Which slice is best?
Published Apr. 1, 2006. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 7: Chicken Kyiv
With all the hype about artisanal bread, the sliced stuff in the plastic bags doesn’t get much attention these days, but it should. Many families still go through a loaf or two of sandwich bread every week. So why not buy the best? We gathered eight leading brands of white sandwich bread, in country styles with larger slices whenever possible, and held a blind tasting.
For our first test, tasters sampled the bread plain. Because some of the breads are not available in large slices, we cut the samples into pieces so tasters would focus on taste and texture, not size. Tasters weren’t fooled. They gave top marks to the hearty texture of the two brands that have larger-than-usual slices—1 1/2 ounces each versus 1 ounce for the competition.
Tasters detected big flavor differences, too. Our top-rated brands were deemed the “sweetest” breads in the lineup. There were many complaints about “sour” and “off” notes in the lower-rated brands. It turns out that some of these brands contain vinegar (often added to increase shelf life). Lower-rated breads also contain almost twice as many ingredients as our top-rated breads, with many more additives and preservatives, which may also explain the unpleasant aftertaste.
We then asked tasters to try the breads in grilled cheese sandwiches. Though volunteers for this tasting were plentiful, clear winners were not—all the breads were pretty good. In short, once you slather your bread with butter and load it up with cheese, it gets very hard to tell one brand from another.
For our final test, we prepared simple croutons seasoned only with olive oil and salt. The same two brands that won the plain tasting swept this one. Croutons made from these loaves were consistently ranked as crunchier than the other brands.
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