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Anyone can make artisan bread at home, though there are several baking tips that can help to turn what could be a simple rustic loaf into a truly artisanal creation. When making artisan bread, the ingredients are very important, because it is their flavor that will ultimately shine through. Cooking the bread in a way that accents the recipe also can be very important. When baking artisan bread, a combination of patience and knowledge can help to make an unforgettable loaf.
All artisan bread begins with the ingredients. Using quality ingredients in the bread can make a huge difference. If at all possible, using local ingredients can often provide superior results. If there are certain ingredients that are not produced locally, then an organic brand can be used because it will be free of most of the chemicals and processing found in mass-produced commercial products.
Even the water used in artisan bread making should be considered. Tap water might contain chlorine and other trace chemicals that could affect the yeast and taste of the bread. It is better to use water that has been filtered, even if it is just through a home charcoal filter.
The yeast is very important in artisan bread. Creating a starter, a piece of dough that has been left out so natural yeast takes root in it, is one of the best investments of time that can be made when baking artisan bread. Using a natural starter in the dough will greatly increase the amount of time it takes for it to rise, but the resulting texture and taste are well worth the effort. Additionally, a good starter can be kept alive nearly indefinitely, so the same distinctive bread taste can be replicated over and over again.
A pizza stone or baking stone is very important for making a crusty loaf of artisan bread. The stone will help to distribute the heat of the oven along the entire loaf. The direct contact with the bottom of the bread also will help to radiate heat up through it so the interior cooks evenly and does not burn. A good oven stone can really transform the way many types of bread bake.
The oven humid should be kept humid when baking bread. A good loaf can emerge from the oven with a crust that is glossy and perfectly cooked all around if the oven is kept moist inside. This can be done by using a spray bottle to spray water into the oven during cooking, or it can be done by putting a pan of boiling water under the stone.
@burcidi-- I agree. The time factor is really important with whole wheat or whole grain artisan bread flour. These take a lot longer to rise than regular flour. It must have to do with the high fiber content in it.
Most people (including myself) don't have the patience for the bread to rise to the right size. Hurrying it up definitely messes things up.
I so wish I had a stone oven to bake my bread. Artisan bread definitely comes out a lot better when the oven is super hot. It's kind of hard to get regular ovens to be hot enough and yet humid enough for perfect baking. Most bakeries have special ovens with steam injection just for making bread.
To make good bread in general and for artisan bread especially, you have to follow three important steps.
First is the starter. You need quality yeast and a good starter because the starter makes the bread.
Secondly, you've got to give the bread time to rise. There is a nonsense now called "artisan bread in five minutes." You can't get artisan bread in five minutes. It has to rise properly and that takes at least 3 hours.
Finally, knead, knead, knead! The more you knead the bread, the softer, the more uniform and flavorful the bread will be.
So artisan bread is not for the lazy. It takes time and it takes effort.
I hadn't thought about putting a pan of water under the artisan bread in the oven before. But what a great idea! I'm definitely going to try next time I make a loaf.
I agree with all of the tips mentioned in the article. If you don't have quality, fresh ingredients, you won't be making the best artisan bread. I try to get my ingredients locally and opt for organic when I can. When the ingredients are natural, it completely transforms the bread. It's amazing how good it can come out.
Another important tip I discovered recently is using warm water when making the dough. I used to use cold water or water at room temperature before. One day, I used warm water and the dough came out so much softer. I do this regularly now and the result is great.
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