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Artisan Breadmaking

Over recent years there has been a quiet revolution in many smaller bakeries and the establishment of a growing band of artisan bakers. These bakers are using traditional ingredients and methods to bake a variety of traditional British and continental breads. The establishment of movements such as the lottery-funded Real Bread Campaign, which ‘aims to encourage the consumption and production of real bread in Britain’, have helped real bread become a hot topic.

Real bread is made using the basic ingredients of flour, water, yeast and a small amount of salt. The addition of other ingredients is fine, as long as they are natural and naturally processed. These might be products such as honey, seeds, nuts or fruits. Real bread has to be fresh; it cannot be ‘part-baked’ elsewhere – a practice that occurs in some supermarkets.

Most bread available to buy in UK supermarkets is made using the Chorleywood Bread Process, which was invented in the sixties. The method involves high-speed mixing using intense energy, a plethora of additives and preservatives, greatly increased quantities of yeast and no fermentation time.

Recent advances in molecular science have improved our understanding of the significant role of time in bread-making. As you allow dough time to rise, it is also fermenting. This process neutralises the parts of wheat protein that are most likely to trigger bowel disease and other auto-immune and inflammatory reactions to gluten. The wide availability of processed bread and the small number of artisan bakeries means that making a healthy choice whilst shopping is difficult.

The true essence of artisan baking lies in the crafting of high-quality bread using traditional techniques. Artisan bakers carefully select good ingredients, free from additives and invest time in carefully crafting and slowly baking their loaves. In the artisan tradition, baking is seen as a careful chemistry or an art form and acute detail is paid to the process, so specific crust and crumb textures are achieved.

Great importance is placed on the fermentation process, this is why artisan bakers prefer to use traditional dry or fresh yeast. The bread owes its complex flavour to a lengthy fermentation, which breaks down big molecules into smaller, more flavourful ones.

As artisan bread contains no additives or preservatives, it has a short shelf life and is best eaten on the same day as it is bought or made. Although white supermarket bread still leads the UK bread market, a recent study by the Federation of Bakers showed that the market share of white bread was down by 3.2% on 2009 which suggests that consumers are leaning towards a healthier, wholegrain option with a 5.1% sales growth of malted, grainy and seeded loaves.

Gail’s Artisan Bakery MD Ran Avidan said: “As one of the biggest Artisan Bakers in Britain, it has become clear to us that growing numbers of UK consumers are becoming aware that when it comes to taste and nutrition, there is no contest between a hand-made loaf and something factory-produced at speed”. (British Baker, January 2011)

At Doves Farm, we fully support the artisan revolution and also believe that carefully selecting your ingredients for provenance and taste is of the upmost importance for your health and wellbeing. We have plenty of bread recipes here on our website for you to try at home and taste real bread for yourself!

Alternatively, if you need a helping hand with your breadmaking, would like to improve on your skills further, or learn more about becoming an Artisan baker - we recommend the School of Artisan Food in Nottingham, a not-for-profit organisation who offer a range of courses. Follow this link for more information.

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