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The Sandwich Bread Saga Continues

October 2, 2019

Bread with butter is my favorite thing to eat. Sometimes hot from the oven. Sometimes toasted.

But not all bread.
And certainly not all butter.

Perhaps one of these days, I’ll share a rant about the sorry state of butter in America. However, for the most part, it’s awful. It might be mysterious how we as a society have been able to drain all the flavor from luscious butterfat. But the more closely you look at our industrialized food system, the less mysterious it becomes.

Bread shares a similar fate. Long time readers of the blog may remember the struggle I’ve had finding good bread, and my frustrations about the extruded wheat loaves that are sold as “bread” in most supermarkets. Thankfully, after years of searching and helpful tips from FLB readers, I found a few sandwich loaves that I could live with.

Unfortunately, those trusted brands aren’t available in Michigan, so I found myself back on the hunt. And in looking at the bread aisle, I found a new level of shenanigans from a once trusted bakery.

For those still in the Capital Region, rejoice in the availability of Heidelberg. It’s been my bread of choice for almost a decade, and now I can’t find its equal out here in the mitten.

Once upon a time, Arnold was the source of soft, 100% whole wheat, sandwich slices for my kids. But then they made “improvements” to the product, and it was immediately rejected by the family. But this is the way of life. Since then we turned to Nature’s Own at the recommendation of Greg K. Except Nature’s Own isn’t available out here in Ann Arbor either.

Which is why I was initially delighted to see that Arnold made a new round of changes to its loaves. The bags carry a label that reads “Simple Ingredients: No Added Nonsense” and I rejoiced at the notion that corporate food was finally starting to catch on to the rising tide of consumers who want food made from kitchen cabinet ingredients. Or, what you might simply call “food”.

What does that mean in practice?

Well, as of spring 2019 Oroweat, Brownberry, and Arnold brands that carry the seal do not contain high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, artificial preservatives, artificial colors, sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate (SSL), calcium stearoyl-2-lactylate (CSL), azodicarbonamide (ADA), and other unpopular ingredients. All of which sounds great! And I was on the edge of my seat, just about ready to rejoice, but first I wanted to read about what ingredients made it into the new formulations.

The 100% Whole Wheat is better than it has ever been. The ingredients are: whole wheat flour, water, bulgur wheat, sugar, wheat gluten, honey, soybean oil, yeast, whole wheat, cultured wheat flour, salt, soy lecithin, grain vinegar, natural flavors, and citric acid.

But look out! Without any warning, some of the loaves bearing the “No Added Nonsense” seal also contain Reb A, which is a stevia leaf sweetener. Those include the Healthy Multi-Grain and 12 Grain. This non-nutritive sweetener is also in the Stone Ground 100% Whole Wheat, which doesn’t bear the same label, but it’s equally upsetting for those of us who still believe that zero calorie sweeteners should be called out on the front of packages.

Why? Because they taste gross, and I want nothing to do with them. It’s especially galling to find a stevia leaf sweetener in a sandwich loaf that claims to have no added nonsense, because Reb A is most certainly nonsense. Seriously, how many people who aren’t on restrictive diets routinely add stevia leaf extract to their bread dough? Come on.

Thankfully, I’ve found Koepplinger’s 100% Whole Wheat here in Michigan. It’s a brand that’s new to me, and it’s available everywhere from Walmart to Whole Foods. That said, in a crowded bread aisle, it’s the one loaf that is most likely to be out of stock. I guess I’m not the only one who has discovered its quality and value.

For those who don’t have access to this regional bakery, the loaf is made from whole grain wheat flour, water, yeast, cane sugar, organic honey, wheat gluten, non-GMO soybean oil, cultured wheat flour, salt, molasses, raisin juice, barley malt extract, potassium chloride, calcium sulfate, citric acid, ascorbic acid, and is topped with wheat bran.

Despite it being carried at Whole Foods, this isn’t a fancy bread either. It can be purchased for two to three dollars per loaf. Amazingly, Koepplinger is able to bake bread without soy lecithin, which makes me wonder if that ingredient is a little bit of added nonsense too.

The good news is that the kids are now once again happy with their sandwiches. The bad news is that I’m still missing my Heidelberg. But one thing at a time. One thing at a time.

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