2021-04-03 A New Approach(able Loaf)
As mentioned in a recent Mike's (more or less) Weekly Baking Tips, I'm trying to move more and more to using whole grains. I've been trending in that direction, but have a bit more momentum since my doctor "encouraged" me to avoid refined carbohydrates. So, this is another step along the journey. If you are, or think you should be, on that journey, I hope you'll enjoy today's missive.
When Blair Marvin, the founder of Elmore Mountain Bread in Vermont, visited her kid's school at lunch time, she couldn't help but notice that the kids weren't getting sandwiches made from her whole grain breads. It was white mass-market stuff. This bothered her. She wanted kids to have better breads, and better nutrition! She began hanging out in the grocery store to find out why her bread wasn't selling there. To change this, she had to rethink a number of vows she'd made to herself. When she started the bakery, she didn't want to slice bread, she didn't want to use plastic bags, and she didn't want to bake bread in bread pans - she was a free form kinda person. But those things were exactly what her kid's classmates moms were looking for. As a result, she started making a lighter bread, baking it in pans, slicing it, and selling it in plastic bags. And... it sold! She named her bread for the flour she used to make it, Redeemer, from a wheat that is raised in the north-east. While lighter, it was still 100% whole wheat.
We've talked about The Bread Lab's Approachable Loaf project a few times. Their goal is to make a bread that is, well, approachable for people who are avoiding whole grain breads. They identified a number of customer sticking points and addressed them. They correlate with what Blair found. Here's what the Bread Lab requires of breads in the Approachable Loaf project:
- baked in a tin
- No more than 7 ingredients
- No non-food ingredients
- At least 60% whole wheat, preferably 100%
- Priced under $6 a loaf
- Pay the project 10 cents per loaf to Washington State University Bread Lab to
help fund the project.
The Bread Lab encourages creativity within those guidelines, but they have a sample formula here. And that brings us to Nate Hough of Brake Bread in Minnesota. Nate liked the idea of the Approachable Loaf, but didn't like the name as it implies the rest of his breads, somehow, aren't approachable. It's kinda like calling one of your children, "the good one" which suggests the others aren't good kids. So, he calls his bread Gateway Bread. A gateway to harder breads, I suppose.
More seriously, I've made his bread a few times and like it a lot! His formula is the basis for the formula below. Like many of the Approachable Loaf formulas, this uses whole wheat that was milled in house. We really like our mill and encourage people to get a mill. It may just be our imagination, but we feel grain we mill into our flour ourselves has more flavor. That
might be because we are using heirloom grains, but even when we use plain ol' red wheat we like it better than store bought flour. We evaluated a number of mills and created a blog post about it here. If you don't have a grain mill, you can make this bread with store-bought whole wheat flour. I'll encourage you to get the freshest and best you can find. Looking at the expiration dates on the package will give you a hint as to which is freshest.
One consideration for home millers is there is a lot of variation between wheats, so you should feel your dough and adjust the moisture levels in your dough as needed to make the dough feel "right". The "right" feel is something you learn from experience. In my computer networking days we used to say, "Experience is what keeps you from damaging equipment. Damaging equipment is what gives you experience." Which is to say, it's OK if not every loaf you make is perfect. Take notes and learn from your mistakes. A bad loaf of bread is a much less expensive lesson than a damaged router
or server! (Don't ask me how I know this.)
All that out of the way, let's make a 2 lb loaf of bread.
Mike's Spin On An Approachable Loaf
Start by making a Levain:
Volumetric Measure (Cups) Ingredient Grams Baker's Percentage
1/2 Cup Freshly Ground Whole Wheat Flour 69 Grams 100%
1/2 Cup Water 69 Grams 100%
2 tsp Sourdough Starter (whole Wheat Preferred) 14 Grams 20%
Mix together, cover, and let ferment 12 hours at 75F
If you already have a fresh active whole wheat starter, you may use it and skip the step above.
Now, let's mix the final dough:
Volumetric Measure (Cups) Ingredient Grams Baker's Percentage
1 1/2 Cups Water 370 Grams 72.7%
1 1/2 TBSP Sunflower Oil (1) 20 Grams 4%
2/3 Cup Sourdough Starter (from above) 150 Grams 30%
4 Cups Whole Wheat Flour 510 Grams 100%
1/2 tsp Malt Extract (2) 2.8 Grams 0.56%
2 tsp Salt 11.5 Grams 2.27%
(1) - other neutral oils can be used, such as grape seed oil
(2) - you can get dry malt extract from brewing supply houses and Amazon. You want a light, unhopped diastatic malt extract.
We used a mixer for this bread, you may, of course, knead by hand, develop the dough with stretch and folds, or whatever fills your heart with joy. We mixed the dough for 4 minutes on speed 1, let the dough rest for 5 minutes, and then mixed it for 2 minutes on speed 2. For KitchenAid mixers, use speed 2 and 4. The desired dough temperature is 82F. Cover the dough and let it rise.
After 50 minutes, stretch and fold it.
After another 50 minutes give the bread another stretch and fold.
After another 50 minutes (2 1/2 hours), divide and preshape the dough.
After 15 to 30 minutes, shape the dough, putting it into bread pans. Fill the bread pans about 2/3 full. Cover the pans.
Allow the bread to rise for 18 to 20 hours at 39F.
Preheat your oven to 475F/250C, bake the bread 35 minutes. It should have steam for the first 3 to 5 minutes, then vent the steam. After 20 minutes, rotate the bread in the oven and complete the bake.
Because this bread is fairly dense, check the bread temperature after the time has elapsed and make sure the bread is fully baked - that is, sounds hollow when you thump the bottom of the loaf, or has an internal temperature of 205F/96C. (That may vary based on your altitude.)
We have REALLY been liking this bread and have made it with a variety of home milled whole wheats.
Next time, we'll look at an all whole grain spin on a rye bread. Until next time, may your dough always rise, no matter what kind of flour you are using,