5 Things to Know Before Buying Bread at the Store
A baker addresses the biggest misconceptions people have about bread.
Zak Stern, the man behind one of Miami’s most well-established bakeries, Zak the Baker, has gotten every bread-related question you could imagine, dealing with everything from storing methods to the difference between whole wheat and multigrain breads. (Stern can’t even count how many times he’s been asked what the “healthiest” bread is.)
Six days a week, Stern and his team bake thousands of loaves (and croissants, cookies, pies, challahs, and other Miami-inspired pastries) through the evening and into the wee hours of the morning. Most of his bread is sold at his flagship bakery in Wynwood and at all Whole Foods South Florida locations, as well as a few local restaurants and hotels. That’s why Stern is dispelling the five most common questions and concerns he and his team receive at the bakery on a daily basis. The most important? Never store your bread on the counter (or fridge) in a plastic bag.
1. There’s no such thing as the “healthiest bread.”
“I always prefer to re-frame the question of 'What’s the healthiest bread to buy?' to 'What’s the most nutritious bread to buy?' In terms of nourishment, as in how dense with nutrients each slice of bread is, I would go with something made with mostly whole grain flour and lots of seeds. Something like a multigrain bread, or a whole wheat bread.”
2. There's a big difference between multigrain and whole wheat breads.
“Because these names are not standardized, they’re left to be interpreted by each baker and bakery. From what I see in the U.S., multigrain bread is typically a lighter bread (mostly white flour), made with lots of different seeds and grains. Whole wheat bread is traditionally a darker bread (mostly whole wheat flour), so it’s a bit heavier and darker than multigrain bread. If you’re looking for a serious dark and dank brown bread like the ones hippies and Germans eat, then look out for a sourdough whole wheat bread with at least 90 percent whole wheat flour. That bread will get you pooping like a champion.”
3. Sourdough may be easier to digest, but listen to your gut.
“I have no idea what’s going on in your gut, but if your belly feels good after eating it, then it sounds like a win to me. I’m not a sourdough evangelist, but I am a very big fan. I believe it’s one of nature’s most magnificent food processes. A piece of old dough sitting out at room temperature is wildly fermented by local yeast, which is invisible to the eye, and miraculously rises the dough and bakes into a loaf of amber crusted sourdough bread with a chewy yet creamy, pearlescent crumb. Hallelujah!”
4. You don't need to worry about genetically modified wheat.
“According to the USDA, 'No genetically modified wheat is commercially grown in the United States.' Now everyone can unlock their doors and sleep soundly at night.”
5. You have two choices for storing bread.
“Fresh bread will both stale (taste dry) and spoil (get moldy) over time, so you have two choices: either eat it while it’s still fresh or preserve for later. If you’re going to eat the bread in the next one to five days, I recommend you keep it at room temperature, wrapped in cloth or paper. If you put the bread in a plastic bag, the bread will sweat in the bag, wick to the plastic, and mold quickly. If you put the bread in the fridge, it will stale six times faster than leaving it at room temperature. For those who can’t eat a whole loaf in few days, I recommend you get the bread sliced when it’s fresh and put it straight into the freezer (plastic bag is okay). You can then take out slices as needed and put them directly into the toaster.”