White bread: You know it, you love it (deep down), and you’ve likely relied on it for a sandwich, stacked high with cold cuts, condiments, and veggies … or used for a basic yet classic PB&J.
True to Italian form, I have consumed enough to morph into a fresh loaf with limbs. I simply can’t get enough bread. And if I’m dining out, you better believe that I’m proclaiming my love for the craveworthy carb, Oprah Winfrey-style, to my server as soon as I’m greeted at the table.
The culinary team at the Don CeSar’s Maritana restaurant on St. Pete Beach in Florida also shares a bread obsession. Not only does the restaurant offer a seasonal basket with Mediterranean-inspired jams, tapenades and compound butters, but slices of all shapes, types and textures are incorporated into signature dishes like roasted bone marrow on grilled sourdough and a garlicky Key West pink shrimp with chorizo and scallions on a chewy baguette.
While no packaged grocery store bread will rival that of homemade, you don’t have to arbitrarily buy a loaf of Wonder and go on your merry way. There are dozens of mainstream, inexpensive options with varying ingredients, packaging and marketing gimmicks.
“When choosing a high-quality white bread, I check the label and make sure they are using unbleached flour,” advises Maritana executive chef Alexander Reyes. “Another thing I like to look for is if they are adding any whole grains to it. I choose what I eat based on taste and nutrition. By adding whole grains, you can get more micronutrients in your white bread plus added fiber.”
Keeping this advice in mind, I ordered eight of the most readily available brands for this week’s taste test. And while I agree that healthier whole-grain varieties may be better for the body, these selections were advertised as white bread and white bread only. That means no potato, no bleached wheat and no vague names to create what appears to be an entirely new bread category in and of itself (looking at you, Sara Lee Artesano-Style).
Check out which were worth the dough and which were toast when stacked up against competition.
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Crumbly, dry and covered in mold after only a few days, Amazon’s take on white bread was quite pitiful. While the price was pretty fantastic at less than $2 a loaf, I was relieved that the slices were so small because it meant that I was going to go through taste-testing much quicker.
That aforementioned Artesano-Style bread (which is essentially white bread, but isn’t advertised as such)? Yeah, that should be the only bread Miss Lee packages up and sells to the masses (because it’s delicate, somewhat sweet and all-around yummy). This was bland, overly soft and with a crust that would give dryer sheets a run for their money. It also possessed a somewhat sour aftertaste that reminded me of spoiled milk, which then led to a spoiled appetite.
Wonder will always hold a special place in my cold, dark heart for nostalgic purposes. But now that I’m an adult and not carrying a Tamagotchi while chewing Hubba Bubba and listening to TLC, there are simply better options that are slightly less dessert-like, more buttery and don’t taste like there are more ingredients in its recipe than necessary. I do still love when it sticks to the roof of my mouth, though. Some classics never die.
If you’re expecting fluffy, timeless, versatile white bread, this is not it. Instead, this is a company’s take on a healthier alternative to the O.G., and it certainly tasted that way. But dare I say that I typically prefer these types of breads and their accompanying flavor complexities? Good on Dave for not sacrificing quality and flavor integrity by incorporating additional ingredients, though the “killer” in its name may be a touch overdramatic, despite the fact that it was a certified slay.
A big LOL to the name that surely made a lasting impression, but consider Bimbo to be an upgraded Wonder bread. This was extremely soft and tasted quite pure for a loaf with mainstream packaging. My only gripe was that it becomes a bit one-noted if devoured alone, but who the hell is buying sliced white bread to eat by itself? If that person is you, a taste-test ranking is probably the last thing you should seek.
I really appreciated this take from a more recognized brand. And while I’ll always prefer Pepperidge Farm’s specialty varieties (like Sara Lee’s Artesano-Style), it was a solid, very neutral choice that maintained pillowy softness while being sturdy enough to build the sandwich of your dreams. This one also lasted exceptionally long in the bread box, but without tasting preservative-laden — a win-win always.
Thick, soft and almost brioche-like, Nature’s Own earned a well-deserved silver medal for not being so crumby. I do have to mention that I’ve tried Nature’s Own before and I feel like the slices have gotten thinner and smaller. Can someone correct me if I’m wrong? Because if this is the case, the company needs to give the people what they want: BIG BREAD.
Sometimes all it takes is a little flour dusting to make bread appear more fresh and artisanal, and that was precisely how Arnold lured me in. And it paid off. This felt like it was served from a boulangerie in France (except not in the slightest, but it’s always fun to pretend) and helped to concoct one of the most epic grilled cheeses I’ve made in my life (if I do say so myself). I will say that this was a denser, more savory and salty bread with a sweeter crust, but this harmonious balance between textures and flavors is what made it, frankly, the only one I’ll ever knead.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com