Canadian Pizza Magazine

Artisan baking in focus

By Bakers Journal staff   

Features Profiles Trends artisan bread baking

Preview what’s to come at the BAC’s Bakery Showcase in Toronto May 5-6, 2024

In 2008, Issa Niemeijer-Brown and his brother Marco founded Gebroeders Niemeijer (The Niemeijer Brothers) in Amsterdam, an artisanal French bakery that quickly gained international standing and acclaim for its croissants, pastries and bread. Photo: Sander Veeneman

Issa Niemeijer-Brown, co-founder of Gebroeders Niemeijer bakery in Amsterdam, will perform a demonstration of artisan baking skills and take part in a panel on the future of artisan baking at Bakery Showcase May 5-6, 2023. Bakers Journal spoke with the passionate baker and author of A Book About Bread: A Baker’s Manual to glean his thoughts on the artisan tradition.

How did you get involved in professional baking?

I always liked to bake, but never imagined myself becoming professional. While I was finishing my studies at university I started to bake more and more at home and applied for a part-time apprenticeship at one of Amsterdam’s best bakeries, called Hartog’s Volkoren. Rather than having a job interview, I was simply put to work. During that time I also kept baking at home. After about a year I took my homemade baguettes with me when visiting the first artisan French bakery in The Netherlands: Du Pain, located in Rotterdam. The quality of the baguettes took the owner by surprise, as he had never imagined it would be possible to make such quality at home, in just a regular oven and without any equipment. That bakery subsequently gave me my first position as a professional baker.

You encourage bakers to make choices. What do you mean by that?


In the book I integrate theory and practice in a way that enables you to modify recipes or create your own recipes. And most importantly, to use intuition and feeling when baking – adjust to the flour, adjust to the circumstances, the equipment at hand, the time you have available – without feeling constraint. 

Is it more important to produce artisan baked goods of consistent, uniform quality or to let bakers put their own stamp on artisan products?

This is a real dilemma. Customers expect constant quality and are used to supermarket products that always look and taste exactly the same. When we buy fruit, it needs to be shiny, even and without bruises. The same logic applies to baked goods. But just like with fruit, the nicest bread or pastry is not necessarily the one that will always be exactly the same or that looks the most shiny. And just like fruit is taken from the tree before it is totally ripe, to make pastries or breads that are consistent and uniform, a baker will have to set up the process in a way that consistency is assured, rather than the highest possible quality. 

On top of that, there is also another logic at play. The more a process is dependent on the skill of the baker, the more precarious it gets. What if an employee moves to another job and somebody new needs to be hired? What if the head baker is ill? What if the owner retires? What I see is that even in artisan bakeries, in order to survive as a business and to play it safe, it makes a lot of sense to have a process that is more regulated and that any baker with only minimal adjustment can fit into. And especially with bigger bakeries that have multiple locations, it is almost impossible to sustain a process that is too much dependent on the skill, drive, intuition and decisions of the baker.

I think it is important not to give in to these tendencies and not to go for a process that prioritizes reliability at the expense of flavour. To me, to have an artisan bakery means that variation in quality is part of the deal. It is OK if a bread or pastry is not perfect sometimes, just because that makes it also possible for it to be exceptional on other days. And in the end, I think it also greatly increases the pleasure of the consumer, if taste and consistency have little variations from day to day, and if sometimes you are surprised and taken off your feet with just one bite.

Bakery Showcase highlights

The Baking Association of Canada will present informative education sessions, engaging demonstrations demonstrations on award-winning pizza and artisan bread, a competition for professional bakeries and a “My Canada!” student cake competition!

For more information on Bakery Showcase, visit

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