What is artisan bread?

You may have seen the sign, what is artisan bread, advertised at a local bakery, and now you are wondering about it.

Is it bread for the worker, or simply all about a labour of love on the part of the baker? Truth be told it is a delicious loaf, so tasty that you feel reluctant to smear it with jam, or a smoked salmon-dip or something else, just to give it flavour; as we have to do with commercial sandwiches.

A loaf of artisan bread in the baking tin from the machine.

This page was last updated by Bernard Preston on the 8th October, 2021.

Has it struck you too just how tasteless the modern loaf is? And little wonder that sandwiches are are not unlike eating cardboard demanding layers of processed meat, pickles and artificial mustard; cheese and jelly, too, but it is all without flavour.

Nor is it wholesome.

Artisan bread is the traditional way to make a loaf, done for probably thousands of years, but with a little update using a small-oven to knead the dough and then bake it.

Bernard Preston does not have all that much time to spend cooking, much as he loves it, and you probably do not either, but we both still long for delicious, tasty sandwiches. 

Can you make bread in a short time? The answer is yes and no.

Yes it is true that you do not have to spend hours with an apron on, but no, it will not be done, start to finish in a short time.

In fact it takes me only about six-minutes of actual labour, but the first three must be spent early in the morning, or even the day before you want to enjoy your artisan bread. This is a traditional method of baking that does not require hours of your time, but the dough does have to ferment. The taste and improved nutrition makes it so worthwhile.

What is more because we use only 100-percent wholemeal flour, you will not even put on weight; it has a low glycemic index so you get no insulin rush. That is why refined starches and supermarket bread make us obese; a sudden rise in blood sugar.

If that is a concern of yours then find out about retrogradation of carbohydrates at reheating resistant starch. This is a simple way to making dieting more effective.

What is artisan bread?

What is artisan bread but the staff of life, made literally in five or six minutes; at about half the price of the bland supermarket-loaf. Well that depends on whether you are ready to spend the money up front to buy a mill, and find a farmer in your district who grows wheat.

In South Africa a German stone-grinding mill costs about R6,000[3], depending on the exchange rate.

Artisan bread is about the traditional way to prepare and bake a loaf. It requires no chemicals to speed up the fermentation and the slices are so delicious that you really do not need peanut butter or honey to dicky it up.

There is one other important factor; not only does artisan bread taste a great deal better than your supermarket loaf, but the long, slow fermentation means that the fly in the ointment is properly digested.

Proline is the amino-acid in wheat that causes gluten intolerance; in contrast with all the others, it has a ring structure.

It forms chains of amino acids that are resistant to natural digestion; it needs time, and it requires the enzymes from the fermentation process that you simply do not get from the modern, rushed baking-methods.

There are two ways to go about answering the question, what is artisan bread?

The first is a fairly long process of making a large amount of dough that you can store in the fridge; whenever you need a loaf you take a pound-sized chunk and satisfy your need for artisan bread.

It all involves several hours of attention whilst the dough cures and rises. If you have the time, by all means follow these methods; they are amply described on the web so I will not repeat them.

Read more about the meaning of gluten.


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  • Mill your own flour
  • Bake your own sourdough bread
  • Microplastics from our water
  • Alternative types of water storage
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  • Create a cyan zone at your home

Sponge pre-ferment

The second of Bernard Preston's tried and trusted methods is to prepare a liquid sourdough pre-ferment mix that you keep on the shelf in a cool place; every day you take a few tablespoons of the live lactobacillus culture, add it to the stone ground flour and leave it overnight for a long brew; in the morning spend no more than five minutes to complete my answer to what is artisan bread.

This is called a sponge pre-ferment and is often used for an enriched bread; we sometimes use a large spoon of hummus, or even half a cup of butternut soup. Cut back on the liquid accordingly.

The natural enzymes found in the bran, the bacteria and yeasts in the pre-ferment feed on the starch, releasing carbon-dioxide which is what makes the dough rise. Certain acids are released giving your artisan bread its unique flavour.

I am experimenting right now with using kefir as the starter; it contains thirty or more beneficial strains of bacteria and yeasts to ferment your dough. This will not work as a probiotic though as the bugs are all killed in the baking process.

Kefir benefits are something new to me but the early indications are that we have a happier alimentary canal; traditionally for the colon but in my own instance it cured a threatening ulcer from a helicobacter infection in the stomach, seen on a gastroscopy.

You will need at least a bread machine and preferably, if you are going to use 100-percent wholemeal flour, a wheat grinder; it is difficult to purchase the real deal but important because those essential fatty acids go rancid quite quickly.

Type "does flour go bad" into this search engine if you are interested.

Autolyse

Salt and yeast are enemies, so one should delay adding one or the other.

An autolyse is the process used by the French in which they mix the flour and water first and then allow about an hour for the gluten structure to begin developing before adding the yeast.

In the making of my artisan-bread I take it a step further; it is rather different to the conventional autolyse, so you should also do some reading elsewhere.

  1. Place the fat and honey at the bottom of the baking-tin.
  2. Add the salt dissolved in the water.
  3. Add the flour and gently twirl the mechanism under the baking-tin.
  4. Add the sourdough-starter and again twirl.
  5. Cover with the tin with a cloth and allow the dough to rest; it is autolysing.
  6. Then sprinkle the yeast on the top, do not twirl, and put the baking-tin into the machine.

I can do this whole process in just five-minutes when stressed with a deadline, but generally I relax and enjoy making my artisan bread; and that includes grinding the wheat.  Rush and hurry are the very devil.

During this autolyse process the gluten forms small cells that trap the carbon-dioxide. The dough becomes smooth and stretchy as the enzymes in the bran begins to break down the sugars in the starch; more food for the natural yeasts found in the 100pc wholegrain flour. The bacteria in the sourdough starter also are doing their work of forming the acetic and lactic acid that gives your artisan bread its wonderful flavour.

At Sourdough and Olives you'll get a more traditional way of allowing your pre-ferment to autolyse[1]. They add both the salt and yeast later. Baking is fun; keep experimenting and make your loaf uniquely yours.

Shelf-life

Using a sourdough pre-ferment acts as a natural preservative; it will naturally stay fresh for much longer. And it won't go mouldy unless you put it in a plastic bag; then you must eat it within 24 hours.

If you want it to keep longer, then freeze it on the day you bake your artisan bread. Wrap it tightly in a plastic-bag, squeezing out as much of the air as possible and consume within a week or two. It's perfect for toasting.

Never throw a good artisan loaf away just because it's gone a bit stale, and especially if you have used 100% flour. It is hard to get whole grains so tossing it makes no sense. I use it under our Eggs Hilton and it would be perfect with a soup, stew or curry instead of rice or potatoes. It has merely lost some of its moisture and will very quickly reconstitute itself; you simply will not know the difference.

You could also blitz your sourdough loaf in a food processor for bread crumbs rich in flavour.

wholegrain croutons

Break up your stale artisan bread into pieces and fry them in butter with garlic and thyme for marvelous croutons to be enjoyed with a salad or soup.

Bread-machine

Do not bother reading any further if you have no desire to purchase a bread machine, and  have a lot of time on your hands. By the way you can often buy them secondhand very cheaply; for some reason that is beyond me they are apparently the most under-utilised appliance in the kitchen. We use ours daily. Get one with a five hour cycle.

  1. Measure out the required amount of 100% wholemeal flour and add to the baking dish. 650ml for our Panasonic.
  2. Measure out about half a cup of the sourdough mixture.
  3. Add the required unchlorinated water and a teaspoon ofsalt.  300ml.
  4. Turn the paddle a few times and cover the baking dish with a damp cloth and allow it to stand overnight.

I do not add honey at this stage as we want the lactobacillus to feed on the wholemeal flour.

That should not have taken you more than three minutes; certainly once you have made your sourdough bread starter; that is a once-off and it keeps literally for years. You have to feed it with flour daily, and raw honey periodically.

In the morning, add

  1. One and half teaspoons of dried yeast, optional.
  2. A tablespoon of honey, or sugar.
  3. A goodly chunk of butter; that lowers the GI further.
  4. Place the oven dish in the bread machine, and turn it on to the five-hour cycle. Bob's your uncle.

That should not have taken more than another two minutes; in five hours you will know what is artisan bread. Something so delicious and not fattening if you use 100% wholemeal flour with all the fibre, that you are sure to happily spend a few minutes every day; nothing messy. You do not even handle the dough.

Allow the oven dish to cool before trying to get it out; it tends to stick but ten minutes later the loaf will pop easily; no sharp instruments that may scratch the baking-tin.

Heartburn

Many important discoveries have been made over the years quite by chance, but by an observant person. One such fascinating person was Wilhelm Röntgen who is credited with the discovery of x-ray, vital for all involved in the diagnosis and treatment of bone and joint conditions. We view them on a daily basis.

Another less heady discovery was that artisan bread made with little added-yeast is rather heavy but gives us less heartburn, as virtually all of the commercial loaves do, and to a lesser extent our own Panera loaf. I simply forgot to add the yeast.

We now enjoy it happily for dinner, and with various soups that would normally give me great discomfort some hours later.

Bread experiments are fun, and some findings are of great consequence.

Carbs in general get a lot of bad press these days; knowing the meaning of starch is part of untangling this web of misinformation.

On the subject of the starches in bread, those who are following a ketogenic diet to lose weight report much less heartburn; whilst it has many benefits I am yet to be won over. It means forsaking artisan bread and all legumes.

Our conviction is that it is the refined carbs that do the damage; and that means all commercial loaves. We should all find out what is artisan bread.

Since starting to take kefir, a probiotic, several times a week, I can now enjoy dishes like this spicy Thai curry soup with my artisan bread at night.

Instead I have come up with the 'modified Banting diet'; it has the benefits of a low refined carbohydrate lifestyle, without the extremes of the true ketogenic diet which is for diabetics and the morbidly obese like William was. Type it in here for more information.

Lignans

Lignans are very important phytochemicals found in 100% whole grains and seeds; flax, sesame and wheat, for example. Our artisan bread is rich in them, but not if you use conventional flour.

Lignans have a very important function. They have an oestrogen-like structure, and so block the hormone sites in the breast; much less metastatic disease. We eat refined wheat rolls and bread, sans these enormously important compounds, at our peril. Is it any wonder that one in eight women succumb? Getting 100% wholemeal bread today is extremely difficult;

It may seem simplistic but I believe it is better to make the time now answering the questions about artisan bread, rather than a lot more of it visiting the oncologist in the future; obviously there are no guarantees but it moves that stats in your favour[2].

Type 'lignans' into this search engine.

  • Panera bread menu recipe is our home page for bread making.
  • Method one to make what they call five minute artisan bread, but they admit it takes 40 minutes to rise, and preheating the oven for another twenty, and then bake for 30 minutes; that is too arduous and time-consuming for Bernard Preston's liking. It also uses a lot of electricity.

Sourdough bread starter

Foaming sourdough starter for artisan bread.

Making your sourdough bread starter is a breeze, but the whole process does take a few days; then what is artisan bread is very easily answered, far more simply than those time-consuming methods described on the web. All you need is

  1. Wholemeal flour.
  2. Unchlorinated spring or rainwater.
  3. Preferably raw honey, but the supermarket stuff will probably work.

Once you have made your sourdough bread starter it keeps literally for years; every day you dip in for a half a cup of the mixture.

Happy baking! I have a lot of hobbies and getting this down to a fine art has become necessary. I am not exaggerating; even with milling your own healthy flour which is what I recommend, it takes only six-minutes.

Earth hour

Saving the planet and reducing our fossil-fuel consumption is at the heart of earth hour. Turning on a large oven to bake one or two loaves of artisan bread is enormously wasteful.

We have two ways of reducing our carbon footprint; the first is to use a bread-machine that uses a fraction of the electricity, and the second is to generate our own solar power; then there is no cost to the planet. It is not rocket science, but some careful planning is necessary.


If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you will ever need.

- Marcus Cicero, Roman politician, lawyer and orator


If you have a garden and a library, and a kitchen where you can bake artisan bread, you have everything you will ever need!

- Bernard Preston


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