Artisan breads are very special. They are labors of love with nurturing of sourdough starters (if making sourdough), long fermentation times (often 12-18 hours), gentle kneading/folding techniques, special shaping and designs made by scoring (cutting into the top of the dough prior to baking). Baking techniques are also different, with utilization of steam (can be done in a variety of ways) to initially steam your bread and then finish off with dry heat to crisp the crust. And no, they are not burned, darker crusts with caramelization are prized.
Baking artisan breads can be done easily with supplies already in your home, but once you become a fan, you will surely be tempted to buy some supplies and equipment to improve and expand your baking experiences. You can spend as little or as much as you want, depending on if you buy new vs. used and depending on what/how much equipment you want to collect. You can always get creative and use equipment and supplies already in your kitchen in creative ways.
Today's Musing is a book review. Learning a new skill/technique takes some preparation with research and education. There's lots of information on available on internet websites, from specialized groups on Facebook and of course many books on the subject. I have access to a fabulous library with cooperative lending from other libraries throughout the state. I've looked at about 30 books on bread baking and artisan bread baking. Some were more helpful to me than others, but I am glad I looked at them all. There's a handful that I found especially interesting, and might even purchase as time goes by. There is one book that I decided to buy right now. Josey Baker Bread by Josey Baker. (yep that's his name!)
This book is a great entry level bread book. Baker started baking at home, became a breadhead, and now owns his own bakery. He is a very grass roots kind of guy, that simply stumbled into a craft that he loves. This guy was born to bake and seems to have a zest for life that is reflected in his baking. His book is written more as a tutorial. He holds your hand and actually speaks to you via print as you bake and move through the chapters in his book. He's more about teaching you the craft via a hands on approach, offering lots of encouragement along the way. There are lots of pictures to demonstrate ideas and techniques. It is well organized to help you with gathering ingredients and supplies and it has step by step instructions. I have already made two loaves from this book. I made them as written with available organic ingredients. Both turned out beautifully (photos appear below).
This is an excellent, unpretentious book that provides a great introduction to artisan bread baking. It's good for newbies and those with baking background. If it's at your library, check it out and see if it's for you. If your library doesn't have it, suggest they add it to their collection. Of course, it is available for purchase at your local bookstore and online.(both in print and electronic format). It is reasonably priced too.
Here are some links to help you learn more.
Here are pictures of my first two loaves made from recipes in his book.