Saturday, April 19, 2014

Crusty “Artisan” Loaves

I am an artist you know ... it is my right to be odd. – E.A. Bucchianeri

I had a difficult time with this bread. Not making it, but naming it. I usually consider any bread that doesn’t come pre-sliced in a bag from the store as somewhat artisan. But there are different definitions for what the word means.

For example, these answers are both from They sort of sum up the two ideas.

Before first rise.
1. Artisan food is food produced by non-industrialized methods, often handed down through generations. Tastes and processes like fermentation are allowed to develop slowly and naturally rather than curtailed for mass-production. Artisan producers are aware of the source of their raw materials and are also aware of the different local conditions which have given rise to particular regional specialties. Artisan production methods involve more simple yet practiced skills.

2. Artisan food is made specifically for aesthetic or beauty purposes with emphasis on presentation and display as well as the various disciplines of cooking like bakery, butchery, pickling among others.

Let’s call them hardcore and soft core. Both answers get to the heart of doing whatever you’re doing for the love of it. Hardcore extends back through the whole process. Soft core is because you want to make something that’s pretty or unusual.

After first rise.
I almost called this “artsy” bread. But artisan sounds so much nicer.

I wanted to make bread (tomorrow is Easter Sunday) that had a delicious flavour, crusty exterior and unusual shape. That’s where the artsy part comes in to play. Anyone can make a double domed loaf, but something weird? That takes some doing.

To accomplish this when I shaped the bread I stopped before making into a tight, round ball. The shaping was sort of based on a pughliese shaping technique. But not seeing it the whole way through allowed the bread to change shape as it rose.

The result, sone very weird, artsy and artisan loaves. Perfect for a celebratory table. You need bread for tomorrow. Make this recipe.

Just make sure everyone knows the shape is on purpose!

This is the blow-apart I write about.
Crusty Artisan Loaves
Prep: 15 min  |  Rise 3.5 hr  |  Bake: 35 min
2 cups water
2 tbsp brown sugar (or white)
1 tbsp yeast
1-1/2 tsp salt
4 cups unbleached flour
1 tbsp olive oil

Heat the water to 110-115°F. Any more has the chance of killing the yeast.

Place the water, brown sugar and yeast in a large bowl. Proof the yeast until creamy and bubbly – between 10-15 minutes.

Once the yeast has “proofed” add the flour and salt. Bring together in the bowl, then transfer to the counter and knead for 5 minutes. The dough will still be moist, but not sticky.

Oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, turn it to oil the top and then let rise in a warm place until doubled. This will take about 2 hours. After the 2 hours, punch the dough down and knead briefly on the counter. Then divide in two.

Shape each piece into a sort of triangle. Roll the dough up into a log by starting at the wide side and rolling to the triangle tip. Then take the ends of the log and cup underneath to shape into a roundish loaf. 

Don’t make it completely tight and round. Leave it loose enough so it will open up when it rises again. (This gives you your “artsy” shape.) Place on parchment on a sheet pan. Let rise for an additional 1.5 hours or until doubled.

Preheat the oven to 450°F with a pan of water on the bottom rack. Just before placing the loaves in the oven dust with flour.

Bake the loaves for 35 minutes, removing the water pan after the first 10 minutes.

Let the loaves cool on a rack. As they cool, the crust will tighten and crack in a most pleasant and attractive way. Almost artsy, one might say!


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