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Mike's (more or less) Weekly Baking Tips Logo2021-04-03 A New Approach(able Loaf)

Hello Breadheads,

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 Approachable Loaf

Mike's Spin On An Approachable Loaf

Start by making a Levain:

Volumetric Measure (Cups)IngredientGramsBaker's Percentage
1/2 CupFreshly Ground Whole Wheat Flour69 Grams100%
1/4 CupWater69 Grams100%
2 tspSourdough Starter (whole Wheat Preferred)14 Grams20%

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)IngredientGramsBaker's Percentage
1 1/2 CupsWater370 Grams72.7%
1 1/2 TBSPSunflower Oil (1)20 Grams4%
2/3 CupSourdough Starter (from above)150 Grams30%
4 CupsWhole Wheat Flour510 Grams100%
1/2 tspMalt Extract (2)2.8 Grams0.56%
2 tspSalt11.5 Grams2.27%

(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,

4 thoughts on “2021-04-03 A New Approach(able Loaf)”

  1. Hi Mike,
    The links to your reviews of the mills and the conclusion do not work. Thought you would like to know.

    I have a Mockmill 100 that I use most of the time, but it does heat up the flour, which needs to be taken into consideration. I also use a burr grinder which attaches to my mixer that does not heat the grain at all. The burr grinder is handy for crushing hard kernel corn or crushing wheat or rye into a coarse flour to use for making a “starter.” My last new starter took only 4 days from start to finish using this crushed grain. The Mockmill heats up the grain too much and kills off the little critters.

    I think folks need to understand that you are making home milled Whole Grain bread and the stuff at the store might be marked whole wheat but it is definitely NOT whole grain. Your comment regarding hydration is right on as the “store bought” whole wheat is going to use less water because it is missing most of the good stuff (that absorbs water) and that goes rancid quickly in just a couple of weeks if not stored properly. The only reason I bring this up is I had many failures learning how to make bread this way. Following recipes based on store bought flour and then using my home milled flour was a challenge to learn over the past few years. So nice to see you are heading in this direction, so newbies have some place to start if they are home milling.

    All of the typical marketing to me is a play on words. Is not Wonder Bread (that white gooey stuff we had as kids) made with wheat…………… all whole wheat? No other grain like rye, barley or oats in it?

    I attempt to bake mostly 100% (or close to it) home milled, whole grain, organic, heritage or ancient wheat. Except for Einkorn the hydration rates are well above 85% normally and have baked some at 105% as trials to see how well I could handle the sloppy dough.


    1. Hi Dennis,
      Thanks for commenting on the links. The links in the menu worked, but not the ones in the main article. Now they do. When we moved the website to WordPress, we missed a few links.

      If you look at the conclusions to the Grain Mill article, ALL the mills heat up the flour, the only question is how much. Grinding flour takes energy, and energy applied to something creates heat. A grain flaker disturbs the grain less and will produce less heat, perhaps so little you’ll have trouble measuring it, but even a flaker will heat the grain. In any case, I’ve started several starters with flour from my MockMill, so I don’t think it heats the flour excessively.

      Legally, in the USA, if a flour mill advertises a flour as being “whole wheat”, it must contain everything that was in the grain that the mill started with. All the bran, all the endosperm, all the germ – everything. If they don’t they are violating a number of laws. If you feel a mill is not doing this, please report them to the FDA. The whole wheat flour in the market has aged more than your home milled flour, and that makes a difference. How much of a difference is another question. When starting a starter, I suggest buying the freshest organic whole grain flour you can find, and that has always worked for me.

      Have fun with your gloppy, sloppy dough!

  2. I love the recipes I have found here. I recommend this site to everyone who talks to me about sourdough. Thanks so much for this resource!
    That said, this recipe confuses me a little. Do you knead AND do stretch and folds or do you choose one? I am new to stretch and fold, so that may be part of my confusion.

    1. Hi Justine,
      I wish I’d been a TV watcher when Fr. Dominic Garramone, the Bread Monk was on TV. One of his favorite aphorisms was, “It’s only dough, it will forgive you!”

      As long as you’re getting the results you want, you’re doing it right. I’ve made this bread using only a mixer, kneading by hand, or using stretch and fold. They all work. My usual approach is to mix the ingredients until they are just combined so all the flour is wet, and then start doing stretch and folds.

      The total amount of time is about the same. You can have a short mix using a machine or kneading by hand followed by a long first rise. Or a short mix followed by a number of stretch and folds. The stretch and fold time takes the place of some of the first rise. The total time, and the results, are about the same…. the bread doesn’t care.

      I have a page on how to knead dough, as well as one on how to do stretch and folds. The way I suggest kneading by hand is very gentle and even people with carpal tunnel issues have told me it works well for them with no discomfort. Still, stretch and fold is easier on one’s body and lets one make larger amounts of dough. When we were active in farmers markets, I’d make 220 to 250 loaves a night using stretch and fold – there’s no way I could have kneaded that much dough by hand!

      However you get there, enjoy the bread and enjoy the trip to get there,

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