Bakers Journal

Tricks of the Trade: October 2012

September 20, 2012

A loaf of bread’s scorecard is dependent on the consumer. There is no bad bread, only different types of bread and personal likes or dislikes that create expectations and determine the criteria we use.

A loaf of bread’s scorecard is dependent on the consumer. There is no bad bread, only different types of bread and personal likes or dislikes that create expectations and determine the criteria we use.

People often ask me who makes the best bread.

Before comparing the difference between bread made in an artisanal or industrial way, it is necessary to define the quality criteria of the bread.

First of all, the quality is comparable to the taste. Both are personal; either you like something or you don’t. To me, there is no bad bread, only different types of bread. It is up to each person to choose something that meets his or her own expectations.

The quality of bread can be determined by the following criteria:


  • Thicker and crunchier for a crusty bread, or bread baked on a deck oven
  • Thinner and softer for the sliced breads, such as enriched white or whole wheat
  • Even finer and softer for bread rolls (hot dog, hamburger, etc.)
  • Different bread baked in a pan or baked without a mould

Aspect of the crumb

  • Open or dense, according to the fabrication method
  • Whiter and more closed for enriched white breads
  • Darker and more open for artisan breads (baguette or ciabatta)

Aroma and smell

  • Differing according to the fabrication method
  • Long fermentation bread brings more acidic aromas while bread made in no time dough will smell of yeast and not the fermentation.
  • Enriched white bread can have a smell of freshness, while complete bread can smell rancid because of the presence of wheat germ.
  • Sourdough bread can be perceived as over date because of its very pronounced acidic taste. It is necessary to like the taste of sourdough to appreciate it.


  • Sliced breads are baked in pans. The shape will change only by the height of the bread, because the mould defines the length.
  • Baguettes, round loaves (miche) or other shapes of bread have to be controlled to offer constant symmetries from day to day.
  • The volume of each kind of bread is determined by the weight. It will vary according to every type of dough, but should be constant for every variety.

Flavour of fermentation/alcohol

  • It is certain that the dough made sour (levain) loosens more flavour than no time dough with a lot of yeast.
  • A bread’s flavour is developed by the given time of fermentation. Sliced breads from industrial bakeries are also made from yeast sponge (levain). There are several types of pre-ferment or levain and it is from there that the flavours will change, from one baker to another.

Uniform baking
Well-baked bread will have a better shelf life, however, time of baking will change according to every variety of bread and oven. Uniform baking often makes the difference between one baker and another.
Good distribution of bread topping

  • For a question of general appearance and cost.

The quality is relative to each person, according to what we like.

We cannot compare an enriched white bread and a baguette au levain, because we can like both depending on the make. In a restaurant, it would be difficult to serve toasts made with baguette, or serve white pan bread with a cheese plate. Every type of bread has its market, and the consumer must decide what he or she prefers.

Bread is often blamed as the root of weight gain. In my opinion, the bread cannot be blamed – weight gain comes from what we eat bread with. For example, cretons and pâtés of liver are good, but we reprimand the bread even though these toppings are calorie rich.  A French baguette is the bread with the fewest required ingredients for manufacturing: flour, water, yeast or pre-ferment and salt. The addition of sugar and fats controls the thickness and the flexibility of the crust. We cannot make soft rolls (hot dog or hamburger buns) without sugar and without fat, because they will be crusty. We have baking habits and tastes in Canada that are very different from France. Here, people like soft crust and prefer a baguette than keeps as well as sliced bread. It is the composition that makes the difference and not the quality.

Mario Fortin is an international bakery consultant and owner of FORMA-LAB, consulting services to bakers and suppliers. If you need technical information, send your question to

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