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Fat Guy

Half-wheat bread

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I just bought a loaf of "whole wheat" bread at a farmers' market and, upon cutting into it, I can tell that it's about 90% white flour with a sprinkling of whole-wheat flour. This is also the case at a lot of bakeries, and with virtually all supermarket bread labeled "whole wheat." With rye bread it's even worse.

I'm sick of it. I wish producers would label their breads the way dairy products are labeled, with white flour by percentage. I think a lot of people would be interested to know just how bogus their supposedly whole-grain products are.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Seems like a marketing opportunity for some company to come out with a 100% whole wheat bread and then mock the others for their lameness. Does such a product exist?


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Most of the bread at our farmers market is like this too. I don't mind if its a really good artisnal type with a great crumb and crust, but if its just white bread with a dab of ww flour in it I'm not too happy. I especially think at a farmers market one should try to be healthful as much as possible, or if not at least sell things out of the ordinary, I hate to say gourmet, but along those lines. Went to a bigger farmers market the other day and a baked goods booth looked like they had some cookies from a cake mix--the funfetti type. NOT what I go to a farmers market for!!!


Cheese - milk's leap toward immortality. Clifton Fadiman

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My hope at the Farmer's Market would be that they were using white whole wheat flour and not just playing games.

I have not purchased bread for a long time but I thought they had to be fairly specific in the ingredient list. Granted one is shopping, reading glasses not available, print type miniscule, but I think the store brand types have the info if you know what to look for. This came up years ago when they were using a teaspoon of whole milled and adding caramel color and I thought it got addressed by the regulators.

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I think the title "whole wheat" just meas it uses some of the whole grains, not that all of the flour is whole grains. It's one of those loosely defined government labels like "lite." I agree that it's frustrating to no end.


"Life is a combination of magic and pasta." - Frederico Fellini

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I think the title "whole wheat" just meas it uses some of the whole grains, not that all of the flour is whole grains. It's one of those loosely defined government labels like "lite." I agree that it's frustrating to no end.

I agree. The thing about whole wheat bread that spurs all this evasiveness is that no one can make a great loaf of whole wheat anymore -- it's typically, in it's true form, leaden and soggy. I grew up on amazing artisinal French Canadian whole wheat boules, dense and tight but light. Until bakeries can make a great loaf of whole wheat we're gonna get these mock versions of a great bread.


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

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I'd say try to find a bread labelled "100% whole wheat." A baker who is proud of the product will be out to brag that it's all whole wheat. Or at least that's what I thought. My whole-wheat was all whole-wheat flour. Our lighter 60% whole wheat was clearly labelled thus. And we never tried to pretend that the multi-grain didn't have white flour.

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I just bought a loaf of "whole wheat" bread at a farmers' market and, upon cutting into it, I can tell that it's about 90% white flour with a sprinkling of whole-wheat flour. This is also the case at a lot of bakeries, and with virtually all supermarket bread labeled "whole wheat." With rye bread it's even worse.

I'm sick of it. I wish producers would label their breads the way dairy products are labeled, with white flour by percentage. I think a lot of people would be interested to know just how bogus their supposedly whole-grain products are.

Its just one of the prices you are paying for living in a land of freedom (or perhaps anarchy) of the market.

How would it be if you had a law that INSISTED that vendors used terms accurately?

Wholemeal - all the flour used as an ingredient in the preparation of the bread must be wholemeal. The term “wholemeal” is not defined in law, however it is generally accepted that wholemeal flour is the entire wheat grain, which contains the bran and the germ.

{and}

... “where there is no name prescribed by law for a food, the name used must be sufficiently precise to inform the purchaser of the true nature of the food and must not mislead”.

Oh, to be a consumer protected from the lies of unscrupulous traders and marketing departments!

http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/breadflourguide.pdf (see page 6)


"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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The reality is that it is difficult-to-impossible to make bread that accords with modern aesthetics out of 100% whole wheat flour. What you can do is make 100% whole wheat breads that have a density similar to rye bread. This is what I assume was what Margaret describes above as "whole wheat boules, dense and tight." In all likelihood those boules also had a significant proportion of white flour in the mix.

The thing is: Most people don't want this texture in a wheat bread. What they want is "wheatier-tasting bread with a white bread texture." People also often want to eat whole wheat bread because they believe it is healthier. It is healthier in the sense that it contains more fiber compared to white bread. And, if you look at the nutrient data, it appears to have more vitamins, etc. But whole wheat bread actually provides lesser amounts of these nutrients compared to white bread due to reduced bioavailability.


--

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Heh, I was recently complaining about the opposite; in all our markets, the whole wheat bread contains enough whole wheat to be cakey, heavy and quite unappetizing (to me at least)

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My whole-wheat bread was all whole-wheat flour, but had a fair amount of yeast, canola oil and molasses. Sometimes I would add some orange juice or lemon juice. It wasn't as "fluffy" as our white stuff, but it wasn't dense. I think the difference was we made it with a 30-qt Hobart mixer so the gluten development was adequate. That's much more difficult to do by hand or with a small mixer.

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Reinhart certainly echoes Sam's thoughts in his Bread Baker's Apprentice recipe for whole-wheat bread. His formula is a two-day process, perhaps a bit much for those farmer's market bread sellers.


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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But whole wheat bread actually provides lesser amounts of these nutrients compared to white bread due to reduced bioavailability.

So why not drink beer with a chewable vitamin? All the goodness of white bread, but it will not stick to the roof of your mouth. What is the bioavailability of a twinkie?


-e

Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.

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But whole wheat bread actually provides lesser amounts of these nutrients compared to white bread due to reduced bioavailability.

So why not drink beer with a chewable vitamin? All the goodness of white bread, but it will not stick to the roof of your mouth. What is the bioavailability of a twinkie?

I'm not sure what your point is. I think there are plenty of good reasons to each whole wheat bread. I am simply pointing out the fact that whole wheat bread is not necessarily more nutritive than white bread, all other things being equal.

There are documented historical cases where a people which depended on bread for subsistence had to switch from white bread to wholemeal bread for one reason or another, and this switch resulted in certain nutrition deficiency-mediated medical conditions.


--

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... I am simply pointing out the fact that whole wheat bread is not necessarily more nutritive than white bread, all other things being equal.

There are documented historical cases where a people which depended on bread for subsistence had to switch from white bread to wholemeal bread for one reason or another, and this switch resulted in certain nutrition deficiency-mediated medical conditions.

A source or reference would be most helpful.


"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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Happy to provide. This from a 2003 post of mine:

As promised, relevant excerpts from On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee [old edition], pp 282 - 284.

...the popular view today is that whole grain bread, because it comtains the vitamin-rich germ and fiber-rich bran, is more nutritious and better for our general health than refined flour breads. This, in turn, is a relatively recent reaction against centuries, even millennia, of a rather unreflective preference for lighter breads.
...as for whole wheat in particular: it is true that whole grain flour contains more protein, minerals and vitamins than refined flour, including as it does the nutritionally valuable germ and aleurone layer, as well as the mostly indigestible bran. But it is also true that most of these nutrients pass through the digestive tract unabsorbed because the indigestible carbohydrates complex with them and speed their passage out of the system. The nutrients in white bread do not suffer such losses.
...the epidemic of rickets that struck the children of Dublin after three years of wartime rations of dairy products and whole wheat bread. The combination of marginal supplies of calcium and vitamin D and the calcium-complexing activity of phytic acid, which is concentrated in the aleurone layer, was enough to tip the balance from health to serious disease. Similar problems with iron and zinc have been studied among the poor in Egypt and Iran.
The irony is that following the Dublin outbreak and other evidence that mineral and vitamin deficiencies can cause disease, the nutritional fortification of bread became mandatory in several countries, including the United States: but only white bread is affected, because whole grain breads are considered a specialty product.
American consumers of brown bread are no longer the poor who cannot afford the price of refining, but rather a middle-class interested in pure "natural" products.


--

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I'm with Heidi....there are whole-wheat flours around now that produce a very light color and texture. The Japanese whole-wheat flour that I buy from Hokkaido astounded me when I first used it...if you are used to traditional whole-wheat flours, you WOULD think it was mixed with white flour.

Why not ask the vendor and see what she or he has to say?

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I find King Arthur Flour's whole wheat, both the traditional and the white, to be ground exceptionally fine. In fact, I make 100% whole wheat bread with that flour that passes the inspection of my white-bread-loving toddler.

The ability to make a really good wheat bread depends on your technique just as much as the fineness of the flour you use. Or, well, at least it does in my experience. I use the particular method from Peter Reinhart's "Whole Grain Breads" slightly modified for me, personally, and how I work. All the flour goes into liquid for at least an hour before the rest of the ingredients go in. I tend to split it up to roughly half being a soaker and half being a preferment. The soaker is always slightly more wet than the preferment, and, since my whole wheat bread is a pretty wet dough to begin with, I have no trouble kneading the two together with the rest of the ingredients in the Kitchenaid. I've done it by hand as well, but it's far more convenient NOT to get that messy when I have two kids.

I'm pretty sure that you could also do an overnight soaker (in which you just put flour and liquid) or a preferment (in which you put the flour, liquid, and yeast) and get similar results, but I've not tried it. Maybe I should. Need another bag of flour, though.

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