Friday, September 07, 2007

Whole Wheat Bread

Cook's Illustrated recently did a taste taste of commercially available Whole Wheat Breads and since I pay the annual fee for the subscription I thought I would share the top three brands they tested. If you don't bake your own whole wheat bread, he said smugly, then you might use these recommendations to save having to try some less than stellar product especially those with High Fructose Corn Syrup which is poison. ( I actually went through all my cabinets and fridge last week and threw out anything with HFCS.) If I am traveling and don't have time to bake, I usually buy the Rudi's(it is organic) which is available at Whole Foods...I can't remember trying the Pepperidge Farm but I will just for comparison sake(though it is not organic). My homemade bread is not technically organic either since I don't use organic yeast or honey.

Many manufacturers add chemical preservatives that inhibit the growth of microbes and mold. The six lowest-rated brands all contain preservatives; the three winners do not-instead they rely on vinegar to perform this function. According to our science editor, the preservatives can lend a slight off-flavor to the breads, which our tasters detected in several of the low-rated brands.

To mask those off-flavors, most of these low-rated breads use high-fructose corn syrup as their primary sweetener; the corn syrup is powerfully sweet and can make off-flavors-as well as desirable wheat flavor-less apparent. Our top three brands do not contain high-fructose corn syrup (instead they rely on white and brown sugars, raisin juice, honey, and molasses), and tasters praised them for stronger wheat flavor.

As for texture, our tasters liked breads that were heartier, chewier, and more dense than white bread. The breads are listed below, with tasters' comments, in order of preference.

Highly Recommended

1. PEPPERIDGE FARM 100% Natural Whole Wheat Bread $3.39 for 24 ounces
Comments: This bread, which had a low level of sugars and no corn syrup,
was praised for its "whole-grain, earthy flavor" and "nuttiness." The
"dense, chewy" texture was lauded as being "grainy but moist."


2. RUDI'S ORGANIC BAKERY Honey Sweet Whole Wheat Bread $3.79 for 22 ounces
Comments: This bread earned high marks for its "dense and wholesome" texture. It also had the lowest total sugars of any brand in the lineup. "Closest to traditional wheat bread in taste and texture," said one taster.

3. ARNOLD Natural 100% Whole Wheat Bread $2.50 for 20 ounces
Comments: "Nutty and wheaty," said tasters, who appreciated this bread's "complex" and "strong, healthy" flavor. Its texture was praised as "hearty." A few panelists complained about a "bitter" aftertaste.

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