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The Best 100% Whole-Wheat Bread
The labels on whole-wheat bread can be perplexing. We set out to clear up the confusion and find the best sandwich bread made with 100 percent whole-wheat flour.
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What You Need To Know
Whole-wheat bread has a flavor and nutrient profile many times more complex than that of white bread. But wander the bakery aisle of your local supermarket and you’ll find multitudes of “whole-wheat” breads that list refined flour—regular white flour used to make white bread—as their primary ingredient. What’s the deal?
White flour and whole-wheat flour are both made from wheat, but that’s where the similarities end. The kernel is the wheat seed’s edible portion and consists of three parts: germ, bran, and endosperm. White flour is made by isolating and grinding only the starchy endosperm. In contrast, whole-wheat flour is made by grinding all three parts of the kernel. Because it includes the bran and germ, whole-wheat flour contains proteins, fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals that refined flour lacks. But there’s more to the story.
“Whole wheat” isn’t a term strictly regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In fact, as long as some whole-wheat flour is included, a bread can be called “whole wheat” even when the main ingredient is white flour. But “100 percent whole wheat” is a regulated term, and it is what you should seek out if you want bread with no white flour. But once you’ve bypassed the imitators, you will still find dozens of authentic 100 percent whole-wheat products on supermarket shelves. Which should you choose?
To find out, we purchased seven widely available varieties of 100 percent whole-wheat bread and ran a series of blind taste tests. Our tasters sampled them plain, in ham and cheese sandwiches, and as buttered toast. All were acceptable, but our tasters did have a preference for those with cleaner, deeper flavors. We also liked a touch of sugar. Three of the five lower-rated products had 1.9 grams or less per serving (the last-place bread was an outlier and had the most sugar of all the breads due to the inclusion of reconstituted potato), and tasters thought the whole-grain flavors in these samples were a bit too forceful. Our top two breads had 3.5 grams of sugar per 50-gram serving and balanced the savory wheaty, toasty, nutty flavors with a satisfying hint of sweetness.
Tasters downgraded products for the mildly sour, bitter, or chemical notes that are all too common in store-bought bread. These unwelcome flavors can come from the host of stabilizers, emulsifiers, and preservatives found in most supermarket bread (every bread we tasted had at least some of these additives) or from the wheat itself: Whole-wheat flour is a bit bitter on its own, and it’s much more prone to spoilage than white flour.
Even the worst breads we tasted—those with minor off-flavors—were passable; what really made...
Everything We Tested
Our winner swept all three taste tests with its “hint of sweetness,” “mild nuttiness,” and “clean wheat flavor,” which had “none of the bitterness” of typical bakery-aisle wheat bread. It was “tender and chewy” but not “too soft.” Both crumb and crust were speckled with crunchy flecks of bulgur that were “substantial and pleasing.”
Like our winner, our runner-up “actually tastes of wheat.” It was praised for its “slightly sweet” and “mild nutty” notes as well as its “dense” and “cakey” but “tender” crumb. Our only quibble was with the aftertaste, described as “very wheaty” by charitable tasters and “slightly bitter” by more critical palates.
Recommended with reservations
Tasters enjoyed this brand’s “light wheaty sweetness,” mild “nutty flavor,” and “classic sandwich bread” texture. Though some perceived a faintly “sour” aftertaste, our main gripe was with its “open,” “airy” crumb that “wimped out with butter” and compressed “to nothing” under the modest heft of thinly sliced ham and cheese.
Tasters deemed this product a “standard wheat sandwich bread” with “a nice sweetness” and wheat flavor that was “just assertive enough.” But some noticed a “weird,” “slightly sour” aftertaste. And many disapproved of the “spongy,” “overly airy” texture that “collapsed from the weight of the sandwich” and seemed “mushy” when chewed.
Tasters liked this bread’s “wheaty but mild” taste and “nice earthy notes.” However, the texture was “thin,” “flimsy,” and “distressingly easy to squish.” It “didn’t stand up to the butter” and slumped under the weight of the sandwich. But the cracked-wheat topping imparted a “slightly nutty” flavor that some tasters found pleasing.
Served plain, this bread had “almost no taste” and collapsed into a “dense wad” when chewed. It was also a bit “flimsy” for sandwiches. However, tasters enjoyed it toasted and buttered, describing it as “a good piece of toast” with a “nice crumb” that “stands up to the butter.”
Even though this bread includes reconstituted potato, it’s still 100 percent whole wheat since it contains no white flour. But tasters noticed the difference: “Yellow color? I’m guessing this is potato bread!” Potato bread enthusiasts praised its “fluffy,” “cottony” texture and “slightly sweet” flavor. But tasters expecting more conventional whole-wheat bread found its “jaundiced” hue “very off-putting” and its flavor “not wheaty at all.”
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