Monday, June 18, 2012

A pure and simple loaf

Loaves of hearty, healthy, reasonably priced whole wheat bread is available at many Publix Bakeries.
Simply Living
June 18, 2012

A hearty, healthy loaf of whole wheat bread is not easy to find.

I don’t consume much bread but when I do, I want it to be as good for me as possible.  I’m not concerned with a gluten-free diet and while I’m allergic to many things, wheat isn’t among them.  I simply prefer my choice of sandwich breads to be of the one-hundred-percent whole grain variety.  I have no desire to ingest white flour misleadingly labeled ‘wheat flour’ nor do I want to eat preservatives, dough stabilizers, hydrogenated oil, additives with long, unpronounceable names, excessive salt or artificially added vitamins and minerals. 

Pure and simple loaves are what I'm after. I also want the slabs of chewy goodness to be readily available and competitively prices with other store-bought loaves.

Until recently, unless I baked it myself, purchased a frozen product or placed an order online, the type of whole-wheat bread I was looking for was practically impossible to find locally.

That isn't true in other parts of the country. When we used to visit Ralph's mother in Seattle, we frequented a Great Harvest Bread Company store where we were constantly awed by their wonderful selection of freshly-baked whole grain loaves. Great Harvest Bread is a franchise with locations across the country. Unfortunately, their sole Florida location is 147 miles away in Amelia Island. Too far to go when I crave a sandwich.

When we lived on Cape Cod in the 1970s and 1980s, Ralph and I owned a natural-food store in which we devoted a substantial amount of shelf space to whole-wheat loaves. One of our favorites was a round sourdough loaf made by a central Massachusetts company called Baldwin Hill Bakery. My husband's broccoli-cheese sandwiches never tasted as good as they did when wedged between two slices of that hearty bread.

But like many of our once-favorite products, Baldwin Hill is no longer available. Production of their signature round brick oven loaves ended when Vermont Bread Company bought the bakery. Ralph and I still reminisce about those Baldwin Hill loaves, especially when we are reading labels on commercially available breads.

"Look at this," Ralph said one day while we were checking out the fresh bread selection at the Whole Food Market in Orlando. "Hardly any are 100 percent whole wheat. They've either got 'wheat flour' in them — another word for white flour — or they're gluten-free, made from millet or some other grain. Why aren't there whole-wheat breads like there used to be?"

Why, indeed?

As it turns out, the very bread we've searched for so fruitlessly is now right there at our local grocery. I recently discovered that Publix Bakery makes three affordably priced loaves — Seeded Whole Wheat Bread from 100 percent whole-grain wheat as well as a Honey Whole Wheat and Cinnamon Whole Wheat. One-pound loaves sell for $3.19, while their 2-pound, 3-ounce counterparts are priced from $4.99 to $5.99 depending on variety.

The ingredient list for all three breads is just the way I like them to be — short and uncomplicated. The basic ingredients include whole-wheat flour, water, honey, vital wheat gluten, yeast and salt. The cinnamon loaf has the added ingredient of cinnamon while our favorite, Seeded Whole Wheat Bread, contains the same ingredients plus sunflower, sesame and poppy seeds.

That's hardly the case with most other commercially produced loaves, even other Publix Bakery loaves. The ingredients listed in those products is similar to the one found in Wonder Bread's 100 percent soft whole wheat: Whole wheat flour, water, wheat gluten, high fructose corn syrup, contains 2% of less of: soybean oil, salt, molasses, yeast, mono and diglycerides, exthoxylated mono and diglycerides, dough conditioners (sodium stearoyl lactylate, calcium iodate, calcium dioxide), datem, calcium sulfate, vinegar, yeast nutrient (ammonium sulfate), extracts of malted barley and corn, dicalcium phosphate, diammonium phosphate, calcium propionate (to retain freshness).

Why consume chemical additives, preservatives and questionable sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup if you don't need to? I want the foods I feed to my family to be as high quality as possible. Fortunately, thanks to Publix Bakery, at least a couple affordable, good tasting alternative whole-wheat breads are now available at most Publix groceries.

"Ralph," I asked politely, "do you think you could make broccoli-cheese sandwiches for dinner tonight? I got a loaf of the Seeded Whole Wheat Bread at the store today and there are some side shoots of broccoli that need picking in the garden."

He said he would and I was delighted. Not only were we going to eat a meal I knew was healthy and fresh, it would be one I didn't have to prepare.

Many people have asked for Ralph's broccoli-cheese sandwich recipe so I've included it below.  If you try it, please let me know what you think:

Recipe for Ralph’s Broccoli-Cheese Sandwich

Ingredients:  ½ cup cooked broccoli, 2 slices of 100% whole wheat bread, 2-4 slices of cheese (we like Cabot 50% Reduced Fat Jalapeno Cheddar Cheese but you can use any cheese you enjoy), olive oil, garlic oil (homemade from extra virgin olive oil and crushed garlic).  Optional additions:  slices of mushrooms and/or tomato

Assemble ingredients including a spatula and a lid for the frying pan.  Spread a light coating of olive oil on the frying pan (we use cast iron pans) and turn the heat to medium. 

Spread garlic oil on one side of each of the two slices of bread and set one slice aside.  Take the 1st slice of bread and place it on the pan with the garlic oil side down.  On top of the bread, place a slice or two of cheese, the broccoli (and mushrooms and/or tomato slices, if desired) and top with more cheese.  Place the 2nd piece of bread on top of the cheese with the garlic oil side facing up and press down on the sandwich with the spatula before putting on the lid. 

Check frequently and adjust the heat accordingly.  If the heat is too high, the bread will burn, if it is too low, it will take too long to cook. 

After about 5 minutes, flip the sandwich over – you might need to use two hands to do this - press down on it again with the spatula then continue cooking with the lid on.  Again, check frequently and as soon as it looks like the cheese has started to melt, turn off the heat.  Use the spatula to remove the sandwich from the pan.   

Cut it in half and enjoy!

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