artisan bread

Not all bread is created equal. You don’t need to be a baker, a foodie or even fully awake to notice that tearing into crusty, freshly-baked loaf is a lot nicer than the supermarket sliced variety – but beyond that, things can get confusing.

Artisan’, for example…

It’s a term you see a lot in the food world these days, along with ‘craft’, ‘fresh’ and the vaguest of all, ‘real’. They’re usually used to signify care, expertise and quality of ingredients, but currently there are no official restrictions on who can use these terms; so it’s always worth finding out the story behind the label.

At The Flour Station we use the word ‘artisan’ to sum up just how much attention we give our products; the long, traditional processes we use and the way we closely monitor every single handmade loaf, like protective parents, to make sure it comes out beautifully. In short, it’s very well-bred bread.

But what about flavour?

Of course, there’s no point in toiling away at traditional methods if the result has less taste than an Elton John costume convention. But whatever you call them, the truth is that artisanal techniques really do lead to more delicious bread.

As with so many things, the key to a great loaf is patience. Most mass-produced bread in the UK (80 per cent) is made with the Chorleywood Process, which uses chemicals and high-energy mixers to speed up fermentation. The result is, as you might expect, pretty unremarkable bread – and lots of it.

By contrast, a long fermentation process gives dough up to 24 hours to develop, allowing the natural enzymes to react with the flour in their own time for a much more robust flavour and texture.

You might not know…

Artisan bread is actually easier to digest, because the enzymes have had time to begin breaking down the gluten in the flour while fermenting. And you can take time to savour it too – as a rule of thumb, the longer the production process, the longer its shelf life will be.

But whatever you call it, whether you buy it from a market, a bakery or even make it yourself, there’s no doubt that slow and steady wins the baking race.  We’ll toast to that.

Flour Station

About the author

The Flour Station grew out of the basement of Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Restaurant. We soon ran out of space and branched out to our own bakery premises. Not long after that, we set up our first stall at Borough Market and since then we’ve been baking our delicious sourdough breads for top notch café, delis and restaurants across London as well as our weekly market stalls. We’re firm believers in doing things the old fashioned slow way when it comes to making our breads. Each one has a natural yeast starter and the dough is given all the time it needs to develop its wonderful texture and flavour, which may mean the best part of a whole day. Once ready, the dough is divided and shaped by hand and baked in a stone based oven. This intricate process produces a sensational loaf with a good crust, a tasty crumb and a depth of flavour and texture unparalleled in conventional bread. We share our passion for real bread with top chefs and a loyal band of customers who return week after week to our market stalls. We draw inspiration from both when it comes to developing new breads, experimenting with new ingredients and new ideas as well as resurrecting forgotten classic British bakery favourites. Through this blog we hope to share with you the ups and downs, highs and lows, questions and answers that come our way whilst we continue to bake our lovely breads.

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  • Rebecca

    I have just baked my first sourdough from Jamie’s book Happy Days with The Naked Chef. Flavour is amazing and I loved the whole process. Only problem, and it’s probably our dodgy oven, is that the bread splits horizontally at the base. It’s as though it rises too fast and the base can’t keep up! It does settle once cold but I was wondering if anyone had any tips on how to stop this. I am desperate to make the perfect loaf!

    • Micksa

      The surface of the dough needs to stretch during the first few minutes of baking & it will often split as soon as it dries into a crust. You can stop it drying too quickly by putting a shallow tray of water on the base of your oven. The steam will let the loaf rise and form more fully before splitting. You also need to encourage the loaf to split where you want – along the top – by making two or more incisions there, a few mm deep with a very sharp blade, right across the top of the dough, just before baking. Hopefully that’ll do the trick ;-)

      • Rebecca

        Awesome. Thank you so much :)

  • Rebecca

    It looks like a mushroom …

  • Food Ren

    Great post! Very informative :-)