Monday, May 23, 2011



An artisan is one employed in the manual arts who creates with both skill and dexterity.

Many artisan breads require a rest, or autolyze, during the mixing process, usually before the addition of salt or yeast. This rest, from 20 minutes to 1 hour in duration, helps to develop gluten without mechanical means, and improves the overall quality of many breads, from flavor and texture to their overall appearance.

The importance of proper dough temperatures cannot be overemphasized. Different doughs have different temperature requirements, and the following simple mathematical calculation will determine how to achieve a proper dough temperature. Proper dough temps help ensure consistency and allow us to follow production schedules by removing guesswork from fermentation times.
Dough temperature is calculated by averaging the temperatures of the main ingredients in a dough with the room air temperature, plus an additional one to two degrees of friction heat, depending on your mixer,  for each minute of actual mixing. ( Friction heat is heat added to the dough by the action of mixing. ) For this exercise we will assume 1 degree of heat for each minute of mixing.
Since water temperature is the only variable that can be controlled, we calculate it's temperature in order to achieve a proper dough temperature.
EXAMPLE: A batch of sourdough requires a dough temp of 73º. It will be mixed a total of 13 minutes. What is the necessary water temperature if the flour is 68º, the air is 75º, and the sour starter is 41º?

73º ( Desired dough temp )
- 13º (Degrees friction heat )
60º (Averaged temp of variables: air, flour, water, and sour starter )
60 ( The average temp of our variables )
x 4 (The total number of variables )
240 ( Static Number )

240 (Static Number) minus:
-68º ( flour temp )
-75º ( air temp )
-41º (sour starter temp )
56º = Desired Water Temperature

To recapitulate: We take the desired final dough temperature and subtract the friction heat ( one degree per minute of mixing ). We multiply the result by the number of variables in the formula. ( The variables can be as few as three and as many as five. ) This result is the Static Number. From the Static Number we subtract the temperatures of all variables except water (or other formula liquids). The result is the water temperature necessary to achieve the desired dough temp.
Once a static number has been calculated it should be included in the formula for the dough; water temperature calculation is then simply a matter of subtracting the temperatures of the variables other than water from the static number, resulting in the desired water temp.

Made from sturdy French linen, couches are long pieces of fabric used to cradle delicate breads while proofing, wicking excess moisture from the crusts while helping to retain their shapes. The banneton is a basket used to hold breads while they proof; they may be lined or unlined.

The inside of a bread loaf is referred to as the crumb.

Yeast metabolizes only the simplest of sugars through the use of it's own enzymes and the enzymes present in wheat flour. Diastatic action, through the use of malt products, furthers this process by supplying very strong enzymes capable of breaking starches down to sugars that may then be shortened by wheat and yeast enzymes.
Great caution must be exercised in the use of diastatic malt, as even a slight miscalculation can result in a weak dough so slack it cannot support it's own weight.

The primary reason for docking, that is, slashing the skins of proofed loaves with a lamme immediately prior to baking, is to allow for even expansion of the bread as it bakes. Failure to dock properly usually results in loaves that either burst or collapse in the oven.
A secondary reason for docking is to impart aesthetics to the finished product.

A docker is a small hand-held tool used for imprinting the tops of rolls.

Dough conditioners are essentially powdered acids added to bread dough in order to mimick secondary fermentation. ( See: FERMENTATION ) By adding these chemicals much time can be saved: the dough is mixed, given a half hour rest instead of a proper ferment, then divided, proofed and baked. The result is insipid. There is no place for dough conditioners in artisan baking.

When dough is mixed, it is "bulk fermented", that is, given enough time for the yeast to work. The term "rise" is generally not used by professionals.


When dough is mixed it is allowed to ferment in order for the yeast to leaven it. Yeast cells first scavenge all of the available oxygen in the dough, and then begin to metabolize damaged starches inherant in the flour into water, alcohol, and carbon dioxide. It is owtward pressure from the buildup of carbon dioxide gas that causes dough to expand.
Acid-forming bacteria are ubiquitous, and are responsible for much of the finer characteristics of a superb loaf. The acetobacter present in dough metabolize some of the alcohol created by the yeast into acids, strengthening gluten molecules for better oven spring, and imparting deeper flavor and aroma to the finished loaves. Secondary fermentation does not necessarily impart a sour taste to bread.
When dough overferments a buildup of alcohol begins to kill the yeast. In addition, an overabundance of enzymes begin to break down the gluten structure of the dough, resulting in dense, inedible bread.

The generic term "flour" simply means seeds ground into powder. We can therefore have corn flour, or malt flour, or wheat flour. Several flours are used in the bakeshop; here is a short list:
All Purpose Flour is a moderately strong flour rarely used in a professional setting.
Artisan Flour is sometimes referred to as unbleached all purpose flour, it has moderate gluten strength.
Bread Flour is strong flour capable of withstanding manipulation and long ferment times, resulting in loaves with superior oven spring and excellent crusts.
Cake Flour is soft wheat flour, high in starch but low in proportional damaged starch, sometimes used to weaken stronger flours.
High Gluten Flour is often used for challah bread or breads with a large amount of coarse ingredients added.
Whole Wheat is milled from the entire wheat kernel and can go rancid if not used quickly enough. It adds character, flavor and enhanced nutrition to breads.
Dark Rye is commonly used for rye bread production, although it can sometimes be difficult to work with. Unlike wheat flours, rye does not improve with age or produce gluten.
Pumpernickle is whole rye flour, coarse in texture. Sometimes called rye meal, it is not dark.
Rye Chops are broken pieces of rye grain and are used to impart character and flavor to a variety of breads.
Rye Flakes are extremely coarse pieces of rye grain.

Some artisan breads are given a "fold" halfway through their fermentation times. The dough is turned onto the bench and folded in on itself several times. The purpose of folding is to help strengthen the gluten and equalize the internal and external temperatures of the dough. Folding evolved from the old-time "punching down" of dough.

"Recipes" are known to professionals as formulas.

Wheat is the only grain that produces a gluten suitable for bread production. When the two protiens found in wheat flour, glutenin and gliadin, combine with water and motion they form gluten molecules. With the remarkable properties of both extensibility and elasticity, gluten allows for the manipulation and shaping of loaves without tearing. Gluten traps the gasses released by yeast during fermentation, thus allowing bread to leaven.
Vital Wheat Gluten is a readily available ingredient that is sometimes added to weak dough or dough with coarse ingredients to give extra support.

Judging proper gluten development is one of the most important skills a baker must learn. Gluten becomes stronger the longer or faster it is mixed; the more gluten is developed, the larger the resulting loaves will be, but the less flavor they will have. Further mixing after full development will result in an irreversable breakdown of the gluten structure within the dough.
Most artisan breads are given a "modified mix", that is to say, they are mixed slowly at first, then worked on a faster speed toward the end of mixing. This technique results in full-sized, richly flavored breads.

Breads may have specialty ingredients added to them, ingredients such as dried fruits, nuts, roasted pumpkin or squash, fennel, herbs, spices, citrus, chocolate, cheeses, potatoes, leeks, shallots, roasted onions, ale, wine, etc. It falls to the artisan to determine which basic bread formulas will best highlight a given set of gourmet ingredients.

The stone floor or deck of an oven is called the hearth.

The percentage of water relative to the flour in a given formula is referred to as hydration. A biga pre-ferment, for example, has very low hydration, while the hydration of ciabatta dough is quite high.

Pastries such as croissants and danish are made using a lamination process, wherein yeasted dough is layered with butter, then rolled out and folded, or "turned" multiple times in order to exponentially increase the number of butter and dough layers. The result is a pastry that is rich, buttery, and flaky.
The most important rule to remember during lamination is that the butter must remain cold.

The razor used by bakers to slash bread loaves immediately prior to baking is called a lamme.

When dough has completed it's fermentation, it is turned out onto the bench where it is cut and weighed for proper size, given a pre-shape, a rest, a final shape, and then either placed on peels or in pans.

Malting is the process of sprouting seeds. When barley is malted it releases very strong enzymes capable of reducing starch into sugar; this is called "diastatic action". Malt is available in diastatic and non-diastatic varieties, yet discretion must always be exercized as all malt contains some enzymes. Too much malt will slacken any dough.

Professionals refer to kneading dough as mixing.

When bread dough is placed in the oven the yeast cells warm and begin to metabolize faster, creating a push of carbon dioxide gas within the loaf. This sudden expansion of the loaves is known as oven spring.

Artisan breads may be "par-baked", that is, baked at a slightly lower temperature for a shorter amount of time than necessary to be finished. The loaves are thoroughly baked through, however the crust is not colored. The loaves are then wrapped and frozen for future use. When needed, the loaves are placed frozed in a very hot oven to finish the crust. This process allows bakers to make many varieties of breads in large batches, ready in a moment's notice for wholesale and retail.

The wooden ( or plastic ) boards that hold shaped loaves while proofing are called peels. The wide wooden board used to rotate and remove breads from an oven is also called a peel.

The very beginning of the mixing process when the dough is still an inchoate mass is known as the pickup.

This particular aspect of artisan baking is at the heart of many superb breads, pre-ferments often being used to improve the flavor, crumb, crust and aroma of finished loaves.
The pre-ferment is a technique in which a portion of the formula flour is fermented before being blended into the final mix, where it is fermented again. Thus all of the flavors and benefits of extremely long fermentation times are present, while the drawbacks of overfermentation are absent.
The following is a list of the more common pre-ferments:

This Italian pre-ferment has the very stiff consistency of pasta dough, however a tiny amount of yeast leavens the whole into a very soft sponge overnight. It is used when strength is required, such as in semolina bread.

Primarily used for pan breads, this American innovation combines half of the flour with all of the liquid and all of the yeast in a given formula. It is generally allowed to work for an hour or two before all the remaining ingredients are added and mixed. This sponge may also be retarded overnight.

Simply a portion of bread dough from one day's batch allowed to ripen overnight, pâte fermentée is primarily used in bâtards and baguettes. It may be mixed from scratch if necessary.

Originally from Poland, this French technique uses a variable amount of flour, a miniscule amount of yeast, and water to make a batter. It is fermented anywhere from 4 to 24 hours, 12 hours being average. It is often used in breads such as baguettes.

Often used in rye breads, sour sponge is much like a flying sponge with the addition of white or rye sour starter.

Sour starter, also called liquid levain, is a batter-like culture of flour(s), wild yeasts, and acid-producing bacteria. Dilligence must be used in it's care and feeding in order to bring out it's natural tartness without bitterness or excess enzyme buildup. Liquid levaine is often added direcly to the breads it is used in.
Rye starter is a sour starter made with rye flour in place of wheat flour.

As each loaf is cut from the batch and weighed, it is given a tuck in order to orient it's gluten strands in the direction of the final shape. This makes shaping easier to accomplish without tearing the skin of the dough.

After dough has been cut, weighed, shaped and peeled up or panned, it is then proofed, that is, allowed to rise. The term rise, however, is not used by professionals.

Resting doughs and loaves before final shaping is quite important in breadmaking. As the gluten in the dough rests, it looses some of it's elasticity and gains extensibility, allowing for easier handling and better results.

Retarding dough requires that it be refrigerated sufficiently to slow the growth of yeast. Retarding shaped loaves enables the baker to produce breads for baking the next day. Many sourdoughs are retarded as part of their overall formulas, as a better crust develops over time under refrigeration. Some pre-ferments are also retarded both as a way to prepare in advance and improve their overall quality.

The professional does not use the word "rise", as it can be confusing. Bakers say " ferment" when they mean bulk rising, and "proof " to describe rising loaves.

Breads are rotated, that is, turned and repositioned in the oven in order to ensure even baking.

Salt plays a decisive role in bread baking. Besides bringing out all of the flavors in breads, it also strengthens gluten. Salt's most important function, however, is it's action on yeast. Salt kills yeast, and in so doing controlls it's growth. This indirectly affects crust color by preventing the yeast from metabolizing too much sugar, allowing for caramelization of the crust to occur.

When ingredients are weighed and measured prior to mixing it is referred to as scaling.

Bakers mold dough with their hands into some very specific shapes: bâtard, baguette, boule, pan, roll, etc. Good, proper shaping requires practice and experience.

This old bakers term refers to dough that either has super-high hydration ( ciabatta ) or one that overfermented into soft, weak dough, or a dough with too many enzymes ( from malt, or sun-dried tomatoes, or underfed sour starter ).

This classification of breads, also known as levain in France, uses a natural yeast and acid-producing bacterial culture. San Francisco is famous for their sourdoughs due to the acetobacter native to the area. Regardless of where a starter begins, it will eventually be colonized by whatever yeasts and bacteria are native to the place where it resides.
Sourdoughs lend themselves to the addition of many gourmet ingredients.

Comprising approximately 90% of wheat flour, starch gives bread it's bulk. It is also responsible for crust flakiness. Stronger flours ( flours with higher gluten content ) have a higher proportion of damaged starch than do soft flours. This is important to know, as yeast metabolizes only damaged starch.

Steam injected into an oven full of baking bread gives the loaves a crisp, shiny crust. The white vapor commonly called steam is actually mist; steam is invisible and is extremely dangerous. Care must be exercised when using steam injection.

A straight mix refers to doughs with no pre-ferments. All the ingredients of a given formula are simply scaled into the bowl and mixed.

The branch of artisan baking that pertains to yeast-raised patisserie, most notably croissants and other laminated doughs, is viennoiserie.

Wheat bran is the outside layer of the wheat kernel, and is used to add nutrition and flavor to some breads. It may also be used to garnish the tops of loaves.
All grains are seeds. The whole grains used in baking must contain all the essential parts of the naturally occurring nutrients inherant in the entire seed grain. Some common whole grains used in bread making are: Barley, Corn, Millet, Flax, Oats, Quinoa, Brown Rice, Rye, Wheat Berries and Cracked Wheat, Whole Wheat, and Wild Rice.

Natural yeast is everywhere. In fact, the whitish coating found on grapes is actually wild yeast, explaining why crushed grapes spontaneously ferment into wine.
Many artisan breads are made using a sour starter colonized with wild yeasts. These indigenous organisms are incredibly adept at surviving the low pH caused by their acetobacter neighbors also flourishing in the same culture.

Central to the art of making bread is the lowly single-celled fungus known as yeast. Many strains of yeast exist in nature, and cultivating a local wild yeast for bread production is central to the art of the craft baker. Commercially available yeasts, also used by the artisan, are strains with particular characteristics that have been isolated and grown in mass quantities by manufacturers.
The various types of commercial yeast available to the baker are actually different strains of the organism. For instance, active dry yeast is not simply a dried version of the fresh cake yeast used by bakers, they are different species.

While this yeast stands up to higher sugar content ( raisin bread for example ), it must first be dissolved in 100 degree water in order to activate it. This extra step makes it difficult to control dough temperatures.

Fresh cake yeast of good quality is sweet smelling, friable, and free of mold spots. Fresh yeast stands up well to high sugar content, freezes well in doughs, and posesses a demonstrably superior flavor to dry yeasts.

Added directly to the mix during scaling, instant dry yeast is sufficient for most applications. However, it does not tolerate high sugar levels very well.