The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Questioning respectfully the rise of breads that take days to make?

berryblondeboys's picture

Questioning respectfully the rise of breads that take days to make?

Don't get me wrong, I have no doubt that these loaves of bread are delicious and making these loaves are probably satisfying, but I have to wonder about this sudden surge in popularity?

Bread is a staple of life for nearly everyone from all cultures for thousands of years. Yet today, bread is being seen as something we should cut out of our diets. We should be reducing all processed/simple sugars from our diet. Whereas bread was served at every meal of the day until recently. Now most of us eat it, once a day? Maybe some of us eat it at breakfast and lunch.

Also, I'm wondering if artisan bread is not just a feast for our eyes, but also a feast for our stomachs with maybe thoughts of, "Well, if I'm going to eat white fluff, I want to eat only the best tasting white fluff." And, since most of us don't eat bread at every meal, having a new loaf every week is plenty, especially for smaller sized families?

Let me explain more. Last night while my husband and son watched a movie that didn't interest me, I was watching videos on making sourdough bread. These recipes took DAYS to make. They looked great. I'm sure they tasted fabulous, but DAYS? So, do people have one bake (set of loaves) they are eating for the week and another in the build stage? Right now if I take a week to make a loaf of bread, I need to have a bread reserve so we have enough bread for the week. 

And as busy as people are today, I'm surprised that people are taking the time to nurture a dough for so long.

I just have so many probing questions as to how quickly bread went from "wonderbread is fine" to "I only eat artisan sourdough". And then I have even more questions because I can buy tasty bread from Whole Foods that cost $4.50 a loaf. Bagged grocery store bread of decent quality is $3.50 a loaf. A local baker is selling them for about $8 a loaf. These artisan loaves of bread take TIME to make and I don't see much mark-up in the stores for that time. 

So many questions. Like are these fancy bakeries actually taking that time to make them? I don't think so. Or maybe they are?

Colin2's picture

There are a bunch of videos out there which will give you a sense of what professional bakers do.  Hamelman's videos might be a start.  A key point is that while a batch might take a couple of days from start to finish, most of that time it's just sitting and fermenting.  It's not more labor, though you do need space to store fermenting batches, and some attention to scheduling.

For home baking, I'd distinguish sourdoughs from simple long fermentations.  Sourdough is an art, and glorious, but somewhat demanding.  Long fermentations starting from commercial yeast, though, are dead easy and very little work -- less total labor than a straight dough.  They're also very tasty!

cfraenkel's picture

I typically bake 1-2 times a week - depending on how much bread we eat.  As mentioned, most of the time spent is just wait time.  So a typical bake lead up looks like this:

Day 1-2: am before work - feed up some starter, do the same again after work and the next morning (3 stage levain build) 2- days but also about a total of 5 minutes over 2 days.

Day 2 after work - mix dough and put in the refrigerator overnight

Day 3 - shape and bake - I usually shoot for this day to be on a weekend so I can kind of watch what is going on.

I bake my own bread for several reasons

  1. I have some pretty severe food allergies and I need to control ingredients
  2. It is challenging and fun - keeps me thinking
  3. It tastes better than anything I can buy

My local bakery makes a decent bread and I have talked to the baker, they do take about the same amount of time to build their breads, but it is an ongoing process, they always have a levain ready, they always have dough fermenting/retarding and they bake every day.  So yes, they do take a long time, but it's just part of the business, like building anything - you do it in stages and there are always more on the go.

BreadLee's picture

There's something in bread making for everyone imho. You can nurture a great loaf for days,  or whip up a fine loaf in a matter of hours.  There's something for every schedule.  

In my case,  Bernard Clayton's recipes fit my schedule better,  but I'll also consult Hammelman, Robertson et al. Even some obscure bread books I've obtained are rich with info.  Sometimes you can blend them together. If I like the wheat germ in Robertson, I may incorporate it into a Clayton recipe.  I don't have the time to babysit dough for three hours folding it every 30 minutes.  If someone else does,  go for it.  Got nuthin against it.  There are so many ways to get a great loaf. 

As far as the health stuff goes,  imho  it's a bunch of villagers with pitchforks.  They're after that big mean ol bread witch.  It's bunk. They've been conned into thinking eating a few slices of bread is going to kill them.  Is that rich or what? It's sustained entire civilizations for centuries.  Now it's killing everyone and causing massive gluten intolerant outbreaks? Ooooook! 

AnnaZ's picture

Well, I have a friend that is just death on, so nasty, so, so bad for you, on and on ad nauseum.  Seems to ME, at least, that bread has become the whipping post of those looking to have something to blame.

idaveindy's picture

Buy a Whole Foods/Trader Joe loaf, and a loaf from Kroger/Albertson's/Publix, and that $8 loaf from the local baker, all three on the same day.   Eat at least a slice of each every day for 4 days, comparing them fresh, and as they age.

Then go with the one you like best.

Home-milling the grain, and using sourdough starter has ruined me. I'm now a bread snob.