Skip to content

Not Quite the Staff of Life

September 13, 2010

What the hell happened to bread?  It’s been a while since I wrote a post like this.  I think the last one might have been about smoothies.  But it is also redolent of an older post on yogurt.

One of the reasons I feel compelled to bring it up is because there are plenty of conscientious eaters out there who take for granted that their bread is wholesome.  After all, whole grain bread was at the base of the food pyramid before it shattered into radians.

Now whether or not you think your bread is wholesome depends on what you think of the ingredients that are in it.  Part of the problem is that ingredient labels on sliced sandwich bread are ridiculously difficult to read, especially if you are shopping with children in tow.  But if you take a close look, you may be surprised by what you see.

I challenge you to find a bread without high fructose corn syrup.

They exist, but that doesn’t make them easy to find.  Heritage brands like Pepperidge Farm that used to be the benchmark for quality in my mother’s kitchen now contain HFCS.  As Leah the Nosher found out, even local stalwarts like Freihofer’s use this questionable substitute for more traditional sugars.

This isn’t to say that all products from these brands contain high fructose corn syrup.  For example, the regular Pepperidge Farm 100% whole wheat, not the stoneground, uses only sugar, honey and unsulphured molasses as sweeteners.  That’s a lot of sugars, but at least they are natural products and byproducts.  However, even in this loaf there are unwelcome ingredients.

Do you know what you are eating when a product contains datem?  I have learned to be extra suspicious of things that I haven’t heard of that sound either friendly or benign.  Somehow manufacturers get to make up new words for the scarier-sounding ingredients.  I’m not quite sure how that works.  But datem is short for, “Diacetyl tartaric and fatty acid esters of mono and diglycerides.”  Less appetizing, no?

So while the label may say it’s a dough conditioner, Whole Foods doesn’t even permit products with this ingredient to enter its doors. It’s right up there with BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), GMP (disodium guanylate), IMP (disodium inosinate) and TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone).

Now I’m willing to admit that some of these may seem scarier than they actually are in practice.  After all, they are all recognized as generally safe for human consumption.  But at the end of the day, your HFCS-free bread could still have upwards of 20 ingredients in the loaf.  And that’s just nuts.  Bread can be made from just four things: Flour, yeast, salt and water.

Fortunately there is Heidelberg sandwich bread, which is made in New York with just the four ingredients you would expect.  It has no preservatives, so it must be consumed quickly or else stored in the refrigerator or freezer.  Because it has no dough softeners, the bread is firm.  Kids who are used to soft squishy sandwich bread may not go for it.

But dammit, this is actually bread.  Bread with guts.  And if you are above the age of ten, this is what you should be eating.  That soft and squishy loaf with twenty ingredients… I don’t even know what to call that stuff.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. September 13, 2010 9:38 am

    I’m a fan of Heidelberg’s Raisin Sunflower loaf. It gets just a hint of sweetness from the raisins, but works perfectly well in a savory sandwich, too. I made my recent apple cheddar sandwiches on this bread and they were delicious.

    I guess if you like really soft bread this is a surprise as it’s got a very significant chew factor – almost to toughness – but I’ve never been all that fond of really squishy bread, so I don’t mind.

    • Tonia permalink
      September 13, 2010 9:54 am

      Thank you for this. This is a Heidelberg house also. I agree Beck, the raisin sunflower is heaven, even just toasted with butter.

  2. September 13, 2010 9:49 am

    Gee, I wish this bread would have traveled a bit further down the Hudson to Westchester. Looks great!
    We have sodium issues in our family, so it’s a challenge finding low sodium and no HFCS too. I can’t always bake and most commercial breads don’t make the grade for me.

  3. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    September 13, 2010 10:09 am

    Rock Hill and Heidelberg for me (when I’m not low-carbing)

  4. James permalink
    September 13, 2010 11:36 am

    I am just as big a fan of a good crusty loaf of real baked bread as the next guy (the Placid Baker gets my vote), but I think the Profussor intentionally tries to agitate anyone who isn’t scared of chemical names. If the producers of breads with dubious ingredients simply had better marketing, they would actively advertise the presence of BHA, BHT, and TBHQ as beneficial polyphenol antioxidants. These compounds belong to the same class as hyped up compounds like EGCG, resveratrol, and red wine tannins. All of these compounds are beneficial in low amounts but ALL can cause cancer in high concentration. Since GMP and IMP are the building blocks for your DNA, are already present in high amounts in every cell of your body and, are naturally present in the dead plant cells in flour, I don’t think they are of any concern.

    Finally, the list of “unacceptable ingredients” Whole Foods “adheres” to is ridiculous. Vanillin is the characteristic compound intrinsic to the vanilla bean so every product that uses “organic vanilla extract” contains vanillin. Irradiated foods? Make sure you keep those veggies out of the sun. The list is full of other common salts and metabolites that transiently form naturally in your body. If every natural compound was listed on an ingredient label, it would be full of scary chemicals. Think about what the compounds really are before you write them off as poison but I am not listening to any list that bans foie gras.

    • Mirdreams permalink
      September 15, 2010 2:17 pm

      Hazzah and Amen :)

  5. Matt K permalink
    September 13, 2010 12:56 pm

    Not for nothing, but Price Chopper’s Artisan Breads are made with Water, Flour, Salt and Yeast. Pretty yummy too.

  6. September 13, 2010 7:38 pm

    Flour, water, salt, yeast. That’s all you need. Everything else is there to make it last a month. For all of the reasons that you suggest, and the added fact that there was not a bakery anywhere near Schroon Lake, I took up bread baking as a hobby many years ago. It is a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning, and nothing makes your kitchen smell better while you are reading DB’s blog. At a dinner party you can serve the most complicated, convoluted, expensive dish you are capable of conjuring, but if you bake a crusty peasant boule to go with it, that is all people will talk about. Go figure.

  7. June 28, 2011 12:26 am

    I have to admit, our daughter was hooked on Heidelberg before Nick started baking breads for farmers markets regularly. We purchased it because it has the least amount of ingredients.


  1. Fruited Rye Bread from Hawthorne Valley Farms
  2. Fruited Rye Bread from Hawthorne Valley Farms | Chefs Consortium
  3. Fruited Rye Bread from Hawthorne Valley Farm - Chefs' Consortium

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: