Artisan bread is special — it is more than just the sum of flour, yeast, salt, and water. It demands painstaking craftsmanship, perfect timing, and just a touch of magic. Artisan bakers are highly skilled and consummately trained, usually with a wide background in baking a variety of breads, cakes, and other bakery products from scratch.
What sets an artisan bread apart from run-of-the-mill bread are the techniques used in making it. Kneading, fermenting and shaping are as complex as the making of fine wine. Adding flavor with spices, herbs, nuts, fruit, and cheese or fermentation is more popular than ever but requires meticulous control over the baking process for the best results.
If you are fascinated by all of the types of bread, consider these things to start making artisan bread at home.
Technique makes them unique
From the iconic French baguette to the distinctive tangy taste of sourdough, artisan bread is as pretty on the outside as it is delicious on the inside. The delicate balance of the moist, yet airy, consistency of ciabatta contrasts with the rich pastry texture of brioche. Bagels are shaped into rings before they are plopped into boiling water to develop a soft, chewy crust, while olive oil adds a dimpled surface and extra moisture to a loaf of focaccia.
Each bread is lovingly measured, kneaded, and shaped before being baked to perfection with expert timing. Although all breads come from the same humble ingredients, the care with which they are made and baked turns each one into a unique and wonderful treat.
Bakers fall in love with the magic and wonder of bread
In order to become a baker, you must marvel at the complexity of four simple ingredients having so many different outcomes. The combination of a few simple ingredients transformed into a caramelized crust enveloping an airy, moist interior by the addition of heat must seem magical to you. You must enjoy the process of making something from scratch, and be dedicated to learning new techniques.
Of course, there are ways of making quick bread that is a little easier than going into complex recipes.
The oven is the most important piece of equipment
Every piece of equipment in the mixing and baking process is important, but the oven is critical. Deck ovens are best for baking bread because they provide consistent heat throughout the cooking chambers. Deck ovens range in size from countertop units to standalone models on legs, so invest in the largest model you can accommodate in your space.
Deck ovens have multiple compartments, each of which can be adjusted independently for the best results. Chambers are stacked upon one another, with a door to access each level. The flat decks provide even and direct heat to bread pans at temperatures as high as 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit. The reliable heat and small compartments develop Old World bread with a perfect crust while the precise controls of the deck oven allow you to experiment with multiple varieties simultaneously.
The greatest thing
There’s an old saying about sliced bread being great, but true artisanal bread is a step above those daily loaves. A delicate balance of quality ingredients combined with perseverance, loving technique, and just the right amount of heat results in an unexpected treat.