Thursday, July 31, 2008

How to Buy Artisan Breads

Handcrafted loaves of crunchy, hearty artisan breads are a world away from factory-made assembly line breads. These breads range in flavor from sweet and mild to pungent and rustic. Each loaf has its own distinct shape, texture and taste.

Read the ingredients. You'll easily recognize the short list of often organic, unbleached wheat flour, water, salt and yeast. If the bread is made with a sourdough starter, you may not see yeast.

Look for golden, ridged and crusty loaves. This is the telltale crust of bread baked in an artisan's wood-fired oven or hearth, which radiates high-temperature heat around the entire loaf.

Tap the crust. Listen for a hollow sound that means the bread is not dense and doughy. Inside, look for uneven webbed texture with lots of nooks and crannies of different shapes and sizes. This provides the unmistakable "mouth feel" of artisan bread.

Taste some samples. How the bread feels is secondary to the wonderful range of flavors available.

Eat promptly. Artisan loaves don't stay fresh as long as chemically preserved commercial breads do. Freeze stale portions to make French toast, bread pudding, croutons or bread crumbs.

No comments: