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!
Cinnamon-Raisin bread, an enduring Happy Monk favourite. And here’s proof of Mildrith’s (the wood-fired oven) recent health check, as she just baked 41 loaves of this (and another 40 of Seed Feast) with lots of heat left to spare. Long live Mildrith and long live Cinnamon-Raisin bread!
Happy Monk Tidings - November 2, 2022 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Cinnamon-Raisin Bread; BLOG: A Vancouver Neighbourhood; BOOK OF THE WEEK: The Philosophy of Modern Song by Bob Dylan [ See LinkTree in Profile ]...
Happy Monk Tidings - September 28, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: The Approachable Loaf; Blog: This Island of Apples; South Pender Growers and Makers Market [ See LinkTree in Profile ]
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Happy Monk Tidings - September 2, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice : Volkornbrot (German Rye); Blog: The Golden Loaf of Gorsefield Rye; NOTE: We're closing two weeks for Mildrith Maintenance [ See LinkTree in Profile ]...
It was a dirty day, Wednesday. The sky hadn't been washed, the ocean was soiled, and the air was muggy and smelled oily. Then, moments before the rain started, the sun shone through and a glorious slash of colour opened up. And a rainbow! No unicorns, sadly....
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