The return to craftsmanship and intelligent eating habits with an awareness of the quality of the products we put in our mouths is a rewarding alternative that continues to gain more acolytes. In recent years, this trend—sponsored by the Slow Food movement—advocates the use of pure and genuine ingredients and has shown a renewed enthusiasm in baking artisan bread in our homes. Homemade bread has become the central theme in many forums, blogs and cooking courses taught worldwide.
It is certainly a way of looking at our past. This trend champions the value of authentic pleasures and wants to recover the delights of eating freshly baked bread. It began in 2004, following the publication of The Handmade Loaf by Dan Lepard. His collection of recipes, personal stories, and photographs captures both the different types of bread and home bakers throughout Europe.
Some time later came Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread, a revolutionary tome that incited the interest in homemade bread and its production methods for thousands of people. Since then, similar works, newspaper articles, and television programs show us how to prepare sourdough, cook rustic bread, German black bread or a ciabatta with olive oil and black olives.
By the year 2008, the “bread fever” had become a global phenomenon. Today, both in Europe and in America, expert bakers are offering courses to share their knowledge with a public eager to recover an atavistic custom almost on the verge of disappearing. In Paris, London and Miami, the prestigious school Le Cordon Bleu offers lectures centered on how to make artisan bread.
In Spain, there are experts like Iban Yarza, with a strong legion of fans who follow his blogs El foro del pan (The Bread Forum) and La memoria del pan (The Memory of Bread). Yarza is the author of the bestselling book Pan Casero (Homemade Bread), where in addition to delicious recipes; he explains the basic notions of raw materials, fermentation, utensils, kneading and bread cutting.
The trend of artisanal bread making has extended all over the world. In New York City, the International Culinary Center teaches the proper techniques of mixing, fermentation and shaping as well as the critical importance of dough temperature when making an assortment of breads and viennoiseries. In the west coast of the US, the San Francisco Baking Institute has gathered praise for elevating the baking craft and raising the standard of bread and pastry education. And in rural Tuscany, Italy, the Artisan Bread School offers hands-on courses are taught by some of Europe’s master bakers.. ■
PHOTOS: Courtesy Pili Cruz.