Whatever we feel about bread, it is still an important part of many people's daily diet - rich or poor. In recent years, I have lived in 3 different countries – South Africa, the UK and the US – and I was interested to compare how the local bread differed in taste and texture as well as how fresh it kept.
Without a doubt, the bread stays freshest longest in the US
That is store bought sliced bread kept in its original packaging. I wondered if that is because it has some kind of preservative?
I have carried out some research and I cannot find that there is any one special ingredient responsible for the longevity. But when I checked online to find out the ingredients of US bread, it became clear that every time you eat a slice of store-purchased bread, you are getting a dose of different preservatives with each bite, solely to extend the shelf life. Common functions for chemical preservatives in food, including bread, are color retention, flavor protection, mold inhibition, spoilage retardation and general preservation. All sounds a bit too artificial for me.
Store bought bread in the US is made on an industrial scale to maximize profits while still producing an acceptable loaf for consumers. The manufacturers use lots and lots of yeast to create all those air bubbles in the bread and its light texture. Because of all the yeast, they can get away with using lower quality grains. The bread is therefore not nearly as nutritious as it should or could be.
When buying bread, here are some guidelines you should try to use
- Look for the word “whole” on the label as this means the bread contains entire grains – such as whole grain and whole wheat. Be wary of “made with whole grains” as this does not always mean what it sounds like.
- Check the ingredients – these are always listed in descending order by weight. Top of the list of ingredients should be 100% whole wheat.
- Check the size of the serving if you are worried about your calorie intake. This can make quite a difference.
According to this site
, sliced and wrapped bread should always be kept in its wrapper and the “best before' date will be displayed on the quick lock or wrapper. Apparently bread stored this way at room temperature will keep fresh for several days. This has also been my experience.
Storing bread in the refrigerator is a “no no” as the average temperature of the fridge is the temperature at which bread goes stale the most quickly – I have definitely been guilty of this in the past but if you are only using for toast, this is not a problem.
For long term storage, the freezer is the ideal place and bread will keep for up to 3 months. The bread can be defrosted at room temperature for a few hours to bring it back to its fresh state.
How about making your own bread?
With all this talk of store bought bread, preservatives and nutrition (or lack of it), making your own would definitely be a safer course of action. It can be a fun thing to do with your children or of course for yourself even if it is just a once off event. And you never know, you might enjoy the activity and the taste afterwards so much that it becomes a regular habit.
For the equipment you need
1 large mixing bowl
1 spoon to stir the dough
1 measuring cup
1 measuring spoon
1 bread pan
1 hand towel
For the ingredients you need
¼ cup milk
5 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
5 teaspoons butter
1 packet active dry yeast
2 ½ to 3 ½ cups flour
Corn starch or non stick cooking spray
If you are interested in going the whole hog – well there are easy baking steps along with illustrations all listed here
Please give it a try
Nothing to beat that home made fresh out of the oven taste and smell and no preservatives either!