Published October 1, 2007. From Cook's Country.
Our tasters wanted wheat, not sweetness.
Every major commercial producer of bread now sells at least one type of wheat bread. To determine which brand is best, we rounded up nine types of 100-percent whole wheat bread (breads made with only whole wheat--and not refined white--flour) and headed into the tasting lab to sample them plain and toasted with butter.
Overall, our tasters had a preference for breads with a distinct, clean, and nutty wheat flavor that was balanced by just a hint of sweetness. How is this achieved? A look at the ingredients lists reveals two very important factors: the presence (or absence) of high-fructose corn syrup and chemical preservatives.
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.