Question of the week: Is boutique bread worth the dough?

The humble loaf of bread has been transformed into a luxury item. On one shelf sits the fluffy, processed, white-sliced bread that costs a couple of dollars, on the other shelf sits its boutique counterpart — the sourdough loaf, dusted with flour, flecked with seeds and nuts and stuff and sporting a turbo-charged price-tag often above $10. Is the luxury loaf worth the dough, or is this tricked up pantry staple a rip-off?

Advertisements

26 Comments

Filed under Produce, Question of the week

26 responses to “Question of the week: Is boutique bread worth the dough?

  1. Another great question, Rachel. As someone who was raised on thick slices of crusty, delicious continental bread, I will always reach for the boutique loaf over the cheap white sliced loaf. Although I’m not sure I’ve ever paid anywhere near $10 for it. Definitely worth the extra $$$$.

    Like

  2. I am making my own sourdough, and can tell that it doesn’t cost the price they are asking. It is a big headache to find a good unprocessed, unbleached flour and generally any natural ingredient without additives. But that’s all about making a bread – yeasted or sourdough bread – they all are made with lots of love, patience and waiting but very rewarding at the end.

    Like

  3. I’ve baked my own sourdough bread for the last six years, and each loaf costs me an average of 65c. That makes them cheaper than even the $1 sliced white loaves I occasionally see at the supermarket.

    Having said that, if we weren’t able to bake our own, I’d happily pay the money for a boutique loaf, for two reasons.

    Firstly, we need to support artisan producers, and the cost of the loaf extends beyond merely the cost of its ingredients – it also pays for informed staff, organic produce, years of training, and small scale production. The last point is very important – if we want to be able to buy from more than just supermarkets in the future, we need to support our small specialist producers, or they won’t stay in business.

    Secondly, mass produced white bread is full of additives that I’m not happy to feed my sons. Given the amount of bread they eat daily, I got quite narky about the whole thing, which is why I started baking in the first place. Oh, and supermarket bread tastes pretty ordinary too. 🙂

    Like

    • Excellent points Celia and i love the fact that you have worked out how much baking your own sourdough loaves costs you! I will have to start baking my own bread (have been saying this for a while … maybe this post will encourage me to actually do it!) Supporting small producers is an important consideration, i have to admit. Thanks for reminding us!

      Like

      • Just a query did that cost include Organic flour, gas, electricity, wages, rent, packaging, machinery costs, rates, fuel, Insurance, water rates, these are other costs that go into making a loaf of bread or was that just the raw ingredients?

        Like

      • Now you’ve mentioned all those costs, perhaps we’re underpaying our boutique bakers. It would be interesting to find out how much they make from each loaf … maybe not much, all things considered.

        Like

  4. I have a theory about this. When times are tough inexpensive luxury items provide a little bit of extra comfort without going into debt. Boutique bread, handmade chocolates and natural soaps are a classic example of items which tend to do well in times of economic or social instability. The other thing to remember is that average household grocery bill has gone from around 30 – 45 per cent of the weekly wage down to roughly 15 percent – Phil Ruthven published the numbers somewhere once – anyway, the point being the $10 loaf isn’t all that much when inflation is taken into account, it’s just that most food has become proportionally cheaper, so that hand made slow food looks very expensive when it is, in reality, very affordable.
    If it makes you happy – buy the expensive bread – because in the long run we’re all dead anyhow…. 😉

    Like

    • I like your economic rational, JV! And interesting point about how much lower the household grocery bill is as a proportion of our weekly wage … i hadn’t thought about that. Out of interest how much are prepared to pay for your boutique loaf of bread?

      Like

  5. Good morning Rachel. Great question! I have been baking my own sourdough, pita bread and other bread things for about 4 years. In dollar terms it really costs very little to make but the whole process from start to finish, particularly with sourdough takes a considerable amount of time. Although, much of this time is spent simply ‘waiting’ for starters to activate, dough to prove etc. Bread with extra ingredients such as seeds, olives, nuts, fruit or special/organic flour would cost more to produce, obviously.

    If we are near a good bakery or market I am prepared to pay up to $6 or $7 for a quality loaf but this is something we would do occasionally not regularly.

    Like

    • Morning Jane. I saw your terrific home-baked pita on your blog last night and must admit to feeling a bit of wood-fire oven envy! I, too, am prepared to pay arounds $7 for a lovely loaf bought from a good bakery or market. But have to admit i can see it perhaps makes more financial sense to bake my own (never have, must try!) – i suppose it’s just the time/convenience factor. Anyway, if you have any top tips for a novice baker, let me know. Think i’m going to give it a whirl! Thanks for dropping by. Love your work!

      Like

  6. Hi Rachel, as bread experts we believe it is all about the individual. We bake fresh everyday with no preservatives in any of our bread ranges. We believe all bread types serve a purpose – from the classic white (great for BBQs), to wholegrain (everyday sandwiches) or products like Authentic Sourdough that takes close to 24 hours to craft (great to accompany meals throughout the day). We believe that customers adapt their bread purchasing for different occasions and requirements.

    Like

    • I guess that’s true, many customers adapt their buying habits to suit the occasion – i do tend to buy different types of bread products for different occasions. Thanks for dropping by.

      Like

  7. Ally

    True artisan breads do take a lot more time and often use better quality, thus more costly (especially if organic) ingredients to produce. These doughs need a lot more care and time than your basic white fluffy bread which is cheap and comparatively quick to produce. Some bakeries do sell some very subtle tasting sourdough and often do use a small amount of yeast. A technically true sourdough does not need yeast and has an obvious flavour and texture. Some bakers seem to take the tac that a subtle (and more easily mass produced) sourdough could somewhat. sway or convert the. public, however I am not positive about this.

    Like

    • Yes, i guess it’s important to factor into the time it takes to bake a loaf of bread into the cost. I am making my first sourdough loaf this morning, Ally. I’m not expecting much success, but i’ll let you know how i go. Thanks for dropping by.

      Like

  8. I’m more than happy to pay $10 per loaf – so long as I have the time to savour it. In fact the challenge is more finding the time and peace to have a slow delicious breakfast – so if I can find the time – the extra on the bread is a no brainer….

    Like

  9. Gareth Grierson

    Come on $10 the average price would be around $6 and as the saying goes you get what you pay for processed junk or hand made quality

    Like

    • Nice to meet you Gareth. I have no idea what the average of a loaf of boutique bread is – haven’t done that much research. But a $10 price-tag is not unheard of. My favourite loaf costs $7-$8 depending on where i buy it. I agree that you get what you pay for. Thanks for dropping by!

      Like

  10. I feel the beauty in a true sourdough bread made from an artisan baker, is the taste, texture and health benefits. The loaf has 4 basic ingredients water, flour, salt, starter (from maybe grapes, yogurt, flour & water). No sugar as the starter breaks down the natural sugars in the flour. This can take anywhere from 9 hours up. By the way Organic flour is double the price of plain white flour. I usually pay around $7 a loaf.

    Like

  11. I’m happy to pay $7-$8 for a good quality loaf of bread. In the scheme of things, it’s not that much more than what I’d pay for a mass-produced lump of spongy goo. I guess it comes down to priorities really and where you’re prepared to spend your money.

    Like

    • Agreed. I pay about $7/$8 – and fortunately don’t eat too much bread! Couldn’t do it if i was feeding a large family – then i’d have to take a leaf out of Celia’s book at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial blog & bake my own!

      Like

  12. Hi Everyone! Very interesting comments. I always find it surprising how many squeak if the price of bread is $5+, but don’t blink an eyelid when the same price tag is put on a lousy cup of coffee! It is not just the cost of raw ingredient we are measuring here as so aptly pointed out in previous comments and we should support our artisan bakers whenever we can.

    The concept of selling/buying bread by its weight is alien here, yet, it is what the French & the Finns do and have done as long as I can remember! That way you buy bread in the quantities you require. A $10 fixed price loaf could be of any size and not necessarily be value for money, whereas if it were priced by kg, then the consumer can judge whether the cost of a loaf is reasonable or not. In France I have often bought only half a loaf, particularly when those rustic ones can be ginormous! and paid for it by its weight.

    Like

    • Wow – buying bread by the weight. I love that concept. I’d often rather buy half a loaf than a full one. As a 2-person household we don’t eat as much as most. And so often the last 1/3 of a loaf goes stale and is reduced to breadcrumbs in the freezer. It really underscores the concept of ‘you get what you pay for’ as well – pay more, buy less (or according to your needs). Some brave person needs to introduce the concept to Australia! Thanks for dropping by Tia!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s