Bread 101: American vs. Artisan Breads

Mainstreet Bakery explains Artisan Breads.

If there was an equivalent of a Sommelier in the Bakery industry, Tony Sisinni would undoubtedly earn the title. He knows more about the complexities and nuisances of bread varieties, loaf shapes and baking techniques than most people know exist. Below are some insights from Tony on the basics of bread and baking.

Artisan vs. American Breads

Bread is a staple of many cuisines, but that doesn’t mean its simple. You’ll hear people refer to “Artisan Breads” when talking about the loaves with European-sounding names. Ciabatta. Focaccia. Baguette. Is that the designation? Not quite. While it is true most of these breads are of European origin, the term “Artisan” really refers more to the time the bread is allowed to rise, the formation of the loaf, and the baking process.

Artisan breads are allowed to rise for a much longer time than other breads, meaning more time for the yeast to ferment. A bread’s flavor is actually a function of this fermentation process; flavor is produced from the gas released during fermentation. The longer the time the bread rises, the more the yeast ferments, and the more flavor that is released into the dough.

There are also hallmark differences in loaf formation and baking process in Artisan breads. Loaves are often, although not always, hand shaped and hearth-baked on a baking stone. Vienna loaves are actually baked in steam rather than hot air, which gives the crust of that variety a thinner, more delicate quality.

Lastly Artisan breads are made in smaller batches, allowing the process to be more of a “craft” than an exercise in mass-production.