The best thing since sliced bread: Washington State’s Bread Lab reinvents the whole-wheat loaf

February 24, 2020

Peek into people’s kitchens (particularly those with kids), and you’ll likely find sandwich bread. Simple and straightforward, this is an everyday kind of bread. There are scads of recipes for sandwich bread—perfect for everything from PB&Js to chicken salad to toast for breakfast.

But because sandwich bread is such a wildly popular pantry staple, there are also countless versions in any grocery store that are far from wholesome. Often, packaged sandwich breads are full of additives and preservatives. Food manufacturers add these ingredients to prolong shelf life, make the bread cheaper to produce, and promote a softer, more Wonder Bread-like texture to appeal to young eaters.

Now, a group of bakers allied with Washington State University’s Bread Lab—among them, “America’s first flour company,” King Arthur Flour, founded in Norwich, Vermont, in 1790– are on a mission to change all of that by creating the ultimate wholesome, nutritious, great-tasting sandwich bread, in a whole-wheat version.

The Bread Lab works to breed and develop varieties of grains to benefits farmers, processors, and end-users, while also enhancing access to affordable and nutritious food for all. And last year, at a meeting of bakers, millers, and teachers at the Bread Lab, the talk turned to sandwich bread. More specifically, could the lab revolutionize the current offerings?

And the bakers at King Arthur signed on to the challenge. Along with the 38 other Bread Lab members, they formed the Bread Lab Collective and. together, they came up with the concept of Just Bread: a pure and simple whole wheat sandwich bread that would appeal to everyone, from kids to adults. 

Among the criteria that members set for the new type of bread were that it should:

  • Be baked in a tin and sliced;
  • Contain no more than seven ingredients;
  • Contain no non-foods;
  • Be at least 60% who wheat-preferably, 100%;
  • Be priced under $6/loaf;
  • Return 10 cents from every loaf sold to the Bread Lab to support further research on other whole-grain products.

Today, King Arthur Flour has expanded to offer a baking school, a café, and a variety of flours and breads at its Vermont headquarters—as well as at outlets nationwide.

Jeff Yankellow, one of King Arthur’s resident bread experts, created the first version of the Just Bread recipe and other bakers followed with their own iterations.

According to a story on King Arthur’s blog, “Our vision is to spread the availability of Just Bread as widely as possible. Right now, you can buy Just Bread from a select group of bakeries and markets across the country, from Montana to Louisiana to Pennsylvania. You can find the list here.”

King Arthur sells between 350 to 450 loaves per week at our bakery in Norwich, Vermont. We also bake 10 loaves daily to donate to the Upper Valley Haven, a local food pantry.

But not everyone lives close enough to one of these bakeries! So the company has brought Jeff’s original Just Bread recipe online, so you can easily make it at home.

Research contact: @kingarthurflour

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