Are You Baking – Artisan or Not?

Are you looking for a new edgy way to describe your baking?

Have you wondered whether your baking is “Artisan’ or what this means in the first place?

Are you are wanting to sell your baked goods at a market from time to time or be your own boss and bake for a living or generate a little more income?

Can you call yourself an “Artisan” baker to help stand up and out in the crowd?

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Let’s see what “Artisan” means.

Oxford Dictionary: Definition of artisan – “A worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand.”

It’s that simple; if you are making your baked goods by hand, then you are an “Artisan” baker. Most of my readers are home bakers, and so are legitimate “Artisan” Bakers.

Now we’ve got that sorted; the next question is “are there specific “Artisan” recipes in the culture of baking?

This is where it starts to get complicated and the definition blurred.

You don’t need to read anymore to answer the question “Are and Artisan Baker Or Not?” it’s simple. To be an “Artisan” or not is all about the person and not the recipe. There are no official restrictions on who can use the term “Artisan Baker.”

There are some people describing their food as “Artisan” especially in the bread baking business.  Let’s dig a little deeper and understand what “Artisan Bread” is, or “Artisan Cakes” or even cookies.

This might give your marketing and exciting promotion edge especially at a community market or home baking business such as Cake Decorating, as this is undoubtedly very “hands on.”

“Artisan Bread” is not about it’s rustic and uneven look, the grains used or even how it is made. Plenty of “Artisan Bread” is made with a dough machine, so that contradicts the precise definition of “handmade.”

“Artisan Bread” is trendy as real bread that is making a comeback, and described as being made without additives, fermented for several hours and always touched by human hands.

Artisan bread

When people refer to “Artisan Bread” it’s all about the starter and initial fermentation process, it’s also about making bread without the additives and preservatives within the commercial bread.

Sounds healthy, and if you are curious about the evidence of health-related diseases and where our food comes from then read on, it’s fascinating.

“Artisan Bread” is made with a “natural starter, made with flour, water, and salt” If we look at this closely, “flour, water and salt” is pretty straightforward but on earth is a “natural starter.”

Here we go down the “Artisan Bread” rabbit hole of definition. When is a bread starter “natural”  or not a “natural” starter?

It all began when man started making bread, between 6,500 and 10,000 years ago, depending on which food anthropologist you believe. It stopped around World War I when commercial bakery and machines were introduced, and curiously, intolerances to bread emerged.

The “starter” is the name given to the yeast which, like a seed has the magic of life stored within it. When yeast is mixed with water, it comes to life turning the natural sugars in flour to release the bubbles of carbon dioxide. The gas gets trapped in the stands of dough making your bread rise.

There is, even more, going on in these bubbles and how it affects the bread, we eat our health and gut, more about that later.

sourdough starterImage Source: Sourdoughandolives.com

Commercial yeast is “natural” but not in the context of “Artisan” baking. The most common commercial yeast called, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, makes bread fast.. so it helps quantity, consistency, and speed to ensure getting our “daily bread” to the people, …very fast. The fast baking process requires additives and enzymes perhaps contributing to why millions can’t eat it without bloating and gut discomfort.

By contrast, an “Artisan” natural starter is a much longer process where the fermentation process can take more than 24 hours and usually many days or a week or more.  The longer, the better for health benefits as the process breaks down the protein, glutens in the flour, increasing digestibility and increasing flavors, and texture. Slow baking also helps fiber to work with your gut bacteria to work their anti-inflammatory magic.

A “natural starter” is a culture of wild yeasts and friendly bacteria providing bread with unique flavor, smell and texture. Before commercial yeasts, “natural starters” were handed down through generations and often sourced from fermenting fruits, vegetables and other things growing wild in the woods.

To be an “Artisan” you take time to make your bread, it’s slow food, and you would also take time to select the grain and flour.

Here’s how to do create your starter, it’s often called a sourdough starter.

If you’d like a recipe written for you, there is a basic Sourdough Starter recipe here as well as some recipes, and a free E-book from my favorite Sourdough baker, Tess Greenway.

Bread is a fascinating complex of chemical reactions from the starter to the flour you choose, and there are plenty of different types of flour in the “Artisan” bread baking scene.

Unbleached all-purpose white flour is the standard type available in supermarkets.

Whole wheat flour adds flavor and nutrients such as B group vitamins and will result in a much denser loaf. Choose stoneground flour if you can as it is made with the entire wheat kernel with fewer vitamins removed.

Barley flour was the first flour used in ancient times. Low in protein creating a dense, coarse bread.

Like barley flour, Spelt flour is another ancient grain however it has become very trendy lately and with a lot of confusion. Spelt flour is a variety of wheat, yet it is different.

Spelt flour does have the gluten of wheat. However, the ratio of gliadin and glutenin, the proteins of gluten makes in behave differently to other wheat flours. Gliadin makes the dough stretch, and glutenin gives it elasticity and shape. Spelt gluten has more gliadin making it more crumbly so be gentle when kneading and note the ratio also means the bread or cake won’t rise as high. So add more starter for bread and baking powder for cakes.

Cornmeal is most often used for non-yeast bread and needs to be mixed with other flours; it is a delicious addition giving a new crisp crunch to your bread.

Rye flour is often used as a “natural starter” and because it inhibits gluten development, always mix with other flours.

All of the flours mentioned can be organic and can be substituted for other flours of the same type. Check for organic certification, so you are buying genuine organic flour.

Baking – Artisan or Not?

Baking your own “Artisan” bread is a step toward taking control of how you nourish yourself and your family, and that’s what bakingforthehome.com is all about.

There is nothing more satisfying than knowing what you are feeding yourself,  family and your friends. For bread, slow is the way to go and call it “Artisan” if you want because you can.

But whatever you call it, whether you buy it from a market, a bakery or even make it yourself; there’s no doubt slow bread is better even with busy lives.

Don’t forget to get your free e-book on how to make a sourdough starter.

For more useful baking products, we have a product bay hosted by BakingBarby our Twitter ambassador, she’d love you to follow her. Her product bay is easy to access here so why not take a look.