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HFCS-free bread and buns review

Posted Sep 22 2008 4:35pm
One thing that we have lamented since giving up HFCS is the loss of nice, soft buns and nice, soft bread. In fact, unless you make it yourself, it's very hard to get soft bread that doesn't contain HFCS. We didn't succeed in finding Wonder-Bread-soft bread, which is what I like, but we have come across some HFCS-free bread options out there that suit us.

First, a little science-lite lesson. There are lots of reasons that HFCS is so valued by mass-market bakeries. Here's what HFCSfacts.com (a pro-HFCS site) has to say about HFCS in baking:

HFCS gives a pleasing brown crust to breads and cakes; contributes fermentable sugars to yeast-raised products; reduces sugar crystallization during baking for soft-moist textures; enhances flavors of fruit fillings.

HFCS pretty much does not go bad, which is very desirable in baking and leads to very long shelf lives. It also helps to retain moisture in baked products so that they don't dry out prematurely. And, let's not forget, HFCS is cheap! Because of all of that, almost every sandwich bread and bun on the bread aisle of your local grocery store has HFCS as an ingredient in it. There are exceptions, but those breads are usually heavy and not as soft. They're generally the breads aimed at the "health food" crowd.

Luckily, the one thing that we've done right as a family is to eat wheat - as opposed to white - bread, which is a little surprising because I prefer bland white bread. That makes our task of finding replacement buns and sandwich bread a bit easier. Even so, we do like our bread and buns soft, and that's been harder to come by since giving up HFCS.

We've tried a few, and the sandwich bread that we like the best so far in this adventure is Standish Farms Honey Whole Grain Bread. (Beware, because not all Standish Farms breads are HFCS-free.) It's fairly soft (though if you're looking for Wonder Bread soft, this isn't it! I haven't found Wonder Bread soft in a store-bought, HFCS-free bread yet.) and has a pleasant, wheaty taste. Best of all, it's in the traditional square sandwich bread shape that I prefer instead of the large rectangular shape like so many of the HFCS-free breads. We also liked the Sara Lee Hearty and Healthy Whole Wheat bread that I talked about earlier, but it's in the larger rectangular shape that makes sandwiches too big for little ones and has wheat berries throughout. The wheat berries might be healthy, but I really kind of like my sandwich bread to be crunch free.

HFCS-free hot dog and hamburger buns are a lot harder to come by than sandwich bread. For hamburger buns, we've been carefully reading ingredient lists and buying HFCS-free rolls. It's different at every store, but we've found store-made rolls at both of our grocery stores that don't have HFCS. Some have been nice and soft, some have been hard duds. And they often are completely out of the HFCS-free rolls.

We've had better luck with hot dog buns because we recently discovered Rudi's brand breads. We tried Rudi's Wheat Hot Dog Rolls late last week and were pleasantly surprised by them. They're not as soft as the HFCS-containing hot dog buns (guess you can't have everything), but they are fairly soft and they have a wonderful flavor. I mean, seriously, the flavor is so good! I would buy these even if we were still eating HFCS.

Rudi's also sells hamburger buns, a variety of breads (including sandwich breads), tortillas, bagels, English muffins, and granola - and everything they sell is HFCS free! We'll be trying their hamburger buns the next time we have hamburgers, and I also plan to try their sandwich bread when we run out of our current loaf. I'll let you know how we like them.

It looks like Rudi's sells their breads in most every state, but know that their "Where to Buy" list is not completely accurate. We drove across a mountain pass to buy their buns at a store they listed as a distributor - only they didn't have any of Rudi's bread. Meanwhile, our local health food grocery store wasn't listed as a distributer but does sell them.

For you Western folks, a reader commented earlier that the brand Wheat Montana also makes a good HFCS-free bun, but this brand is only sold in Montana, Idaho, and Washington. (Thanks for the tip, Hil!)
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