Not all breads are created equal. There has been a lot of buzz lately about artisan breads. Is this just a fancy name for regular bread that folks spend high dollars on or is there something special about this “new” bread?

Actually, artisan bread is not “new” at all. As a matter of fact, it is basically returning to how our grandmothers baked bread with wholesome ingredients and none of the bad stuff. However, not all artisan breads are created equal either. Each artisan bread is as individual as the person who created it. Just because a loaf carries this label, doesn’t mean it really is, so check your ingredients. Real artisan bread contains only the four basic ingredients of flour, water, salt and yeast and maybe some mix-ins such as dried fruits for flavoring.

Bread is all about the fermentation process and when it comes to this, faster isn’t always better. Most commercial bakeries use high speed mixers and chemicals to speed up the fermentation process and the result is pretty unremarkable bread. Artisan bread, on the other hand, is fermented over a longer time, sometimes up to 24 hours, which allows the natural enzymes to react with the flour in their own time for a more robust flavor and texture. Artisan breads are also easier to digest because the enzymes have had time to start breaking down the gluten in the flour during fermentation.

True artisan bread is made in smaller batches using traditional methods which is why they are usually found in smaller bakeries. Although the ingredients are simple, each baker often creates his own combination of flavors, resulting in signature breads that are their own creations. The bakers use source ingredients from a particular provider which ensures consistent quality.

Because of this, different artisan breads have different flavors although the basic characteristics of a full aroma, deep golden brown crust with soft interiors with large and irregular holes and deeper wheat flavor are present in most loaves. These breads come in different shapes and forms and flavors that are as varied as the bakers who create them. 

They are referred to as artisan because artisan bread is truly an art form. A baker’s choices of ingredients, fermentation times, water temperature and even the ovens they choose to bake the bread in make each loaf unique and no less a masterful creation than a work of art.

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