Artisan Bakery

Modern bread due to the usage of bleached flour and the addition of dough conditioners, emulsifiers, and mold inhibitors is being distanced by the consumers who are health conscious. Their preference is now shifting to healthier and wholesome ingredients. The result is the increasing popularity of artisan bread.  Loosely artisan bread could be designed as one which is produced by using traditional methods and ingredients. Ashok Malkani takes a look at the increasing popularity and the future of this increasingly popular delicacy 

Mention the word “artisan” and people at once conjure up images of a person who endeavours to create decorative interest in the surroundings.  The word literally means “one who produces something in limited quantities, often using traditional methods. It can also be applied to the food we eat. 

In modern world artisan baking is a delicious alternative to the regular run-of-the-mill foods made on assembly lines. One often hears the word ‘artisan baker’ bandied about quite often these days. The Oxford English Dictionary defines an artisan as: “a skilled worker who makes things by hand”. This would mean that any baker with skill and experience could justifiably call himself or herself an artisan, and the bakery baking these products would be an artisan bakery. 

What exactly is an artisanal baker, does he have to be specifically qualified and does the term ‘artisanal’ describe the baker or the product and process? These are questions that have been niggling the minds of the layman. 

Rajat Sachdev, Pastry Chef, Sofitel Mumbai BKC describes artisanal baker as “a craftsperson who is trained to bake a hand-crafted loaf of bread. Artisan is used to describe products that are produced by non-industrial methods. These products are handcrafted and are made with natural ingredients. Basically, artisan is used to describe the process of bread making.”

Rayomund Pardiwalla, Executive Chef, Gokulam Grand Hotel and Spa, Bangalore, claims, “An artisan baker is a craftsperson who is trained to the highest ability to mix; ferment, shape and bake a hand crafted loaf of bread .They incorporate the science behind the chemical reactions of the ingredients and use them to create the most optimal environment for bread to develop.

It is said that this trend is driven partly by families being keen to get back into the kitchen and cook for themselves. According to my opinion, it is based on the skill that you possess and the quality of product you produce.”

Daniel Koshy, Executive Chef, JW Marriott Hotel Bengaluru, believes that Artisan basically defines the baker who has the required skills to produce an artistic or artisanal product and the product would then be called an artisanal product.  

He adds, “They have to be qualified both in skill sets and job knowledge. For example, in France, to make rye breads with more than 70% rye flour, you require a license. This is because the French government feels that a Chef with that license alone could produce a product which does justice to the product.”

Feroz Patel, Head chef, Fairfield by Marriott Pune Kharadi, avers,”Artisan bread is best described by thinking about the person who makes the bread. An artisan baker is a craftsperson who is trained to the highest ability to mix, ferment, shape and bake a hand crafted loaf of bread.” 

Waqar Ahmed, Pastry Chef, Hilton Bangalore Embassy GolfLinks, stresses that Artisanal baker is an individual who mixes both science and craft to bake bread “that is handcrafted, without machines and implements i.e. made in small batches. The bakers have to be specifically trained to knead, ferment, shape and bake a hand crafted loaf of bread. 

The term ‘artisan’ defines the baker, the product and the process as there is no involvement of machines.” 

Namal Kalubowila, Pastry Chef, Mövenpick Hotel Colombo, Sri Lanka, iterates, “Artisanal bakery is all about one’s personal skills and inclination to bake an out of the box specialty. It has hardly anything to do with the qualification of a baker, but more with the patience and passion towards the idea of fresh baking while the rest of the world demands quick produce. If a baker can present a distinct, handcrafted baked item, this skill alone can become a unique selling point for her/ him, and create a market for them.

An artisanal baker’s produce is authentic, and the taste definitely stands out. The time required for artisanal baking is high owing to the manual technique, devoid of machineries. The aroma, golden texture and crisp crust of artisan bread are significant factors that differentiate it f r o m normal baking. A plain machine made bread generally includes preservatives, which increase its shelf life. Artisan baked goods have a lower shelf life since they are chemical and preservatives free.”

Yash Mathur, Executive Sous Chef, Sheraton Grand Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway, states, “An artisan baker is a craftsperson who understands the ingredients, chemical reactions and all other conditions required for making bread. Artisan means craftsperson and hence defines the baker as he decides the outcome of the raw ingredients.

There is no specific qualification required to become an artisanal baker, however one must be trained and must be well versed in the understanding of all ingredients and baking techniques.”

Artisan Bread 

The first question that a layman would want to know is what is artisanal bread? How is it different f r o m the regular bread? Are the materials used in it different? These questions are bound to leave you flabbergasted. Research shows that artisanal bread is different f r o m the traditional one in several ways. 

Rajat reveals, “Artisan bread is short shelf life bread made by an artisan baker who is specialised in bread-making. An artisan baker is highly skilled in this field. As the saying goes, “It’s not a science but an art as well,” hence one can understand the skill an artisan baker will require in terms of measuring the ingredients to perfection, carving the loaf into their various forms and finally preparing the high quality baked products using the traditional methods of baking. 

Artisanal Baking is organic and requires skill while normal baking generally involves chemical processes and is mass produced. Originally, artisan breads only included flour, water, salt and yeast. Though flavoured artisan breads may list other ingredients.”

Namal disclosed, “Artisan bread is all about skill and craft utilising simple, fresh and healthy ingredients with fine, traditional techniques. An artisanal baker’s produce is authentic, and the taste definitely stands out. The time required for artisanal baking is high owing to the manual technique, devoid of machineries. The aroma, golden texture and crisp crust of artisan bread are significant factors that differentiate it f r o m normal baking. A plain machine made bread generally includes preservatives, which increase its shelf life. Artisan baked goods have a lower shelf life since they are chemical and preservatives free.”

Yash avers,” Artisan bread is any bread that is hand crafted. It is made with the four basic ingredients of baking: yeast, flour, water and salt. 

The artisanal baking process is old school. It’s a slower process with longer fermentation time. This allows the natural development of flavour in the dough, and hence you get tastier breads. Slow rising allows enzymes in the dough time to break down complex carbohydrates, in addition to creating lactic acid. Both result in bread that is easier to digest. The long fermentation process also produces acetic acid, which not only adds to the flavour but also acts as a natural preservative. Hence artificial preservatives are not required to preserve the bread. 

The ingredients used in artisanal bread are water, salt, sugar, yeast, butter and flour. Other additional flavouring agents such as jalapeno, chives, hazelnuts and pepper are also used.”

Waqar states, “Artisan refers to a skilled job where the workers mostly use their hands to craft a product. It’s made in small batches with carefully sourced ingredients. The art of baking bread is a precise science. Artisan breads are handcrafted and baked using traditional methods where patience and skill yield a unique product. The skills and knowledge of the baker is of utmost importance here. The colour, texture and flavour can be tailor-made as per consumer’s preference. 

The science behind Artisan baking uses traditional method of making dough and is handcrafted when compared to normal baking. The usage of machines is completely avoided when it comes to artisan bread making, but when it comes to the regular breads, as it is mostly for commercial use, it uses machines to quicken the process and hence it has a specified shape and taste to it.

Also, the ingredients in both are different apart f r o m the basic ingredients, e.g. artisan breads use lot of herbs like sage, thyme, basil etc; fruit and vegetable puree – beetroot, orange, carrot etc. Artisan baking uses very basic ingredients without any additives and preservatives, which most of the commercial breads use. Hence, there is a difference in price in both the products also, apart f r o m the taste and texture.”

Daniel disclosed, “In artisanal bread there are many layers of flavour hidden within the four ingredients of flour, water, salt and yeast that are the sole components of true French bread. Chefs have taken on the challenge of evoking f r o m the wheat its fullest potential. Using bakers tricks that are both ancient and modern, layers of flavour emerge f r o m it.“

Rayomund  reveals, “Artisan bread is all about the skill involved in making the bread. It is in the quality of ingredients used and mainly the starter which is used in the bread. The difference in baking, as compared to the normal baking, is in the skill one has.” 

Popularity of Artisan Bread   

About a decade back artisan bread baking took the culinary world by a storm. This was due to a book, “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day”, which claimed that for this bread the basic master dough or master boule, barely took 5 minutes to make. It was a no-knead dough, which, after being set aside for 2-5 hours was ready for the oven. It also contended that the dough could be kept for 2 weeks in the fridge without any ill-effects. 

Over the years there has been a growth in artisan baking. Bakers, across the globe, are taking a product and process with a 30,000 year history and plugging it into digital age resulting in interesting results for the baking community. 

So how has been the growth of artisanal bread in India ?

Yash, states, “Artisan breads have started becoming popular in all metro cities of late. This is due to the health conscious ideology of people. Stand-alone bakeries have started producing a wide range of artisanal products with traditional baking methods. Working professionals have taken up baking as a hobby and also baking your own breads is healthier, hence due to the health-conscious mind set of people the popularity of artisan breads have significantly increased.

As far as artisan bakeries are concerned, the growth in India is rapid when compared to globally as it’s a new and emerging trend in India. Most of Europe has artisanal bakeries f r o m a very long time.

There are several types of artisanal breads like Country loaf, baguette, sourdough, ciabatta, Mediterranean bread, walnutcob, rye bread, walnut & raisin bread, pain brioche, bagel, baguette, batard, boule brioche, challah, focaccia, fougasse, grissini, kuchen, pain au levain, pain de campagne, pain meteil, etc.

The artisanal breads available in our bakery in Sheraton Grand Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway are: Focaccia, Rye bread, Soft-roll, Hard-roll, French loaf, Baguette, Multigrain bread.”

Namal, however, feels that artisan bread is still a niche market in South Asian countries like India and Sri Lanka. “But,” he adds, “the number of avid travellers is increasing, leading to a growing interest in artisanal bread and innovative bakery items. This new bread culture is being received very well by the explorative Indian and has gained immense popularity over the past couple of years owing to the curiosity of tasting something unique and authentic at the same time.

There is a variety of artisanal breads available in the market. At Mövenpick Hotel Colombo, Sri Lanka, we have three types in our bakery, each with a unique flavour. In Sri Lanka, we have traditional items ranging f r o m the famous “Fish Bun” to “Kimbula (translates to Crocodile) buns, as well as healthy options like Kurakkan bread. These items have been quite popular since many years.”

Rajat says, “Lately, artisanal and handcrafted breads have become extremely popular in India. Due to global exposure and desire of finer things, Indians have started consuming artisanal and handcrafted products. Artisanal bread buyers have been increasing as it is easily available in farmers’ markets and niche bakeries.

There are many types of different breads available in the market today. With customers’ expectations increasing for new products, there are countless new types of artisanal breads in the market. At Sofitel Mumbai BKC we serve artisanal breads such as Six grain bread, Multi-vitamin bread, Dried Flavoured Ciabatta, Spelt Bread, Sour Dough Fruit Bread and many more.”

Waqar disclosed, “Currently there are a lot of bakeries who are popularising and selling artisan breads. However, in India only recently has there been a resurgence of artisan breads to avoid commercial mass produced goods and instead enjoy handcrafted loaves. 

The market for artisan bakery in India has been growing steadily. There are various ways of looking at the growth; the basic would be an increase in demand due to consumption, increase in the number of bakeries producing artisanal breads and the continuous development in the same, increase in number of artisan baking institutes and more. But the basic reason for the increase in market for growth of artisanal bread is the positive shift in consumption pattern of the consumers has influenced the growth of artisan bakery market.”

Daniel iterates, “in India artisanal bread making has caught on in the last few years. We still are predominantly a rice eating country and we hardly eat bread as our staple diet. Yet with the mushrooming of pastry shops and people travelling all over the world due to work, it is becoming more and more popular by the day, as they get exposed to the magic of bread . Demand for artisanal bread is slowly increasing. People don’t mind paying the extra bucks to get a great product. Artisanal breads could be under various categories, like laminated dough’s, breakfast rolls, rye breads, healthy breads, etc.”

Rayomund asserts that the popularity of Artisan bread is increasing in the metros, due to the number of cafes popping up every now and then. “There are a lot of dishes in which breads are used now a days. The crowd is lot more passionate about their food and understands the intricacies involved in different items. 

Feroz declares, that artisan bread is very popular in India. Some of them preferred by the Indians, due to their taste are: Ciabatta, Begal, Focaccia, which are used for making sandwiches. In our bakery, at Fairfield by Marriott Pune Kharadi , Ciabatta, Begal, FocacciaChallah, and Briocheon are available (by prior order).” 

Future of Artisanal Bakeries 

New concepts are being introduced providing artisanal bakers with opportunity to introduce new products which are healthier and acceptable to consumers.  To create protein-enriched artisan breads, manufacturers have focused on adding whey, soy or pulse proteins. Since artisanal bread has been finding loyal market across metros in India it is believed that the future prospects for artisanal bakeries is bright 

Yash asserts, “The future is very bright as this art is growing and new developments are coming up. Especially in India there is a lot of scope for entrepreneurs in this field as it’s just emerging and not yet established. In fact a lot of new artisanal bakers are opening bakeries in most of the metropolitan cities in India.

However, a new entrant must mull over issues like testing and perfecting recipes. There must also be consistency of products at all times. Getting consistency in artisanal goods takes years of practice and it’s a very important aspect for repeat guests. The entire process of artisanal baking is very time consuming as most of the fermentation is allowed to happen naturally, hence this must be predicted and planned and the stock of products must be maintained.”

Rajat declares, “Westernisation has changed the Indian food culture dramatically. Increasing influence f r o m the west is making artisanal products extremely favourable in India. Artisan Bakeries have penetrated metro cities and are making a niche for itself. In no time, artisan breads will be preferred over normal breads worldwide.

I think new entrepreneurs should invest in artisan bakeries as Indians are now looking for quality products and are extremely cautious of their consumption patterns. Healthy variants are also being looked out for.

A new entrepreneur needs to master his bread making craft before starting an artisan bakery. He or she should also identify its customers; assess the location & size of the business; list its product offerings; evaluate its pricing policy and chalk out its promotion plans.

Namal states, “I think the future market for artisan bread making is interesting. People are relying more on traditional techniques and their focus leans towards healthy living. At Mövenpick Hotel Colombo, we use the finest local ingredients with traditional techniques which require a significant amount of effort and time.

A new entrant must, however, first analyse the market and you need a sound understanding on artisan breads and baking. It’s not something you can fathom overnight, so with some quality research, time and hard work, one can definitely master this age-old technique of baking!” 

Waqar adds, “There is an increasing growth of Artisan bakery products in India.  Yes, there is a scope for entrepreneurs in this field and there are a lot of home bakers that provide Artisan bread products in metro cities.

For a new entrepreneur it is necessary to analyse the market. He should have trained staff and equipment, a good bakery location and freshly baked products.”

Daniel is, however, cautious. He states, “The future depends how the entrepreneur sees the market developing. If the demand increases more and more, people will venture into this field to tap the market. The points a new entrepreneur should consider are as follows:

  • Investment 
  • Place
  • Trained manpower
  • Good ingredient source
  • Target market

Rayomund declares, “The challenge to future growth for artisan bread depends on the ability of bakers to produce whole grain and” healthy” bread. More and more consumers, driven by their desire for fresh food and their willingness to pay for quality, are looking to retailers for their artisan bread. That means there are plenty of opportunities out there for entrepreneurs to build businesses around baking. Before any startup can hit the ground running, it should:

  • Generate funding
  • Get equipment
  • Source quality products in feasible rates
  • Find the right Location

Feroz is more positive. He asserts, “Looking at the popularity of this type of bread, the future is definitely bright and there is scope for new entrepreneurs. The initial investment required to get started as a home baker is minimal, and if you happen to gain one satisfied customer, he or she leads to many more. But one should always stick to the recipe for authentic artisanal bread.” 

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