Everything You Need To Know About Sliced Bread

It's Back to School time of year, so use your loaf and learn all about bread types before you start making those sandwiches!
Do you know your wholemeal from your wholegrain? Does Irish bread contain Irish wheat?
Read on to find out...
Below is a guide to the main types of wheat-based sliced bread available in supermarkets and an explanation of the terms you read on pack labels. 
Read to the end to hear my tips on using bread in lunchboxes!
I’m hoping this may make choosing what’s best for you and your family a little easier!
So let’s begin...

Types of Wheat Bread

There are two main types of sliced bread: Yeast Bread and Soda Bread
YEAST BREAD uses yeast to make dough rise. It works by yeast consuming sugars in the dough and SLOWLY releasing carbon dioxide aka little bubbles, in to the dough, making the dough expand (rise).
SODA BREAD uses bicarbonate of soda (also known as bread soda) mixed with an acid (usually buttermilk) to QUICKLY release carbon dioxide aka little bubbles in to the dough.
Yeast bread requires STRONG FLOUR which means a high level of GLUTEN (gluten is the protein part of wheat) – it’s what makes a yeast dough stretchy, and able to expand and hold those little carbon dioxide bubbles as the dough rises, like blowing up a balloon.
Soda bread does not require strong flour. It is a heavier texture, more dense bread. It still rises when baked, but the little carbon dioxide bubbles are much smaller.
Both types of bread also usually contains SALT and SUGAR for flavour (and for function in the case of yeast bread).
The reason soda bread is the traditional type of bread in Ireland is that Irish wheat does not have a high gluten level (due to our weather) and so is more suited to soda bread production than yeast bread production. All packaged “SLICED PAN” and “BATCH” breads are Yeast Breads.
Soda bread you buy on the supermarket shelves is usually BROWN SODA / WHOLEMEAL SODA, although people still make white soda bread at home.
Almost all wheat flour used to bake these breads, and all the flour you buy yourself, is milled from imported grain (or imported as flour, already milled). Even though fields around the country are full of wheat, only a tiny percentage goes to food production. The rest goes mainly to animal feed, and also production of seed and other uses.

Sliced Pan Varieties Explained

WHITE SLICED PAN – made from white flour, which is wheat flour with all the bran and wheatgerm sieved out of it.

BROWN SLICED PAN – made from a mix of wholemeal and white flour, or flour from other cereals e.g. barley.

WHOLEMEAL SLICED PAN / 100% WHOLEMEAL – made from flour which uses the whole wheat grain, so includes bran, wheatgerm etc – all parts of the grain

WHOLEWHEAT – same as wholemeal, may contain actual whole grains for texture

WHOLEGRAIN – wholemeal with added whole grains of wheat for texture

MULTIGRAIN – usually used for bread that includes flours and/ or whole grains of cereals other than wheat e.g. rye, barley, along with wheat flour

GRANARY - a style of wholegrain bread. From what I understand, Granary is a term originally coined by Hovis and is now used elsewhere.

BATCH – a style of white, brown or wholemeal bread, which is baked several loaves per ‘batch’ and then torn apart – leaving no side crusts and a high, brown top crust

YEAST FREE – this will only be written on soda bread, which as you know, is risen with bread soda, so yeah, like, obviously its yeast free!

Notes on Nutrition

Bread companies employ a huge amount of marketing tactics to induce you to choose their products, through claims like high protein / low fat/ low salt / low sugar. Behind it all, the products are SO SIMILAR in terms of nutrition content (I compared 15 different breads from the nutritional content they have listed online)
The biggest difference across all types, that I can find, is FIBRE levels. White has the lowest, brown is next, wholemeal & wholegrain are the highest. Choose the highest! But you knew that already.
Turning wholemeal flour into white flour doesn't just strip away some of the fibre, it also reduces the micro-nutrients present. Another reason to choose wholemeal / wholegrain options when possible!
Sugar is fairly low across the board. The very highest I found was 4.1g/100g which would still count as “low sugar”
Salt level is fairly standard across all loaves I checked, between 1g-1.6g/100g. I reckon that works out about 0.4-0.6g salt per slice for the average yeast sliced pan.


So if they are so many similarities, how do you choose? My advice would be to go for the ingredient list with the least amount of unpronounceable ingredients, as there are many emulsifiers, preservatives, palm oil and more used by various brands. Also think about keeping it local, with small bakeries – for me as I'm based in Co. Louth that would be McCloskey's Bakery or  O'Neills of Annagassan. There are lots of smaller and independent bakeries around when you keep an eye out.

Lunchbox Tips

Here are a few ideas to help ensure those lunchboxes come home empty:

- If switching from white to wholemeal, try making a 'double decker' sandwich with 3 slices of bread, using white for the two outside layers and wholemeal for the middle. 

- Extra bread, and even fully made sandwiches (depending on the filling), can be frozen to avoid waste. 

- Get children involved in making their own sandwiches. Kiddikutter knives are great for safely buttering, cutting and slicing but won't cut skin (so peace of mind for you!)

- A divided lunchbox can provide greater protection for a sandwich than a large box where the sandwich can be flung around on the way to school, and no one likes a squished sandwich

- Crusts should be eaten but lets be realistic, a lot of kids hate them! If you choose to cut off the crusts, pop them into a ziplock bag and freeze them. You can use them for breadcrumbs or use them for your bird table in winter.

 - If you want the tastiest bread, try making your own! My Cheese & Onion Potato Bread is sooo easy and absolutely delicious.