Artisanship & Tradition
We are an artisan bakery by conviction. Quality is our priority. We only use traditional methods and natural ingredients to make the best bread possible, combining the best of German and French bread making.
Our choice of grain is distinctly German. We use rye and spelt alongside wheat. So is our choice of flours. We use darker flours, including extra fine wholemeal.
French Savoir Faire
By contrast, our processes are distinctly French. Gentle slow mixing, high hydration and long dough resting times, stretch & fold, bassinage and long sourdough fermentation at ambient temperature.
We don't use convenience products nor industrial yeast. We make everything in-house, and we grow our own wild yeast and sourdoughs.
Don'ts & Taboos
As a matter of principle, we don't use any chemistry, not even baking soda. No artificial additives and no artificial flavouring. Everything is clean label. No frozen dough. No baking agents and ready-mixes. No prefabricated products. Anything of industrial nature is strictly forbidden. And we use rock salt instead of sea salt to avoid micro-plastic contamination.
Our Baking 'Secrets'
How to make good bread is not really a secret. All one has to do is follow tradition. Simply put, one does the exact opposite of what most modern bakers do. Below are some of the traditional techniques we use. They all go against modern convention.
We don't use white flour. We use darker flours across the board. Darker flours have more protein, more fibre and more mineral content, and they absorb more water.
Sourdough and Wild Yeast
We don't use so called baker's yeast. We use sourdough across the board. To this end, we grow different types of sourdough and wild yeast cultures. Sourdough fermentation leads to better fermentation, more flavour and better fresh keeping.
Only Natural Ingredients
We do not use any artificial additives nor any synthetic flavouring agents. Our primary ingredients are flour, water, salt, sourdough and time. When we use any additives then we use only natural ones. Examples of natural additives for baking are fleawort, apple cider vinegar, ground dried citrus peels, barley malt, honey and bread crumb meal.
Plenty of Water
More water improves the mobility of micro-organisms and enzymes in the dough. This leads to better fermentation and more flavour. Wetter doughs also produce a more open, fluffier and juicier crumb. Finally, it contributes to better fresh keeping.
Slow Gentle Mixing
We mix our doughs slowly and gently to prevent overheating the dough, denaturing the proteins and over-kneading the gluten strands (in wheat based doughs).
Stretch & Fold
We do not knead our dough. Instead we stretch and fold the dough several times in several intervals allowing the dough to rest between intervals. This builds a stronger and more elastic gluten network than kneading.
Long Dough Resting
We use very long dough rests of up to 12 hours. This allows the dough to relax and absorb all the extra water we use in our formulations.
Long Fermentation at Ambient Temperature
We use very long sourdough fermentation at room temperature, typically 24 or 48 hours. To this end we only use a very small amount of sourdough for inocculation.
Do-It-Yourself is the Motto of the Artisan
We do absolutely everything ourselves. As a result, all our intermediary products are fresh and we maintain 100% control over quality. We follow this principle stubbornly.
No Magic, Simply Tradition
All of this takes a lot more time and effort. But the quality is so much better that it more than justifies the extra time, effort and ultimately cost. Customers often ask "How do you get so much flavour into the bread?" assuming some magic trick. But there is no magic trick, this is how all bread tasted when bakers followed tradition. Decades of eating bland industrial bread has merely diluted our senses. That's all.
Artisanship versus Industry
The Key Difference
The difference between artisanship and industry is not manual craft versus automation. The difference lies in the attitude towards quality and profit.
The artisan strives to maximise quality, profit is secondary. He or she does not sacrifice quality for more profit than necessary to sustain the business. The raison d'être of an artisan is the quality of his or her product.
In industry the relationship is reversed. Industry aims to maximise profit, quality is secondary. Industry will sacrifice quality in order to pursue more profit than necessary to sustain the business. The raison d'être of industry is profit maximisation.
It is this attitude, this relationship, this raison d'être that makes the difference between an artisan bakery and an industrial bakery, and the difference between artisan bread and industrial bread.
Quality is not an act, it is a habit. — Aristotle
The Benefits of Traditional Baking
Homo Comedentis Panis — The Bread Eating Human
It takes about 200 generations for any species to adapt to its staple food. For humans this means a period of about 4000 years. Our ancestors have made bread for at least 10.000 years and bread has played a major role as staple food in human history. As a result, we have evolved to become homo comedentis panis. Our bodies are now well adapted to bread made with traditional bread making methods, in particular long fermentation with sourdough. We are not adapted to industrially made bread.
What is Long Fermentation?
To bake a bread with a soft and moist crumb instead of baking a brick it is necessary to raise the dough by introducing lots of small gas bubbles into the dough. This is called leavening the dough. Traditionally, this has been done by fermentation with sourdough. Micro-organisms in the sourdough produce CO2 gas. The gas gets trapped in the sticky dough causing it to rise.
Within certain boundaries, the time it takes for a dough to rise to its maximum volume can be influenced by the choice of flours, the potency and amount of leaven added, the amount of water added and the fermentation temperature, but the process is nevertheless very slow and takes many many hours.
Why Long Fermentation?
Whilst it may be inconvenient for the baker to have to wait so long for the dough to rise, most of the flavour in bread is a result of fermentation. The longer the dough ferments, the more flavour develops. Good bread needs plenty of time.
Furthermore, during fermentation certain irritants that naturally occur in the grain are broken down, rendering them harmless. The longer the fermentation, the more digestible the resulting bread.
Sourdough fermentation also improves fresh keeping. First, it keeps moisture for longer, thereby preventing the bread from drying out fast. Second, the acidity produced by micro-organisms in the sourdough acts as a natural preservative, preventing the growth of molds and other pathogens.
In short, long fermentation, and in particular sourdough fermentation is beneficial for taste, texture, nutrition and fresh keeping of bread.
How many Hours is Long?
There is no agreed upon definition that says how many hours fermentation can be called long fermentation. But we consider 16 hours the minimum.
For most of our breads we use 24 or 48 hours fermentation time.
An exception are pretzels where we use 16 hours fermentation time so that the raw pretzels remain reasonably firm when they are dipped in lye solution shortly before baking. If they are too soft, they fall apart in the lye bath.
The Trouble with Modern Baking
The Industrialisation of Baking
Over the last 100 years, baking has become increasingly industrialised. Automation and machine friendly formulation as well as chemistry have made the work of bakers much easier and significantly shortened the time it takes to make bread. This has increased output and made bakeries more profitable.
However, it has also substantially driven down the quality of the bread in terms of taste, texture, fresh keeping, nutrition and healthiness. The majority of bread sold today has little taste, poor texture, dries out fast and has very little nutritional value, often it is outright unhealthy.
Most of the increased productivity is achieved by cutting corners, or to call a spade a spade, by cheating, disrespecting both product and customer, betraying the craft.
Cheat No.1 — White Flours
Dough made from white flour with little water is easier to handle, whether manually or by machine. White flours have less protein, no fibre and very little mineral content. They absorb little water and consist mostly of starch, tasteless and nutritionally poor.
Cheat No.2 — Baker's Yeast
So called baker's yeast is an artificial product created in a chemistry lab. It has been bred for aggressive metabolism to produce as much CO2 gas as possible in as short a time as possible in order to shorten the time it takes for a dough to rise. This results in unhealthy bland tasting bread with poor fresh keeping.
Cheat No.3 — Artificial Additives
Bakeries with a high degree of automation use artificial additives in their dough in order to make the dough machine friendly so that it does not get stuck in the machinery. Other artificial additives are often used to produce a larger loaf volume, influence crumb texture and crust. All of which can be achieved without resorting to chemistry. Such additives are called dough improvers, but they do not actually improve the dough for human consumption. Last but not least, preservatives are added.
Cheat No.4 — Artificial Flavouring
To compensate for the lack of flavour due to using white flours, baker's yeast and fast fermentation, synthetic flavouring agents are added to the dough. Yet more chemistry.
Cheat No.5 — Too Little Water
Wetter doughs make better bread, but they are also much more difficult to handle. Handling wet dough manually takes more skill and more time. Handling wet dough with machines is often impossible as the dough will stick to the machinery and get stuck. As a result, most bakeries use less water than the dough can absorb. This leads to a firmer drier dough and less than optimal fermentation which in turn results in a denser and drier bread with less flavour.
Cheat No.6 — Fast Intense Kneading
Most modern bakeries use high speed spiral mixers that mix and knead dough within about 5-6 minutes. This exerts immense shear stresses on the dough causing it to heat up in the process which in turn denatures proteins and damages the gluten network leading to a stiffer crumb. By contrast, slow gentle mixing takes about 30 minutes.
Cheat No.7 — Little or No Resting Time
Dough needs resting time before fermentation starts to absorb water and for the gluten network to relax. Depending on the type of flour this can take many hours. Most bakeries do not give their dough the resting time it needs and therefore use less water. This leads to a firmer drier and stiffer dough with less than optimal fermentation which in turn results in a denser and drier bread with less flavour.
Cheat No.8 — Fast Short Fermentation
Industrial bakeries often use a process called the Chorleywood Bread Process (CBP). This involves using lower quality flours with high amounts of aggressive industrial yeast and high speed mixers to beat extra air into the dough. It takes less than an hour from mixing to baking. The resulting bread is tasteless unless spiked with artificial flavours and the bread is considered unhealthy by an increasing number of scientific studies.
Even many smaller bakeries that one wouldn't expect to be using industrial methods often use baker's yeast and fermentation times of 4-6 hours only. And even bakeries that use sourdough for some of their bread often ferment their dough for only 5-6 hours by using large amounts of sourdough to inoculate the dough and then raise it in fermentation chambers with a higher than ambient temperature.
However, even 6 hours fermentation is still far too short to decompose naturally occurring irritants and develop flavour. Ultimately, such bread is industrial bread.
Cheat No.9 — Intermediate Freezing of Dough
In order to fool customers into believing that the outlet is a bakery, pre-made dough pieces are frozen and delivered to outlets. Once there, they just need to be baked off. This is called interrupted fermentation. However, it has technical disadvantages which must be compensated for by various measures, all of which diminish the quality.
Yeast cells that survive freezing, so-called cryo-resistant yeast, produce significantly less CO2. Higher amounts of industrial yeast must therefore be added, high amounts of oxidizing agents, as well as artificial enzymes and other chemicals. Hydration must be reduced and the dough must be frozen as quickly as possible immediately after mixing. Thus, there is no time for any dough rest and due to the high amount of industrial yeast, there is no time for dough resting and long-term fermentation even after thawing. The resulting baked goods are industrial and of lower quality.
Cheat No.10 — Ready-Mixes and Pre-Baked Goods
In order to offer a wide range of products every day, a large proportion of the products in most modern bakeries are industrially pre-fabricated goods. There are two kinds: Ready-mixes, also known as baking mixes and pre-baked goods.
Baking mixes are industrially manufactured mixtures of chemicals and artificial enzymes and flavoring agents, These are then mixed with the amounts of flour and water specified on the bag. There are also ready-made flour mixes that contain baking mixes and flour. The resulting doughs show no variability, can be processed immediately and baked after a short time. The lack of taste resulting from the short resting and fermentation time is compensated for by synthetic flavouring agents contained in the baking mix. The baker has little work to do and customers get the impression of an artisanal product, although in reality it is a factory bread.
Pre-baked goods are half finished goods that are mass produced in a factory and pre-baked. They are then delivered to bakeries and their outlets as well as supermarkets that operate automated baking robots with bread dispensing machines. The pre-baked goods only need to be baked off. Often this is done by the sales personnel. The baker doesn't have any work to do and again customers get the impression of an artisanal product, although in reality it is an industrial factory product.
In Summary: No Time, No Quality
The motivation behind every single one of these cheats is to save time and increase output. But time is the most important ingredient of bread. No time, no quality.