Tasting Notes: Gluten-Free Sandwich Breads
As a gluten-intolerant member of the SAVEUR staff, being in the office during the production of the Sandwich Issue was near torture. There was bread everywhere. The test kitchen and conference room overflowed with loaves and more loaves of gluten-packed bread, editors and interns munched on toasts, slices, and rolls constantly, and sandwiches lay piled on plates every which way I turned. To get in on the fun, I started calling in loaves of gluten-free bread from as many commercial makers as possible, so that I could try some sandwiches too. While homemade is undoubtedly the best way to go for a gluten-free sandwich, I tasted my way through about 30 different store-bought gluten-free loaves in search of the slice which reminded me most of the “real” bread I miss.
The quality and options available for gluten-free bread has improved immeasurably in the past few years, with new takes on the loaf appearing on shelves seemingly every time I look. But a wealth of options doesn’t mean a wealth of quality: much of what’s out there wouldn’t pass muster for even the least-finicky bread lover. During my tasting, I threw slice after bland slice into the “no” pile, until I was left with a collection of just six store-bought loaves. But what loaves they were! Even my non-gluten-free friends and coworkers enjoyed them — with this selection, you should be able to recreate most of the sandwiches in our sandwich issue.
Generally, the more “multigrain” styles of gluten-free breads work better than those that try to mimic pure white sandwich bread. The more grains mixed together, the richer and more satisfying the flavor. There’s hope for gluten-free specialty breads, too: Everybody Eats makes great crusty French-style baguettes and rolls; for soft rolls, Udi’s hamburger buns are a worthy substitute; and for sandwich wraps, Food For Life’s Brown Rice Tortillas are an apt replacement. But of the classic sandwich breads — the kind you’d make a PB&J on, or a toasty BLT — these six are real gluten-free winners:
******WHITE SANDWICH BREADS:**
3. Aleia’s Farmhouse White Bread comes in nice big thick slices. (Why are all the store-bought gluten-free breads always so small?) It’s hearty, and sweet, with an elastic crumb, and works well for any kind of sandwich, especially when you’re craving a big one. It’s made with white rice flour, brown rice flour, eggs, corn starch, tapioca flour, canola oil, nonfat dry milk, brown sugar, potato flour, yeast, whey, guar gum, and salt.
2. Whole Foods’ Light White Sandwich Bread is sweet and eggy, with an almost cake-like texture, but in a good way. It’s the perfect companion for a fried egg or a grilled cheese sandwich. It’s made with tapioca starch, potato starch, egg whites, canola oil, brown rice flour, maltodextrin (non-allergen derived), yeast, evaporated cane juice, cornstarch, gluten-free oat fiber, calcium sulfate, baking powder, cellulose (non-allergen derived), natural flavoring (non-allergen derived), rice flour, salt, triethyl citrate, vitamin c, and xanthan gum.
1. In the classic white bread category, Udi’s takes the cake by leaps and bounds. Udi’s White Sandwich Bread is the pillow-soft pre-sliced white bread that little kids dream of: slightly sweet, pure white, and just the right soft texture. Udi’s is the only one in these six breads that is sold shelf-stable instead of frozen, and doesn’t require toasting before eating. Made with tapioca starch, brown rice flour, potato sarch, sunflower oil, egg whites, tapioca maltodextrin, evaporated cane juice, brown rice syrup or tapioca syrup, yeast, xanthan gum, salt, baking poweder, mold inhibitor, ascorbic acid, and enzymes.
****MULTIGRAIN SANDWICH BREADS:**
3. Glutino’s Flax Seed Bread is not only gluten-free, but also dairy-free, so those with dairy sensitivities can enjoy it too. Mild in flavor and studded with crunchy whole flax seeds, this is a good sturdy bread to use in savory lunch-box sandwiches. It’s made with corn starch, tapioca starch, flax seed, safflower oil, flax seed meal, evaporated cane juice, egg whites, salt, guar gum, glucono-delta-lactone, yeast, pectin, sodium bicarbonate, sodium alginate, modified cellulose, iron, niacin, calcium, vitamin B6, thiamine, and riboflavin.
2. Whole Foods’ Gluten-Free Prairie Bread is a healthy protein-and-fiber-rich choice, with a sweeter and yeastier flavor, and soft cake-like crumb. Use it for toast or breakfast sandwiches, and delicious French toast. It’s made with rice flour, tapioca starch, eggs, evaporated cane juice, canola oil, yeast, millet, buckwheat, pumpkin seeds, xanthan gum, salt, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax, poppy seeds, lemon juice.
1. The hands-down best bread I tasted turned out to be from a bakery not too far from where I live in Brooklyn: the Multi-Grain High-Fiber Loaf from Everybody Eats amazed me with a perfectly chewy texture, and rich, nutty flavor. This is one of the healthiest gluten-free breads you can buy, and it makes great sandwiches that no one will notice are gluten-free. Made with rice flour, tapioca starch, buckwheat flour, sorghum flour, non-fat dried milk, egg whites, potato flour, xanthan gum, gelatin, salt, canola oil, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, millet, yeast, evaporated cane juice, cider vinegar, potato starch, calcium lactate, calcium carbonate, citric acid, cellulose gum, and carbohydrate gum.
Photograph by Anna Stockwell