I was at the grocery store today and, against my usual policy, walked past the bakery. As I was, to be honest, judging, the breads I saw on the racks and show cases I noticed a term on the labels that caused me to pause. “Artisan bread”. Suddenly, I gain interest in the lack luster baguettes and multi grain loaves that are stacked haphazardly around the bakery. Mixers, proofers, hardly anything done by hand… Suddenly, my interest drops and I wonder, what does qualify as “artisan bread” anymore?
Personally, I have two deffinitions
1. A bread that has been mixed, proofed, and shaped without the use of mixers, proofers, or shaping equipment. Or, in other words, by hand. Also, to qualify, it needs to be loaded from a peel into a hearth oven, or even better, a wood or coal burning oven.
2. Underbaked, poorly scored, throw away bread commonly found in grocery store bakeries.
Although I adhere to these definitions not only in polite baking conversation, but also in complaining about the quality of the bread to my friends, family, and employer, the proper definition of “artisan” is as follows, compliments of Dictionary.com
-a person skilled in an applied art; a craftsperson.
Wait… that seems pretty vague, doesn’t it? The kids over at http://www.wisegeek.com have a pretty solid definition.
“Artisan bread is exactly what its name suggests: bread that is crafted, rather than mass produced. Baked in small batches rather than on a vast assembly line, artisan bread differs from prepackaged supermarket loaves in a number of ways. Special attention to ingredients, process, and a return to the fundamentals of the age-old bread-making tradition set artisan bread apart from soft, preservative-laden commercial breads.”
They go on to add…
“store-bought loaf of mass-produced wheat bread might have nearly twenty ingredients, artisan bread will have closer to five.” “Quality ingredients are mixed, slowly fermented, hand shaped, and baked in small batches in masonry ovens. Often, steam is utilized during the baking process to produce the crispy golden-brown crust characteristic of certain varieties of the artisan loaf.”
They go on to discuss flavor, color, and smell as well. The article itself is well worth the read.
But what do you think, internet? What constitutes as an artisan bread? Can you get away with using a 20k, or even 40k mixer to mix off larger batches of dough, and still get away with calling it “artisan”?