Artisan Bread

Sprouted Quinoa Spelt Bread
My bread baking adventure started in earnest since I took an artisan baking class at King Arthur Flour in Vermont several years ago. Clutched with a century-old sourdough culture and the newfound knowledge in bread making, I started experimenting with bread recipes I found on the web and from bread gurus.

Once you’ve started on this journey and tasted the incredibly complex flavor, open crumb and crunchy crust of home-baked breads, the neighborhood food market or bakery loaves wouldn’t be satisfactory for your palate any more. The labor of love in working with a few basic ingredients and transforming them into the daily bread, including those not too successful bakes, has brought much joy and psychic rewards. With some practice, making high-quality hearth breads in a home kitchen is well within reach, (but sadly, not economically feasible for mom-and-pop bread bakers). Artisan bread-making is easier to master and to embrace than you’ve thought.

What defines artisan bread here on this blog? To me, it’s the combination of simple ingredients, artisanal process, time-honored tradition and the distinct look that has made these breads real standouts—and worthy of your time and effort.

  1. Ingredients—flour, water, yeast and salt are the four basic ingredients; and none of the innumerable ingredients on the product label list that you can’t pronounce and chemicals or preservatives that have no place in your daily bread. Yeast means natural levain from the sourdough culture, not instant yeast  (although baker's yeast is often used in pre-ferments or in straight dough). Recognizable ingredients, such as olive, walnut or quinoa, are the distinguishing features of artisan breads.
  2. Process—Artisan bread is broadly defined as hand crafted rather than mass produced; small batch production rather than via a vast assembly line. They are, by and large, slow leaven breads that require long fermentation that takes days to complete. That builds flavor; there is no short cut to the process. Series of stretch and fold sequences are used in the bulk fermentation stage. Stand mixer is rarely needed. I find the cast-iron Dutch oven to be the most effective means in replicating the steam chamber of a commercial deck oven.
  3. Tradition—Bread is humanity’s oldest food steeped in a tradition of rich, fundamental and age-old techniques. The American artisan bread revolution took off in the mid-1980s when the concept of pre-ferments, soakers and the science behind the ingredients and the fermentation process were better understood and applied. We, as home bakers, benefit from the growing knowledge and breakthrough methods. I happen to stumble upon this fertile ground.
  4. Style—rustic in look, shiny crust and open, irregular crumb. But style may change over time. Don’t be surprised if I bake up something soft and tender, the antithesis of the country loaf. One thing for sure: whatever it is, it is baked with great care and a deft touch. Something glorious and nourishing to share among family and friends.

100% whole-wheat walnut sourdough bread

Levain Bread

Levain & Yeast Hybrid

Yeast Bread
Auberge walnut bread 

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