Why Wood-Fired Ovens are best for Artisan Breads

While great bread can be made in home ovens, nothing beats a wood-fired oven for baking artisan-quality hearth breads. The secret is the extremely high temperatures that a wood-fired oven can create, much higher than can be reached with any home oven. The intense heat serves to roast the grain to enhance all the natural flavors within. And, the steam that is created when the moist dough is shocked with the oven's high temperatures helps to contribute to a lighter, well-leavened loaf with a beautifully colored, caramelized crust.

But, even then, it all depends on the just-right temperature within the oven, the right humidity while the dough is rising, and the right timing when baking the bread. Art, science, skill, and passion are just as essential ingredients as flour, water, salt, and leavening agent, for that perfect loaf.

What are par-baked breads?

Rather than being made in-store from scratch or from mixes, par-baked breads are created off-site-often hundreds of miles away. There they are partially baked for 70-80% of its typical baking time, flash frozen, and then shipped to grocery stores for a final bake-off. It's a growing trend for supermarkets as it gives them the opportunity to provide fresh, warm bread, as they need it, to their customers frequently throughout the day. It also provides a way to cut down on labor costs and waste. But is it as good as artisanal-quality bread made fully in-house or at a local bakery? The fact is that some of the par-baked breads are made by bakeries well-known for their high quality breads in specific areas of the country.

So, when it comes to flavor, it primarily depends on how well the store does the final baking process and how the bread is handled in general. Beyond that, it is a matter of whether or not there is a good local "scratch" bakery already available the area in which you live. If there is, go for the freshly made, fully in-house bread; if not, a par-baked bread made with good ingredients can be a good choice.

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