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.