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 Landing we use the word ‘artisan’ to sum up just how much attention is given to our products; the long, traditional processes that are used and the way we closely monitor every single handmade loaf, like protective parents, to make sure we serve them beautifully. In short, it’s very well-bred bread.
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 SA (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.
What is it that makes a loaf of bread an artisan loaf?
It’s an interesting question, especially to us here at The Landing.
When you talk about artisan bread you’re talking about bread made by an artisan – someone skilled in the craft of bread making. It’s not about how rustic the loaf looks or how uneven the crumb, although these are attractive qualities that indicate the changing nature of bread from day to day.
It’s not even about how hands-on the process is, as there are very few artisan bakers who have not embraced the time and energy-saving potential of technology. At one end you have bakeries that rely on a dough mixer to mix and knead the dough to those that are entirely automated.
We believe that what fundamentally makes an artisan bread ‘artisan’ is integrity. It’s about making choices about how the bread is made, from the type of flour you use to the length of the fermentation process (breads at The Landing use a longer fermentation that develops a unique flavour). And without question, artisan bread is made using a natural starter, made with flour, water and salt, and is baked on the hearth – even if it is a hearthstone in a modern deck oven.
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
Breads available to order for Take-away at The Landing coffee shop in Dunvegan, Edenvale, Johannesburg. Please call us on 011 453 1936