A Work in Progress

Artisan

Why is the word Artisan or Artisanal important?

Bleached & Bromated Flour

Please don't us flour that has gone through either of these processes.


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Sourdough/Levain

What is Sourdough?

Artisan

noun

  • a worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand.
  • (of  food or drink) made in a traditional or non-mechanized way using high-quality ingredients.

The term "Artisan" is important. It evokes a certain feeling or notion of the product or person it pertains to. Unfortunately, much like the term "Natural" used in American food marketplace, its use is unregulated and has very little meaning anymore.

I believe that the word "Artisan" and the term "Artisanal" should be standardized at least by the guilds and/or associations that represent the products being described.
For example, here is the Artisan Baker Association in Austrailias guidelines.

When we get giant, multi-national corporations coopting these terms, it leads to much confusion for the consumers and strips away any meaning they once held.

Check out this Forbes article.

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Bleached and Bromated Flour

To put it simply: DON'T USE IT! - ...we don't, and NEVER WILL!

Taken from the King Arthur Flour site:

Potassium bromate (KBrO3), is a flour “improver” that strengthens dough and allows for greater oven spring and higher rising in the oven.

The primary concern regarding the use of bromates in baking is its demonstrated link to cancer in laboratory animals. It was first found to induce tumors in rats in 1982. However, since 1991, instead of banning bromate outright the FDA, with somewhat limited success, has merely encouraged bakers to voluntarily stop using it.

Bromates have been banned in numerous countries, including the United Kingdom in 1990 and Canada in 1994. In addition, in 1991, California declared bromate a carcinogen under the state’s Proposition 65. As such, baked goods sold in California would have to bear a store level cancer warning if they contained more than a certain level of bromate. As a result, most California bakers have switched to bromate-free processes.

Bleaching:

A "bleaching" agent is used in order to make flour appear whiter. It also aids in the "aging" of flour. Yes, flour usually needs to be aged to improve its quality for baking. Bleaching helps quicken the aging process by use of evil chemicals. Many of these bleaching agents have been banned in other countries.

IN CASE YOU DIDN'T GET THE POINT
DON'T USE FLOUR THAT HAS BEEN BLEACHED OR BROMATED

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Sourdough/Levain

The term Sourdough and Levain refer to the same thing and can be used interchangeably. I use the term Sourdough only because it is more commonly used and understood by people in America. I prefer to use Levain though, and will start using that term more often because I have come to understand that there is a certain percentage of people that have a negative conotation associated with the word sourdough.

Strickly speaking, a Sourdough or Levain, is bread made by the use of naturally -occurring lactobacilli and yeast. This comes in a form of a fermented "starter" that is added to the dough at the time of mixing. This is traditionally how bread was made. It wasn't until the turn of the 20th century that commerical yeast (active dry and yeast cakes) took over as the primary leavening agent in bread making.

Sourdough/Levain style breads are beneficial in many ways. Not only are they healthier than your average "super market" breads, they are easier to digest and much tastier. You don't even need a dictionary to understand the ingredient list.

If Sourdoughs & Levains are better, why aren't all breads made this way?
The answer is simply time and money. Sourdoughs/Levains take anywhere from 1-3 days to make. Their counterparts made with directly adding yeast can be made in a matter of a few hours, sometimes even less if your a huge corporate factory. Less time to make = more money.

BEWARE of FAKE sourdough.
Yes, their are fake sourdoughs out there. The term "Sourdough" isn't regulated or protected by any agency. This means any mass bread producer can slap that name on their products and sell you the fake stuff.

 

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