What to Look for on a Bread Ingredients Label

The best breads are essentially a simple mix of flour, leavening agent, salt, and water. Quick bread recipes will also include fat, a leavening agent such as baking soda or baking powder, a sweetener, and perhaps an egg.

However, a glance at some ingredient labels confirms that some bakeries just don't seem to know how to leave well enough alone. Many commercially baked breads are made with ingredients that primarily benefit the manufacturer in order to reduce production time, modify the appearance and texture of the final baked product (dough conditioners), or to reduce costs by using cheaper chemical compounds as substitutes for more wholesome ingredients. What naturally would take several hours to create an excellent, delicious and nutrition bread can, with modern bread technology, take just a matter of minutes. These extra, typically superfluous ingredients, can be categorized according to their function within a bread recipe, including:

What would an ingredient label of bread made with these unnecessary categories of ingredients look like in contrast to bread made with quality in mind? Consider the following ingredients labels for two brands of sandwich rolls and two brands of French bread.

Sandwich Roll #1
Enriched wheat flour (unbleached flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, enzyme, riboflavin, folic acid). water, leavening (yeast, calcium sulfate), high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean, cottonseed and/or canola oils, egg, sugar, salt, vital wheat gluten, datem, dextrose, monoglycerides, calcium sulfate, ammonium sulfate, dough conditioners (ascorbic acid, sodium stearoyl lactylate, enthoxylated mono and diglycerides, enzymes, calcium dioxide, azodicarbonamide), emulsifiers (datem, mono and diglycerides), guar gum, cellulose gum, azodicarbonamide, modified food starch, citric acid, preservatives (potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate), xanthan gum, proplylene glycol alginate.
Sandwich Roll #2
Organic wheat flour, organic whole wheat flour, sea salt, yeast
French Bread #1
Unbleached enriched flour) wheat flour, barley malt, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin), salt, dextrose, water, vegetable shortening (may contain partially hydrogenated soybean oil, hydrogenated cottonseed oil with BHT and citric acid added to improve stability), wheat gluten, whey powder, dough conditioner (calcium sulfate, ammonium sulfate, ammonium chloride, ascorbic acid, wheat starch, calcium stearoyl-2-lactylate, azodicarbonamide.
French Bread #2
Organic wheat flour, filtered water, sea salt, yeast, malted barley flour

Despite the fact each of the above examples can be identified on a label as the same type of bread, the difference between the ingredients used is significant. Most of the additives found in the first examples are avoidable and unnecessary. Bread can and should be made with as few ingredients as possible.

And now consider the following ingredients labels for two brands of tortillas and two brands of muffins.

Flour Tortilla #1
Enriched, bleached wheat flour (wheat flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, vegetable oil (partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil), sugar, salt, and contains 2% or less of: leavening (sodium bicarbonate, sodium acid pyrophosphate), calcium propionate and sorbic acid (to preserve freshness), fumaric acid (preservative), dough conditioners (mono and diglycerides, sodium metabisulfite)
Flour Tortilla #2
White: Organic wheat flour, water, canola oil, non-aluminum baking powder, salt
Whole Wheat: Organic whole wheat flour, water, organic expeller-pressed soy oil, sea salt, aluminum-free baking powder
Blueberry Muffin #1
Sugar, bleached enriched flour (wheat flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), whole eggs, soybean oil, blueberries, modified corn starch, whey, mono and diglycerides, baking powder (baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate), vital wheat gluten, salt, sodium stearoyl lactylate, sorbitan monostearate, nonfat milk, calcium acetate, natural and artificial flavors, guar gum, xanthan gum, corn starch, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, polysorbate 60 and sodium propionate (as preservatives), FD&C Blue #2 and Red #40, yeast
Blueberry Muffin #2
Wheat pastry flour, blueberries, filtered water, sugar, canola oil, eggs (whole eggs, sugar, seaweed powder, glycerol, maltodextrin), unbleached-untreated wheat flour, vanilla, buttermilk powder, baking powder (sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium bicarbonate, corn starch, monocalcium phosphate, calcium phosphate, sea salt, lemon juice, magnesium carbonate

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