Consumers are increasingly looking for artisan food products that are hand-produced and made from recipes passed down over time. They want their food to be created by a chef or baker who really cares about the quality of the item being made. The taste, texture and nutritional value of the artisan product is important and more and more consumers are turning away from mass-produced, industrialized factory food.
Artisan, or handmade, bread is one of the most popular items now. These hearth-baked loaves are baked without pans and come with a beautiful crust and a rustic, old world feel and taste. Baking artisan bread is a true craft that is honored by those creating the loaves. The smell of a fresh baguette, ciabatta or focaccia will draw you into an artisan bakery and a few days later you will be back for more.
The First Known Bread Ovens
Archaeologists have traced the first known bread ovens back to about 5,000 years ago. Egyptian and Mesopotamians would place a large pot of clay upside down over the coals. When the clay vessel was fully heated the dough was placed in the pot and was cooked on all sides.
Later, the Tandoor oven from Pakistan was developed to cook Naan. These ovens of straw and clay took the form of a barrel that was narrower and open at the top. Greeks developed the contemporary wood oven some 2,000 years ago. Basically, they laid the Tandoor oven on its side and with the opening in front the oven used less fuel.
The Modern Deck Oven
In today’s modern artisan bakery you will most likely find the delicious loaves being baked in a deck oven. These ovens are available in a single deck or multi-deck model. A deck oven uses conduction heat that travels from either a hot stone or deck up to the bread loaf that is being baked. They also create radiant heat, allowing infrared waves of heat to enter the dough and cook it throughout.
One of the benefits of the modern deck oven is that it produces very consistent heat. Artisan bakers can easily make small, fine-tuned adjustments to the baking process so that they produce the perfect loaves.
Artisan Bread Over the Years
Throughout history artisan loaves were what you would find at the local bakery or would create and make at home. Things started to change with the invention of the first bread slicer by Chillicothe Baking in Missouri in 1928. Wonder Bread took advantage of this development and soon was sold as sliced, rather than whole, loaves.
Industrialized bread became the norm as loaf after loaf was factory produced in exactly the same form. Years later, in 1947, Pepperidge Farm began to offer an alternative to the pure white loaf and that was also produced commercially. Yet consumers still remembered and longed for the taste of the hand-crafted bread of old. Artisan bread is now back and is one of the hottest food trends.
The next time you visit your local bakery and buy a loaf or two, remember that you are buying bread that’s part of a rich tradition that goes back in time. Each hand created loaf is made with love and created by a true artisan.