Artisan bread is crafted, rather than mass produced. Artisan bread differs from prepackaged supermarket loaves in a number of ways:
Sourdough is a process of making bread with naturally occurring fermentation, using microorganisms in the atmosphere. At no point in the process is bakers yeast used.
After the dough is fermented, a portion of the grains is saved from each batch, called the sourdough starter, used to 'start' the fermentation of the next batch of bread. A sourdough starter is a natural leaven - a mixture of grains and liquid (usually flour and water) inhabited by 'wild' yeasts and bacteria which leaven and flavour the dough. The bacteria used are strains of 'friendly' bacteria Lactobacillus.
The yeasts used in sourdough bread are of the same family of yeast as commercial bakers' yeast. However, while commercial bakers' yeast cannot survive in acidic environments, natural yeast is very happy to live in such an environment. This is important because the lactobacilli in a sourdough culture produces lactic and acetic acids (which is what gives sourdough bread its flavour). The acids create an environment too acidic for commercial bakers' yeast, so only natural yeast can live with them.
a healthy sourdough starter, yeast and lactobacilli thrive in a
harmonious symbiotic relationship. They do not compete for the same food
and the yeast may actually help feed the lactobacilli. In turn,
lactobacilli produce an acidic environment that the yeast like but is
inhospitable to other organisms. Thus the acids provide a protective
environment for the yeast. Lactobacilli also helps the bread rise. Like
yeast, the bacteria digest simple sugars found in flour and produce
ethanol and carbon dioxide, helping leaven the bread.
Sourdough bread is not necessarily sour. It may actually be mildly flavoured with rich, complex wheaty flavors. With sourdough, the degree of sourness depends on multiple factors including temperature, length of fermentation, type of grains, amount of water, and most importantly, the particular strains of yeast and lactobacilli that live in the starter.
The best way to store bread is to simply keep it in a paper bag with the top sealed. Plastic is never recommended; though it may appear fresh, a plastic container will actually provide mould and bacteria with a favourable environment in which to grow. The plastic will accelerate the staling process, break down the flavour of the bread and cause the crust to deteriorate.
Artisan bread is made without chemical additives, thus it tends to have a much shorter shelf-life than the mass-produced prepackaged store-bought bread. Artisan bread should be eaten within a day or two of purchase or frozen for extended storage.
Bread can be frozen for up to three weeks. The ideal way to freeze bread is to tightly wrap an uncut loaf in aluminum foil, place in a plastic bag and then freeze. To thaw, bring the bread to room temperature, unwrap and place in an oven at 175 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes. This will bring the crust back to its original crispness.
Alternatively, you can slice the bread before freezing, wrap in foil as above and remove to thaw or toast. Toasting is the only way to bring the crust back if bread is frozen this way.
Long Ferment Bread
The longer the ferment, the less yeast is required. Over time, even the smallest amount of yeast will grow and spread throughout the dough. The addition of ginger powder (instead of sugar) to the original mix can help assist yeast growth, allowing consistent leavening to occur.
Sourdough leaven is a fine option to baker’s yeast, but bear in mind sourdough is a leavening agent. In sourdough bacteria cause fermentation, attracted and gathered wild from the atmosphere. Whether baker’s yeast or sourdough is employed as a leaven, the actual dough fermenting time must be at least 6 hours to achieve a nutritious loaf.
Traditionally, bread is ‘mixed’ the night before it is needed and then left to ferment. Through the fermentation process, the sour dough and natural yeasts develop, allowing microorganisms to break down proteins, fats and carbohydrates in the dough. This enhances the flavour and adds nutrients to the end product.
With adequate fermentation, wheat is able to covert to an easily-digestible product that is full of nutirents. It contains 18 amino acids (proteins), complex carbohydrates (efficient source of energy), B vitamins, iron, zinc, magnesium, selenium and maltase.
Most bread today however isn't produced this way, production processes having changed dramatically since WWII:
Unfortunately, these changes have generally brought with them a poorer quality end product.
Before the 1950’s, most bakeries in Australia would run two shifts a day, fermenting the dough at night. During the 50’s, bakery giant Tip Top began acquiring bakeries throughout Australia. The corporate baker quickly introduced the fast loaf (3 hours from start to finish), effectively eliminating the need for half of the baker's labour force and boosting production. This seemingly innocuous cost-cutting decision has had devastating consequences, compromising the health of millions today.
Nowadays the whole process of producing bread can take less than an hour. Preservatives, extra yeast, bread improvers & other substances are added to accelerate the bread making process. Proteins within the bread are unable to covert to their digestible potentials and nutrients aren't able to fully develop. Some of the most expensive breads available are still made this way, including 'health' breads.
The Costs of Poor Bread Production
A focus on shelf life, delivery and cheap, consistent products has largely led to the detriment of the nutrient quality and healthfulness of bread: