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Artisan Bread?


davidtmori
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Artisan Bread:

Bread in which a number of overworked, underpaid bakers create, for the love of baking, flavorful crusty loaves.

They live and die by the starter and how hot the shop is.

They pray for the night when every loaf is perfect.

They wonder why they do it.....until they slice open a loaf, straight from the oven, and slather butter all over it, and eat, what could be, the most heavenly thing on earth.

:wub:

Maybe not official, but a definition nonetheless.

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i doubt there's an official definition, since it seems to be the kind of thing that artisan bakers don't always agree on themselves.

chefpeon's definition is pretty good.

a more prosaic one might be any bread that's made with some kind of preferment or delayed fermentation or soaker ... a major extra step to make it extra good.

Notes from the underbelly

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I run a business in Bangkok and I think I can call it "artisan" - we make sausages and pre-cooked food items for 5 star Hotels - what differentiates us from others is that we do not use pre-mixed spices, but I make a batch fresh every day for each kind of sausage - using for example Nutmeg as in the whole Nut freshly grated instead of pre-grated stuff - we also use lean pork and pure fat to make sure we do not have more than 22% fat in the sausages - enough for full flavor and we add only about 5% of ice in weight during the cutter process (this is where none artisan producer make huge profits by adding a lot more water and increasing the phosphate levels to help emulsification) - any product we make is made with only the best available raw materials. We only produce to order, so all customers receive freshly made produce and not stuff from the freezer - I think that this could be called artisan

Artisan = putting an awful lot of effort into making a great product and making a lot less money than others

Edited by JohnBKK (log)
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Chefpeon's answer made me laugh and then about made me cry. Yes, that's about how I'd define it.

Seriously, it's next to impossible to come up with a definitive definition of "artisan breads," and I'm always hard pressed to do it myself.

But for me, it is actually much as described by chefp's message. Now and again I wonder why I'm working so hard and in such primitive conditions (I'd also add that in the winter it gets damned cold in my bakery which has no heat in addition to no air conditioning), and I wonder whether converting my oven to gas might be the way to go. And then I think, No, of course not. Because no self-respecting "artisan" bread baker would bake bread in anything but a wood-fired oven. It helps that my clients say things like, "Thank god you're baking today."

C. Devlin

The Village Bakery

Edited by devlin (log)
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Artisan Bread:

Bread in which a number of overworked, underpaid bakers create, for the love of baking, flavorful crusty loaves.

They live and die by the starter and how hot the shop is.

They pray for the night when every loaf is perfect.

They wonder why they do it.....until they slice open a loaf, straight from the oven, and slather butter all over it, and eat, what could be, the most heavenly thing on earth.

:wub:

Maybe not official, but a definition nonetheless.

This is a perfect definition, and could apply also to artisan pastry makers with minor vocabulary changes to the text.

I would add that artisanal breads and pastries are something a minority appreciate, but that those who do are intensely passionate people.

Eileen

Eileen Talanian

HowThe Cookie Crumbles.com

HomemadeGourmetMarshmallows.com

As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists. ~Joan Gussow

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  • 3 weeks later...
I would add that artisanal breads and pastries are something a minority appreciate, but that those who do are intensely passionate people.

Eileen

True. The problem is the majority that equate words like artisan with "weird" or "expensive". They need to learn that artisan doesn't just mean things like wild yeast foccacia with oil cured olives, anchovies and fresh rosemary (drool). That it can be a simple loaf of white sandwich bread for not much (if any) more money than the grocery store rubber and packing foam stuff.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I would like to know if there is an "official" definition of  Artisan?

There is no official (i.e., legal) definition in the same way "organic" has been legally defined. However in general, it refers to the product being made by an artist.

Some companies bastardize the term and use "artisan" to refer to products made using traditional methods. I do not believe that this is a true reflection of the spirit of the term especially since many "modern" manufacturing methods where food is concerned can actually be traced back over one hundred years. As much as we like to think we are unique, it is really surprising what was done one hundred years ago and how similar it is to the way things are done today. So, given this, it would mean just about everything is artisan including mass produced products where there is no significant care whatso ever into creating a great product.

Some others have tried to define "artisan" to be small producers. I'm not sure I buy that explanation either. Some products benefit from small scale production and others do not. Some products can scale production amounts while not affecting quality while others can not. If this definition holds then who sets the limit between being "artisan" or not? What is 1lb or 1 gallon is produced more than this definition? Does the "artisan" magically disappear?

Others have tried to tie "artisan" to quality. Here I also disagree. When I go to our local farmer's market, I see lots of artisanally produced products -- pottery for example. Some are of good quality and others not. Some are beautiful and others make you wonder why they aren't embarrassed to be selling it. However, it would be hard to deny that these aren't artisanally produced.

So, I believe in the end, "artisan" means that there has to be an artist who has the artistic freedom to make choices (both good and bad) as to which products are produced as well as fundamental design / manufacturing decisions that reflect on the quality of the final product. The artist, I beleve, must hold final responsibility for what is produced. In short, it must be produced by an "artist" and the artist is fully responsible for the final product.

-Art

Amano Artisan Chocolate

http://www.amanochocolate.com/

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http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=44350

Here is a link to a question I posed to James MacGuire when I was employed by a 32,000 square ft bakery that marketed itself as "artisan."

I honestly think that part of the reason they employed me was to feel better about calling the bread artisan..."see, we have a real artisan baker that works here overseeing production." Ok ok, the bread looked and tasted pretty darn good for the most part (not the best but hey we were making 2 thousand baguettes an hour).

MacGuire didn't take the bait and delve into the areas which seem to be most divisive among traditionalists, but readers of this thread might find it interesting.

More food for thought...

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Let's not forget about ingredients. Only high-quality unbleached flour, water, salt and starter, unless a legitimate preparation also requires some additional items like caraway seeds or whatever.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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In conversation i had w/artisan baker i was amazed at how important weather is When it's humid out, the whole thing changes. There is a battle between the heat, the humidity, the culture, the dough. All needs to be in synch to make the perfect loaf. It's very interesting to listen to someone who bakes like that--it's not about following a receipe - it's like cheesmaking....the flavor differs with season, diet of animal, age, etc.... there are always adjustments to be made.

That's artisan.

"Of all places, only at the table is the first hour never dull."

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In conversation i had w/artisan baker i was amazed at  how important weather is  When it's humid out, the whole thing changes.  There is a battle between the heat, the humidity, the culture, the dough.  All needs to be in synch to make the perfect loaf.  It's very interesting to listen to someone who bakes like that--it's not about following a receipe - it's like cheesmaking....the flavor differs with season, diet of animal, age, etc.... there are always adjustments to be made.

That's artisan.

I agree. I at at the White House in Atlantic City on the advise of a number of forum members last year. They make these incredible sub sandwiches. I've never been a big fan of "subs" since they typically are all about the bread -- and often poor quality bread at that. Certain chains seem to have sandwiches that are almost all bread and so you are hungry forty five minutes later. Even so, I put my trust in my fellow eGulleters and went to the White House with a friend.

I must say, these subs were incredible -- and the bread was absolutely wonderful. I asked them about their bread and their comment was simply that Atlantic City had the perfect conditions between heat and humidity to make the perfect bread for their subs. I would have to agree and quite frankly, we do not have bread like that here in the Salt Lake City area (though there are a number of good bakers). So there is plenty to be said for having the perfect conditions for bread making.

For what it is worth, the White House was the basis for an episode of House where a dying patient wants to go to Atlantic City for the perfect sandwich before he dies.

-Art

Amano Artisan Chocolate

http://www.amanochocolate.com/

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