Artisan bread is one of the biggest trends in the culinary world today. People are taking classes, buying books, and can even vie for the top spot in the international contest, Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie. Read more about this “rising” interest in bread.
Artisan bread is nothing new—in fact, it celebrates the old, traditional way of baking bread. It is, however, enjoying a renaissance because people are reacting to commercial breads that are made in big batches, at fast speeds, and often with poor quality. Artisan bread is about returning to the art of bread making, by hand.
Artisan breads are characterized by low amounts of leavening agents, with are left to ferment for a long time. But it is ultimately less about ingredients than the process. Different artisan bread makers will employ their own techniques, ingredients, shapes and of course recipes. However, they all share a commitment to making bread with the most natural flavorings (such as herbs, cheese, milk, butter, eggs) and with no preservatives.
Artisan breads are done by hand, not by machines. They are usually produced by small bakeries, run either by a single person, or family. The trade may be passed on to workers, who are involved in every step of the process.
Artisan breads cost considerably more than the commercial loaf, but they have a rustic taste and undeniable depth of flavor. Even the simplest loaf bread tastes amazing when it is done by hand. Even though it has got very basic ingredients, it is fermented with natural bacteria, not by additives.
Little changes in the ingredients can yield a wide variety of flavors and textures. For example, sour dough contains Vitamin C to stimulate the yeast, and malted barley flour instead of wheat. Other artisan breadmakers tweak a traditional recipe by adding flavored oils, herbs, fruits or cheeses. Others use a cooking stone during the baking process, which help conducts the heat from the oven.
There are many different kinds of bread, from the French brioche to the Italian focaccia to the Ukrainian Babka. Some are savory; others are sweet. All of them have their own distinct taste and texture—and, if anything, the recent interest in artisan bread celebrates that diversity and has made the world more aware that breadmaking is, indeed, an art.
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