What Bread Do You Want to Be?

When I was a kid, we used to buy pre-made bread dough.  It came in a tube that you popped open by hitting the edge on the counter (at least that’s how we did it).  Then you twisted it to open all the way, pulled the dough out, and baked.  Only a few minutes later you had crescent rolls, biscuits, or cinnamon buns.

(c) AdobeStock Photo

(c) AdobeStock Photo

Were they the best ever?  No.  Were they easy?  Yes.  And tons of people bought them.

We ate that and Wonder Bread much of the time.  I thought that’s how bread tasted.  I didn’t really know any better.

Imagine my surprise years later when I tasted homemade bread!  And then when I tasted Artisan Bread!  It was like a completely different food.  Artisan bread had a heartiness about it, a depth of flavor that pre-made dough couldn’t even hint at.

What was the difference?

At its core, Artisan Bread is bread made by an Artisan.  Someone skilled at bread-making, and doing it in such a way that it becomes an art form.  Other differences between Artisan and Factory-made bread are these:

Ingredients.  Artisan Bread is made of whole grains and a natural starter.  Both help to give the bread a deeper, richer flavor.  Factory bread?  Processed grains, with most of the nutrition gone, and artificial fermentation methods.

Art.  Artisan bread takes some finesse to make.  It takes training.  Practice.  You have to pay attention.  The kneading process infuses the bread with your love and care.  Factory-made bread?  Done by huge machines with enough care to keep the dough alive.  And all you do is slice and eat.

Time.  This is the most important difference.  According to an article by Jamie Oliver, most mass-produced bread is made with a process that uses chemicals and high-energy mixers to speed fermentation.  Artisan bread dough is usually fermented for up to 24 hours, which creates more robust flavor as the enzymes react with the grains.  It lasts longer, too.

Once I discovered Artisan Bread, there was no going back to Factory-made bread.  There was just no comparison.  I even began making it myself.

Now I gotta tell you that it wasn’t easy making Artisan Bread.  Or buying it either.  So many places jumped on the bandwagon making what they thought passed for Artisan Bread.  But it wasn’t the real thing.  It was barely better than Factory-made bread.  And making it?  That required planning, preparation, and a lot of time.

We have a choice when it comes to our lives and what we choose to take on.  We can go for instant, where we pop open a container, throw some dough on a cookie sheet, and have fresh bread in minutes.  Or we can buy the ingredients, practice to gain skills, and take the time needed to make truly extraordinary bread.

We might need to take baking lessons.

We might have a few flops.

We might have to feed some to the birds.

But imagine the taste in your mouth when you finally take a marvelously chewy loaf out of the oven, cut a slice, dot it with fresh organic butter, and take a bite.  It will be worth the time, the struggle to become an artist, and the cost of ingredients.

Which will it be?  Pre-made dough or Artisan Bread?  The choice is yours.

Is there something you want to make and are afraid it will take too long?  Or it might not rise?  Or it might not taste good?  Let’s encourage one another in the discussion below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Kathleen, reading this post brings back memories of my grandma teaching me to bake bread, and my girls, in turn, learning the art from me in their youth. Thank you! The artisan life is the one for me—”real” time, real ingredients, real effort. As to what may or may not rise, I’m reminded of work I’ve sent out recently for publication and the hopes that go with it. Two rejections already this week. And I have a choice. Pout? Or send it out again with joy that the wrong home for it has been ruled out. Choosing the latter today. I can almost smell the yeast . . .

    • Oh Laurie, I’m so sorry to hear that you got two rejections in the same week! And you’re such a soulful writer. And at the same time, I rejoice with you that the wrong home HAS been ruled out. Or as Seth Gordon says, “This isn’t for you.” I’m glad you’re choosing joy today. I know your work will finds its way home – the right home. That yeast is working its magic. Bubbling beneath the surface.

      • Kathleen, your reply more warming to my sensibilities tonight than a mug of cocoa or spring tonic. Thank you!