if we can just mix/match the best people at these bakeries and get them in the same room... we might get a good overall bread. 

Also, though, I noticed most/all of them appeared undercooked -- pale....  slightly gummy...   or over-proofed or something...  not sure why that is.  None have / had a deep bake to them.

Reading the ingredients across all of them, there was only one vendor (insert "gourmet grocery store" here), that actually listed the ingredients as "Flour, Water, Salt, and Starter".  So that was cool at least, but that bread in particular didn't taste like anything -- beautful scoring, oven spring, etc., but no taste.  Could have been cardboard for all I knew.





chykcha's picture

I shop at New Seasons in Portland. They do make amazing bread: truly artisan and delicious! When I work long stretches of time or am unable to bake bread for another reason, I DO get tempted and DO buy their bread. It is even better than what I make. :)

jcking's picture

Do they put the same love in their loaves as you do in yours? I'll take your love in the loaf, over their love in the loaf, 8 days a week. As I'm sure your family does :)


chykcha's picture

You are right: I put a ton of love in my bread! Does love taste good? :)

jcking's picture

Love is more than taste. It wakes up all the senses.


hanseata's picture

= sickly pale. If it has a crust at all, it's thick and rubbery - and if you squeeze it hard and let it go again, it springs back to its original size. Amazing what modern enhancers can do!


copyu's picture

There are times when we need a decent loaf and my wife works right in the heart of a large shopping suburb...I've coached her to know which places make much better bread than I could ever do at home (or at least, can't do without quitting or changing my day job...)

I think we're lucky because the business-relationship situation may be different here in Japan. Those bakeries which are not 100% free-standing, are almost invariably 'tenants' of the supermarkets and department stores and train stations where they operate. The bakers pay rental for the bakery and a percentage of their sales and are generally expert in certain methods and styles. The good bakeries are often great for basic, rustic white-flour loaves (mostly French styles) that I can't produce on demand with my crazy work schedule. Those 'good' breads are pretty costly, though! I even enjoy the mediocre loaves my wife is forced to buy, sometimes. I'd guess we buy about half of the bread we eat, with no complaints. 

Japanese customers are very particular about their bread, which is a good thing, but their 'preferred' styles are WAY too limited for me. Rye breads, if available, are sometimes a bad joke and the 'ciabatta' is usually about as Italian as Sauerkraut...I do have a lot of complaints about the bakeries in Japan, but that's for a different thread, where I can really RANT!

I prefer home-baked bread (and so does my wife, I believe) but we can buy pretty good stuff almost every day, so we often do so. 




Ford's picture

I have not found any good bread in Raleigh groceries.  I ran out of rye bread last night an went to the grocery that has some rustic appearing loaves.  The batard had a great shape and good looking ears.  But the taste was totally blah!  It claimed to be fresh out of the oven.  (It was slightly above room temperature.)   The bag said La Brea Bakery, Los Angeles.  In my opinion, Nancy Silverton should be ashamed to put her name with that product.  I wonder, does her bakery par-bake something and ship it to the groceries?   Next time, I just use my own whole wheat bread for the Ruebin sandwich instead of trying to get rye.


MickiColl's picture

isn't it strange .. I live in Las Vegas and my local stores also carry La Brea Bakery Artisan breads. and they all are "baked in store today" ...

ds99302's picture

More like reheated.  Okay,  I'll admit it.  I work in a grocery store as a baker and we carry the Labrea "artisan" bread.  Let me tell you it does not sell very well at all.  We carry the Italian boule, the whole grain loaf, rosemary olive oil round, and French bread.  We do two loaves of each kind and we usually end up throwing away six of those eight loaves.  Sometimes it all gets tossed.  The Italian seems to do the best.  It's a 24 oz round for $3.99.   The others are hit or miss.  The bread comes in frozen already baked and all we do is break it out and put it in the oven (notice I didn't say bake) for about 15-18 minutes to crisp up the crust.  Frankly I think calling it artisan is a joke.  I wish we would stop carrying it.  It's a complete time waster.

Salilah's picture

Our local Tesco stores (UK, Cambridge) stock La Brea - OK it may just be cooked from frozen, but it is still a nice loaf!  (the country white sourdough)...

This one typically sells out each day - the wholewheat and other varieties are less popular but still sell pretty well

The latest is a wholewheeat and honey small baguette which is OK - not bad for a supermarket bread

rjerden's picture

Go to La Farm Bakery in Cary, NC for some good stuff. They have a counter at Whole Foods, too.

Lionel Vatinet there is a Master Baker. He was on Team USA at France’s competition La Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie in 1999, where they won the Gold Medal.

Preston Corners
4248 Cary Parkway
Cary, NC 27513
tel 919 657 0657

There are some pretty good ciabatta around town, too.

kumitedad's picture

I remeber taking two one-week classes from him at the San Francisco Baking Institute.  He was an awesome teacher and the breads he produced were magnificent.  You would be fortunate indeed to be have access to breads from him!

placebo's picture

According to this article, Silverton sold most of her stake in La Brea Bakery awhile ago, and you're likely getting par-baked bread unless you're close to one of the bakeries.

amauer's picture

I was surprised that Trader Joe's bread was better than I anticipated. Byerly's and Lunds does have some good bread, but Wal Mart, Target, forget it...I bought an "everything french loaf" at Wal Mart and I had to throw the thing away. It smelled up my kitchen with the most insidious odor of fake or bitter garlic.

Prairie19's picture

Two of my favorite local bakeries sell their bread at some of our local grocery stores in addition to their own outlets:  Madison Sourdough, Madison WI.  and Clasen's European Bakery, Middleton, WI.  Aside from these, I don't buy store brands.

G-man's picture

We have some good bread here but not anything truly amazing.

Local bakeries that seem to be stocked almost everywhere are Essential, Grand Central (which is Portland and Seattle) and less widely Macrina. Of those I have to admit I like Essential the least. I've tried a couple of their sourdough loaves and found them to be...not sour. I don't expect much from storebought bread, but if it says sourdough I want sourdough. A tiny bit of tangy aftertaste is not sourdough. I actually buy loaves of Grand Central Como bread for sandwiches if I haven't had an opportunity to bake for a while. And I have only tried the Macrina baguette...meh. I've had a better baguette, but not by much and I've had much worse. That said, I try not to buy any of them for reasons of cost and the fact that I can usually make better at home.


These are truly "artisan" breads. Their main bakery facilities are all within a mile or two of each other just south of downtown, and they happen to be close to my work and also to a few show venues. When going to work late at night or leaving a show, I'll drive or walk by them and see folks busy making the bread by hand around midnight.


Edit: come to think of it I guess we're pretty lucky, here. Most people appreciate good bread and many are willing to pay more for it, so smaller bakeries have survived and thrived. It could be much worse.