Picture an artisan loaf. It might be a round boule or oval-shaped bâtard, dark brown or slightly charred, score marks decorating the crust, and an open crevice where a hot oven spring has burst open the loaf.
A flour-dusted artisan baker passes this beautiful flour-dusted loaf to you. Maybe it’s still warm, smelling heady and fresh.
That’s what many people picture. But it’s no longer always the case.
Artisan bread has turned a corner
The Bread Lab Collective, a U.S.-based “think tank” of modern bread makers, has made a bit of a splash over the past year with a formula it calls the “Approachable Loaf.”
It’s a soft, whole wheat loaf made in a bread pan, sliced, and wrapped in a plastic bag. It looks like many of the packages in the bread aisle of your supermarket.
The difference is it’s made with at least 60% whole wheat flour — real whole wheat — and preferably 100%.
In a recent New York Times article, baker Blair Marvin said all her preconceived notions of good bread didn’t matter. If her own kids preferred eating sifted white bread laced with preservatives, something had to give.
She and her bakery developed a version of the Approachable Loaf called “Vermont Redeemer Bread” after a local variety of wheat. The bakery produces hundreds of these loaves a week and sells them at nearby grocery stores and supermarkets.
“Everybody should have access to healthy food,” she says in the New York Times article. “We’re trying to make something recognizable to the general population. It’s a way of getting real bread into people’s diets.”
Response to widespread indifference
The Bread Lab Collective developed Approachable Bread in response to widespread indifference to nutritious, hand-made loaves. Making healthy bread that looks like store-bought might change some minds.
The criteria they set for their new formula included:
The bread must be baked in a pan and sliced.
It should contain no more than seven ingredients.
No non-food, such as chemicals and preservatives.
It should consist of at least 60% whole wheat—preferably 100%.
It should be priced under $6 per loaf.
Ten cents of every loaf sold returns to The Bread Lab to support further research of other whole grain products.
In Canada, bread labels that claim to be 100% Whole Wheat can list their primary ingredient, “Whole-grain whole wheat flour including the germ.” But you know when you feel the loaf that something isn’t right. It has the soft, airy touch of Wonder Bread. How can it be 100% whole wheat.
The flour used in most “store-bought loaves” has much of the bran and germ sifted out of the grain, the most nutritious parts. But an industrial bakery can still call it whole wheat if it adds some of brand and germ back into the flour. Thus, “Whole grain whole wheat, including the germ.”
Tip of the hat to the Bread Lab
But let’s tip our hats to the Bread Lab, which identifies whole grain bread as being made with flour in which the whole kernel goes into the mill, and the whole kernel comes out of the mill (in flour form).” In other words, nothing is sifted out then added back in later. It is whole, unmodified flour.
That makes more sense to me than this industrial baking chicanery. The Approachable Loaf is the real deal.
The Bread Lab recently published a collection of recipes and ideas called “Unsifted” that makes for good reading. It offers several whole grain recipes and techniques, including the formula for the Approachable Loaf. You can download a PDF of the collection here.
The Bread Lab is affiliated with Washington State University in Burlington, Washington. It researches wheat varieties, barley, buckwheat, and other small grains for their farming potential as well as for craft baking, cooking, malting, brewing, and distilling.
An approachable bread manifesto
The Approachable Loaf, it seems to me, is a statement — a bread manifesto of sorts. A simple loaf can be as nutritious as it is great-tasting and easy to make.
The formula was created by Jeff Yankellow, a collective member and sales manager for the King Arthur Flour Company.
“It’s not the bricks of whole wheat bread that you think of from the hippie days,” Yankellow said in the Times article. “We’re making really good stuff.”
Members of the Bread Lab Collective make and sell their own versions of the Approachable Loaf, depending on local tastes and local grains. Modest changes to the recipe along with different names. The King Arthur Flour Company named its version, “Just Bread.”
The Bread Lab also promotes regional grains, whether it’s grown in the U.S. northeast, the west coast, or the Canadian prairie (Red Fife).
Easy to make, delicious and nutritious
The great thing about the Approachable Loaf is that it’s easy to make. With only seven ingredients, there is no magic to the recipe, and the techniques are straightforward.
I encourage Pender reader to download the formula and try it for yourselves. Aim to make it your “house bread!” Fill your kitchen with the aroma of fresh-baked bread, please your tummy. Use locally sourced and milled flour.
And if anyone needs a sourdough starter, I’m here to help and advise!
Happy Monk Tidings - May 18, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Olive Bread; UPDATE: Canal Bridge project postponed; Assume normal delivery schedule; BLOG: The Breadman's Quest for the Stanley Cup - [See LinkTree in Profile ]...
Fun visit from @thiswolfeislandlife on bread day Friday. Laura Buckley and partner Peter from Wolfe Island near Kingston, ON to compare notes and share a few laughs. So great when bakers get together! Thanks for the photos, Laura! See you next on Wolfe Island!
#bakers #bakery #bakerslife #woodfiredovens #woodfired #woodfiredbakery #woodfiredbakerylife #southpenderisland #southpender #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #happymonkbaker...
This guy, Davy Rippner, @leathersmithe, our neighbourhood sandal-maker, wood-chopper and story teller extraordinaire, is one of my best buddies. He comes every Friday morning to help me bag each loaf of bread and get ‘em out the door in time for delivery. He turns the whole process into a heck of a lotta fun, laughs and great conversation. Lucky to have him as a friend and Happy Monk helper. These are Spelt-Honey Sourdough loaves, by the way. Adapted from Michael James’ Tivoli Road Baker.
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Mooning for the camera, first light on bake day, with the first load of Salish Sourdough singing at the table..
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These corn kernels are headed to the mill to make cornmeal for Anadama Bread this week. It’s a bread with origins on the east coast, but that shouldn’t stop us west coasters from enjoying it, too, godanadamit! This is organic field corn from @fieldstoneorganics of Armstrong, B.C. … and the hard red whole wheat from Metchosin, B.C. make this Happy Monk take on Anadama a bona fide west coast phenomenon! Just sayin’!
#anadama #anadamabread #cornmeal #cornmealbread #metchosinbc #armstrongbc #stoneground #stonegroundflour #stonemilled #stonemilledflour #stonemilledbread #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries...
I cut open the loaf to reveal a pretty pleasing and moist crumb. Wow! If you don’t mind a little char, this burned loaf has some pleasures, like a super crispy crust contrasted with the soft crumb and the nutty chew. The char does dominate the flavour, though 😂. But would you put it in the display case of your bakery? (Thanks for the comments, all 😉)...
John-boy’s got his arms loaded with a bunch of Happy Monk bread, one of his favourite states of being. He’s generous to a fault, though, and spread the loaves around his close circle of friends. That’s m’boy!...
The 2kg Desem miche is out of focus, in the back ‘cause it would have drowned out the little 1kg Durum Sesame loaf in front. The miche is a monster but every bit as delish as the Durum loaf! The Desem’s coming soon! Won’t be a miche, though!...