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What is Artisan Bread?

Artisan breads tend to be baked in rounded, rustic shapes, with a hard or chewy exterior.
Bakers often add elements like sesame seeds and other fine ingredients to artisan breads.
Crostini made with artisan bread.
Cracked black pepper can be shaken on artusan bread before baking.
Artisan breads.
Black olives are common in artisan olive breads.
An artisan ciabatta roll.
Artisan bread is crafted in small batches.
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  • Last Modified Date: 20 July 2014
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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.

Whereas a store-bought loaf of mass-produced wheat bread might have nearly twenty ingredients, artisan bread will have closer to five. The basic building blocks of bread are flour, water, yeast, and salt. Sourdough is added for some breads; eggs and sugar for others.

For a more complex, flavored artisan bread, the ingredients list might expand to include various other items, all of them recognizable: sliced onions, cheddar cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil. Bread has been around for centuries. No chemicals were added to the breads baked by ancient Egyptians or those mentioned throughout the Bible, and none are added to artisan breads now.

The process of crafting and baking an artisan bread remains largely the same as then, too. 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.

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The texture and flavor of artisan bread are generally superior to those of mass-produced breads because the focus is on selecting high-quality ingredients. Also, acute attention is paid to details of chemistry, resulting in specific crumb and crust textures. Since chemical additives are not used, the flavors of each ingredient are fully developed. Examples of artisan breads include the country French loaf, semolina bread, whole-grain farm-style bread, flavored focaccia, stoneground wheat bread, and ciabatta.

Because artisan bread is made without chemical additives, it tends to have a much shorter shelf-life than the mass-produced prepackaged store-bought bread. It should be eaten within a day or two of purchase or frozen for extended storage. Leftover artisan bread may be used to make panzanella, an Italian bread salad. Because of its dense texture, artisan bread holds up well in the dressing, and the result is simply delicious.

To make panzanella, dice five or six slices of day-old artisan bread into bite-sized cubes and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. Toss to coat. Lay out on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Toast in a 400 degree F (200 degree C) oven for 7 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool completely.

Assemble the panzanella in a large salad bowl: Combine cooled toasted bread cubes with halved cherry tomatoes, diced mozzarella, chopped fresh basil, thinly sliced red onion, green and/or black olives, minced anchovies, and/or other ingredients as desired. Drizzle all with extra-virgin olive oil and add a few splashes of red wine vinegar, season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper, toss to coat, and let sit for ten minutes before serving.

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Discuss this Article

anon956510
Post 16

It is sad to see the "It's just bread" comments because those people clearly have never enjoyed a true "artisan" product, be it bread or anything else for that matter.

I hope that someday those commenters will have the same amount of pride in their work as true artisans do. Then perhaps they also will understand the word "artisan".

anon357974
Post 15

People, it's just bread. My mother usually made fresh bread for dinner, and sometimes for breakfast when I was growing up. Was her bread artisan as well? I'm not saying that "home-made" bread isn't better than the mass-produced stuff. I'm just saying that baking bread in small batches doesn't make it "art" or the baker an artisan.

Some people try to elevate everything to an art form when what we're really taking about are tasks, crafts, and everyday chores. Just because some people grew up without knowing how to do simple tasks and crafts doesn't mean it's now an art once they've "re-discovered" it.

anon343352
Post 14

Folks, this is just a nice and informative thread on what is fairly called "Artisan Bread", especially considering the corporate takeover of food production, distribution and sales of highly processed, altered and "engineered" breads.

anon304564
Post 13

Once a week, I make about one pound of sourdough bread, for about three months. The key issue is trial and error. You'll find your way in the process. Indeed, mass production has fed millions of people over the world with convenient cheaper products, but its caveat is quality.

So for those who enjoy good food rather than a quick and cheap food, use artisan anything: cheese, bread, bacon, yogurt, whatever.

anon294702
Post 12

I've been making two to four loaves of bread a week -- usually sourdough -- since before it had the fancy moniker of "artisan." The most common comment I get is, "This is the best bread I ever had!"

anon267758
Post 11

@anon252618 and all who believe the same thing: No it's not really just bread.

A little bit of high fructose corn syrup here, a bit

of bread improver there, but you are right. For you, it's all the same because what you eat doesn't matter anyway. Good appetite.

anon252618
Post 10

Artisan schmartisan - it's just bread. We get out of the habit of making something because we are seduced away by the much more convenient muck that as a serious violation of the trade descriptions act they dare to call bread in the supermarkets.

Finally, we are so disgusted that finally, someone works out that there was life before Walmart and suddenly we have to invent a brand new name for it. It's bread! Dump this "artisan" business - it's just bread.

anon164134
Post 8

Thank god there are assembly line artisan breads for the rest of us who aren't good enough for your snooty homemade breads. But I thought it was the chemical additives that stopped the flavors from being developed?

anon164133
Post 7

Fifty years ago, chemicals and automation were the savior of man. Why do we mistrust them today?

oldbaker
Post 6

Can anyone tell me how to get that "spongy", irregularly shaped hole look to my bread? Mine always seems to look like store bought white bread when I slice it. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

anon100743
Post 4

I have made artisan bread many times since I bought the book on this bread. It is the best bread that I have ever tasted and it reminded me of my mother's bread -- absolutely delicious!

However, I have never tried it with whole wheat as yet but will very soon when the weather is a little cooler. Everyone whom I have give a loaf or baguette to says the same thing: it's delicious. This will be my bread recipe from now on. It is nice to go back to basics. I have copied a couple of these bread recipes as well. I can't wait to start making it again. --BJS in Nova Scotia, Canada

anon90788
Post 3

@Anon60139: Can you advise how much "more" water to flour ratio. because i also have the same problem with dense bread. thanks in advance. --Mabel

anon60139
Post 2

If it's too dense it's usually a case of not enough water. I used to have the same problem until I saw someone make a loaf with more water than I would use.

It takes more time to knead and for a while you'll swear that it'll never come together but then it suddenly starts to firm up into a 'proper' dough.

zoid
Post 1

I have several great recipes for homemade no-kneed artisan breads. It's so easy to make, just requiring a few hours of rising and proofing time. My only frustration with the artisan breads I make at home is that they tend to be more dense than I really like.

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