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The Approachable Loaf

The Bread Lab sets out the parameters for the “Approachable Loaf,” a true whole-grain bread made by artisan bakers meant for mass consumption. A new bread manifesto!

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.

Marvin and her husband operate Elmore Mountain Bread, recently rated one of the best bakeries in the U.S.

“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:

Loose nutritional guidelines allow industrial baking companies to make misleading claims about their ingredients.
  • 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 baking and eating!


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Fun at 4 in the morning … first load of bread in the oven, first light, first birdsong, making the treacherous walk back inside with a tower of bannetons. In the rain.
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Fun at 4 in the morning … first load of bread in the oven, first light, first birdsong, making the treacherous walk back inside with a tower of bannetons. In the rain.
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#bakerslife #bakersofinstagram #baking #baker #woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #coboven #earthoven #earthenoven #bread #sourdoughbread #sourdough #bbga #realbread #naturallyleavened #artisanbread #artisanbreadbaker #rusticbread #breadhead #breadlove #breadhour #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries
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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’!
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#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

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’!
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4 thoughts on “The Approachable Loaf

  1. What a selfless monk: encouraging your faithful customers to bake their own loaves!

    1. I have renounced all material concerns, retired to this island abbey and remain devoted to the purity and glory of Sourdough … and Mildrith, of course.

  2. David – I’ve been trying some ryes recently and found this blog interesting (also based on NYT article), especially the comments at the end. Thought it might interest you http://www.farine-mc.com/2017/01/the-new-york-timess-nordic-whole-grain-rye-takes-one-and-two.html

    Cheers

    1. Hi Brian … I’m always interested in different rye techniques. The blog post is great, and am familiar with MC-Farine’s writing and the Stanley Ginsberg book. Thanks for posting this, and may do a blog post on rye shortly!

      David

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