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The Art of Bread

We chat with Philippe Gatto from Le Pain Quotidien about why Artisan baking is experiencing a well-deserved revival.

Toast for breakfast, sandwhiches for lunch, rolls and butter with dinner – for many Australians, bread is a diet staple. And while tens of thousands of mass-produced loaves are pumped out of bakeries every day, there is a small group of bakers who are dedicated to reviving the traditional art of bread making – free of additives, preservatives, pesticides, made with organic ingrediants and cooked to perfection in a stone oven.

One such baker is Philippe Gatto, who first started baking at the age of 15 in France, and has been perfecting the art of bread for the last 30 years. Joining Le Pain Quotidien since 2006, Philippe, who is the Senior Director of Global Production Operations has been travelling the world visiting many of Le Pain Quotidien’s locations, teaching and training bakers in the art of Artisan baking.

Now on a mission to spread the value of authentic bread making to the world, we talk to Philippe about why traditional bread making is experiencing a revival.

Could you define what you call 'authentic' bread making?

When I talk of ‘authentic’ bread making I am referring to the original process and the use of natural ingredients. The ‘root’ of making bread has been lost to modern technology and influence, and we, the Le Pain Quotidien bakers use the same artisanal baking technique use two centuries ago. By producing our breads with Whole Wheat stone ground flours, and natural leavening yeast, called “Levain” we leave no room for additives or preservatives, definitely no pesticides used and most importantly natural and organic ingredients.

I probably should clarify what “Levain” means; Levain is used in our breads as a leavening agent, which is frequently used instead of yeast to make the dough rise. It’s French in origin, and food historians estimate it has been in use since the 1600s. It may also be called sourdough, leavening, or wild yeast.

How is the bread that is made today so different to the bread made 200 years ago?

The modern world is impatient; it is also in the habit of producing food that is not made from organic ingredients. 200 years ago bread was made using natural ingredients and stone ovens, a process which has been lost to the modern world. Modern technique and production has stripped ingredients of their natural goodness, refining and degrading the original grain.

What are the most desirable qualities of a good baker?

Patience! This goes back to my belief in the authentic method of bread making. New techniques and equipment are used for efficiency, but I believe a good baker will wait for their bread to rise.

Also, it is very important that a good baker uses the best ingredients he or she can find. Le Pain Quotidien are dedicated and passionate about an organic lifestyle, teaching their bakers about the importance of the authentic process that goes into making good quality bread.

For someone who wants to try making their own bread, what is the one tip you'd give them?

Making ones own bread at home is not an easy thing to do. The keys ingredients to make good bread are:

- Source a natural ground stone flour
- Make your own levain
- Have the patience to leave the dough to rest
- And a good stone oven

Most of the time cooking with a stone oven is not likely, but if you can unite all of these factors, and with some practice, there is a good chance that someone can make very good quality homemade bread.

What is your greatest achievement to date?

My greatest achievement (and what I consider a privilege) is educating people in bread making. Le Pain Quotidien make beautiful bread with fresh and natural ingredients, and not only can you find great quality bread from every single Le Pain Quotidien store in the world, you know that it has come from a passionate baker who dedicates their time and energy into making the best quality organic bread for you to enjoy.

Le Pain Quotidien is located in Double Bay, Bondi Junction, Sydney City and other great locations around the world. For more information, please visit www.lepainquotidien.com.au

 
 

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