August 2014 Update – It seems that Average Joe Artisan Bread has closed down operations. A call to the founder, Joe, revealed that things just didn’t work out in the end. Despite popularity among retail buyers, the customers didn’t seem inclined to buy.
I thought the kit was great and the bread it produced of good quality, but it is the type of product that sells better when demonstrated. Retailers have a hard time staffing their stores with passionate cooking geeks and in the end, this lack of knowledge on the sales floor can doom a single product company.
I wish Joe all the best as he pursues other ventures.
Twice this year I have run into the team from Average Joe Artisan Bread kits so I think someone is trying to tell me something. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I am a baking enthusiast who is a real stickler about baking all my breads at home from scratch.
Even though I am tough about baking bread the right way, I do understand how intimidating it can be at the beginning. I read book after book, went through many trials and errors, but always learned and improved along the way. Not everyone has the desire to take this path – even though the rewards are totally worth it – so I understand the desire to seek a simpler way.
I have never been a fan of bread machines because bread machine bread isn’t nearly as good (even the sandwich loaves) as one can make on your own. I assume there are number of seldom used bread machines taking up storage space in homes after people learn this to be true, but what other options are there for the beginner baker?
When first meeting with Joe Bellavance, the owner/inventor of Average Joe Artisan Bread kits, I took a hesitant and wary approach with him and his “magical” artisan bread.
It doesn’t take long for even a skeptical bread aficionado like me to be charmed by Joe. He has a transparent passion for bread and for showing everyone how easy it is to do at home.
What is Average Joe Artisan Bread?
Founded in 2011 by Joe Bellavance, Average Joe Artisan Bread Kits are intended take the worry and wonder out of crafting fine, artisan bread at home. The technique is designed to be so simple that anyone can do it – so simple they say even their staff can’t screw it up!
I think their “About Us” information from their website sums up Joe’s passion:
Our goal at Average Joe Artisan Bread is to teach anyone – yes, even the Average Joe – how to make world-class bread in their own kitchen.
I know you can do it. How? Because even I can do it! I’m not a trained baker or chef or even short-order cook. I’m just a hack baker who loves good bread.
There’s something about the smell and taste of toasted wheat that drives me – and nearly everyone else – wild. Friends? Family? Co-workers? EVERYBODY loves homemade bread! And the Enjoyment Factor only rises when everyone gets in on the fun. For whatever reason, bread brings people together like no other food.
Like anyone else, I prefer the path of least resistance, so I spent the next couple of years refining the process and equipment. I wanted baking this world-class loaf to be as simple as possible, to require as little time, as few steps, and as little expense as possible.
The Average Joe Artisan Bread Kit is the result of this project. I’m a teacher and coach by nature, so my goal was to share with you the information you need to succeed. I hope you think I achieved that goal.
You should know one other thing: I am using the same kitchenwares, ingredients, techniques, and recipes included in the Average Joe Artisan Bread Kit to bake bread that I sell to, and which is served by Joseph Decuis, a world-class restaurant (winner of Four Diamonds from AAA and Two Glasses from Wine Spectator) just down the road from me.
I’d like to think that if this bread is good enough for them, it’s good enough for the rest of us!
Average Joe Artisan Bread Kit Editions
During the course of my conversations with Joe, I took the opportunity to taste bread made using these kits. I have to admit, the bread is really delicious, has a good crust and a great crumb cell structure. If you didn’t know it was made from a kit, you would think it was made from scratch the old fashion way.
Now don’t misunderstand me, this bread is made from scratch at home, by you (or Joe in this case) using all the same ingredients as you would buy separately at the store. Joe’s Artisan Bread kit contains everything you need, parceled out in individual packages, ready to go. He has thought of everything that might dissuade someone from baking, and attempted to demystify it.
The Cook’s Edition, their best seller, retails for $25-39 and includes includes a clearly-written and amply-illustrated cookbook (and cheat sheet), baker’s tools (dough scraper, baker’s blade), and enough ingredients for three loaves (bread flour, 3 – sea salts, yeast, bread dust).
The Gift Edition, which retails for $79-99 includes everything in the Cook’s Edition plus kitchenwares (bread pot, measuring cups, measuring spoons, stainless steel mixing bowl, wooden spoon, sprayer, steel sponge). Quite literally everything you could possibly need to make bread, kit or no.
The Bread Pot you see included in the Gift Edition is, at $19-29, an inexpensive vessel for baking bread that I can attest does produce a really good result. Joe uses it at food and housewares shows to demonstrate how well it works. He tells me that people frequently bundle the pot with the Cook’s Edition. The Bread Pot has the advantage of being lightweight, doesn’t require preheating, works perfectly with the recipes and cools off quickly. It can also be used for soups and other food preparation. If you don’t buy their Bread Pot, you will need some similar form of cooking pot to make these breads.
After many customers requested it, Average Joe Artisan Breads now sells a Refill Edition, which includes enough flour, sea salts, yeast, bread dust for three more loaves. It retails for $15. However, none of this is a proprietary mix, so if you wish, you can buy ingredients individually at almost any grocery store.
As for online purchasing, the last two items, the Bread Pot and Refill Edition, are only available at the Average Joe website. This availability could quickly change and if I become aware of other locations I will update this post.
I believe that the retail availability of Average Joe Artisan Bread kits will grow with time, but to find a retail location near you visit their website.
I love bread and love making it myself at home. I can be confident in the ingredients and feel a sense of pride in my accomplishment. I encourage everyone to try making bread at home and the Average Joe Artisan Bread kits are a great way to get your feet wet and learn the basics. My hope would be that you would branch out to new and more adventuresome, varied styles, keeping Joe’s clever kits as a back up.
However from looking at the website and seeing the proud photos his fans have sent in, I know there are many people out there who will use Joe’s artisan bread kits as their only way of making bread at home – I am sure Joe would appreciate it if you did too.
It is good bread easily done.