Artisan Bread

Artisan Bread

Also Known as Handmade Bread


What is Artisan Bread?

Artisan bread is a term that is not defined directly, but it has come to mean a style of fresh (not packaged) bread that is made with traditional processing techniques, higher water levels, and longer fermentation times.  The breads are usually crusty with an open crumb structure, a rustic look, ornate scoring and/or flour dusting on top.

Artisan bread is also typically baked using radiant heat, giving each loaf unique colors and appearance. They are also almost always baked in hearth-style ovens, as opposed to convection ovens.

Origin

The term artisan bread conjures the image of artisan bakers who are masters of their craft, shaping breads by hand and only using the basic bread ingredients: flour, water, yeast, salt, and (most importantly) time.  This is a stark contrast to the standard, industrially-produced breads that are often found in the supermarket bread aisle.

Application

The industrial bread bakeries have focused for many years on decreasing processing times and increasing the amount of automation in the bread-making process to make more product with greater consistency in appearance.  This gave rise to the use of dough conditioners, which allowed shorter fermentation times and made the dough more tolerant to the often stressful conditions generated by the dividing, rounding and shaping equipment.  The tradeoff for the improved efficiency was bread with a more closed crumb structure, less flavor and a longer ingredient statement.

As demand in the market for artisan-style bread has grown, the industrial bread bakeries have also begun to change the way they make bread.  Equipment manufacturers are designing more equipment that allows for longer fermentation times; reducing and shaping equipment is often stress-free to maintain the open crumb structure created by the fermentation time; and the bakers are more often including preferments like sourdoughs in their recipes.

If a dough conditioner is still required, it is more and more often a cleaner-label dough conditioner based on enzymes rather than chemical emulsifiers.  It is now possible to find artisan-style bread produced industrially that rivals the quality of true “artisan” bread.