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Question: What makes a baker an “artisan baker”?

April 20, 2013

Artisan Bakery template

ar-ti-san

Artisan Baker; its a term you hear bandied about an awful lot these days, particularly by the media since Paul Hollywood began to grace mainstream TV a few years back.

As a viewer it is all to easy to accept most of what you’re told without question; but what exactly makes a baker an artisan baker?  Is it just a “sexy” label applied by a TV production company to ramp up their presenters credentials OR is there actually a quantifiable qualification that entitles you to define yourself an artisan?

bread ingredients

The Oxford English Dictionary defines an artisan as: “a skilled worker who makes things by hand”.

If you accept this definition as correct (and why wouldn’t you), this presumably means that any baker with skill and experience could justifiably call him or herself an artisan, but only an artisanal baker if they are producing their product by hand – and does this mean that unless your local “artisan bakery” can guarantee it makes all its loaves by hand, it cannot legitimately sell its product to you as “artisan bread”?   (Actually, thinking further, is it even possible for a bread to be described as artisan?  Adhering to the OED’s definition the answer to this has to be “no” as a loaf of bread in itself could never satisfy the requirements!)

granary_bread

I’m splitting hairs, I know.  Clearly by buying an “artisan” bakery product, we’re buying into the concept of smaller scale production -which need not be handmade – but always with an eye to the careful sourcing of key ingredients, avoiding the use of artificial preservatives and reducing food miles.  If you can afford the consequential premium on cost, then this has be a good choice… but what do you think?

Are you a commercial baker – what do you consider the prerequisites to describing yourself an artisan?

As a consumer – does the term “artisan” define the baker, the product or the process?

I call myself a baker but mostly I have only baked cakes.  I have made bread in the past, occasionally, but really I have to admit to buying my bread as part of my weekly supermarket shop (albeit, usually the wholemeal variety), generally for convenience reasons.

BUT I would like to learn more.  In future posts I aim to explore the history of bread-making, understand more about the benefits of making your own bread and/or buying from your local baker, and would love to celebrate the talents of this Kingdom’s smaller-scale bakeries – so why not nominate your favourite local baker and tell me why you choose to buy from him/her?

Denise x

 

Photo credits: http://www.bbc.co.uk and http://www.dozenbakery.co.uk

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