Just as the name implies, artisan bread is crafted by hand in small, specialized batches. Artisan bakers provide special attention to the ingredients, equipment and processes used in baking their own type of bread, often compared to master sculptors albeit they work with flour and water instead of marble and clay. Then, contrast artisan bread with its commercial counterparts in supermarkets and bakeries. The latter are often filled with preservatives and additives and manufactured in assembly line style, thus, taking away the joy of eating into bread with its savory flavors intact https://kefirgrains.ie/product/organic-certified-san-fransico-sourdough-culture-80g/.
And lest you think that baking artisan bread is difficult since it appears to require advanced skills, think again. You can apply the following tips to start baking your own artisan bread to serve during special occasions.
You must follow the recommended measurements when baking this bread. This is because it contains no preservatives and, hence, changes in the measurements can affect the shelf-life of the bread. As you gain experience, you may be able to tweak it to suit your tastes and add other ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes. Also, it is best to use the metric system in measuring the ingredients with the exception of small quantities of yeast and salt.
You have to knead the dough after the basic ingredients of flour and water, yeast and salt have been combined but before it is made to rise. Kneading maximizes gluten formation that contributes to the texture of the artisan bread. You can use either your hands or a machine for this purpose, with the windowpane test as a common factor.
You also have to allow the bread to ferment since it builds on the flavor of the artisan bread. Most artisan bakers will use a preferment for this purpose, which comes in names like biga, chef, levain and sponge. Quite simply, it is a mixture of flour, yeast and water that has been allowed to ferment on its own for several hours or days and then mixed into the final batter.
Shaping and Slashing
Any artisan bread is only worth its salt when it looks the way it is supposed to look. Thus, baguettes must be long and narrow with a crusty top, a boule must be round and crusty, and a Vienna loaf must be oblong and tapered at the ends. Of course, the bread’s unique appearance is due to the shaping and slashing techniques used, which you can learn as you go along.
Now comes the moment of truth. You have to bake the kneaded, fermented, shaped and slashed dough in the oven with the right temperature at the right time. Keep in mind that each type of artisan bread has its own cooking time, thus, following baking instructions is a must to come up with excellent artisan breads.
The final step in the process of making artisan bread is to cool it. Although it would be nice to be served piping hot bread, there are instances when cooling it on a wire rack is best. This allows excess water vapor to escape, thus, preventing a soggy bottom and the flavors to mature.