Creative local bakers are giving plain old white bread a brand-new rep.
Poor white bread. Universally derided, it outranks even vanilla as the ultimate symbol of the unremarkable. But thanks to area artisanal bakeries, this humblest of loaves has a chance for redemption. Newcomer B&R in Framingham joins breadmaking vets Clear Flour, Hi-Rise, and Sel de la Terre—which next month will open a state-of-the-art, 5,000-square-foot bakery to meet customer demand—in taking on the staple with aplomb. Our panelists sampled a baker’s dozen for overall taste and versatility. Here’s how six of the best stacked up:
Hi-Rise White Bread
You can taste the oven in this smoky, almost meaty, incarnation. The pungent crust has an intense, salty flavor—one panelist described it as “cheesy,” another as “Triscuity”—that contrasts well with the soft, even-textured crumb.
Use for: Ham and cheese or a complement to hearty soups
Sandwichability score: 4 out of a possible 5
($3.50, 208 Concord Ave., Cambridge, 617-876-8766; 56 Brattle St., Cambridge, 617-492-3003)
Sel de la Terre Semolina
A pretty, oval loaf (with a five-petal flower stenciled on top), this has a strong wheat flavor and aroma, and a crust that tastes freshly baked.
Use for: Sel de la Terre serves it with roasted pork, cheddar, and pickled onions—and we’re not going to argue with that.
Sandwichability score: 5
($3.50, 255 State St., Boston, 617-720-1300, seldelaterre.com; $4.99, Savenor’s, 160 Charles St., Boston, 617-723-6328, savenorsmarket.com)
Big Sky Old-Fashioned White
Also known as Granny’s White Bread, this is a surprisingly pleasant change from traditional whites. The secret is its star ingredient: honey. An earthy sweetness permeates both the aroma and dense, cakey crumb. One taster fell in love: “This is white done right…maybe the best bread since Christ fed 5,000 at Galilee.”
Use for: Curried chicken salad or PB&J
Sandwichability score: 4
($3–$5, 105 Union St., Newton Centre, 617-332-4242, bigskybreads.com)
Clear Flour Pain de Mie
Strikingly tall with a soft crust, pain de mie was characterized by one taster as “Wonder Bread, without all the processing.” This fragrant loaf has a slightly sweet and nicely buttery aftertaste.
Use for: Decadent French toast, or toasted for a BLT
Sandwichability score: 3.5
($3–$6, 178 Thorndike St., Brookline, 617-739-0060, clearflourbread.com)
Pain d’Avignon French Pullman
With a perfectly even shape and golden brown color, this is the most beautiful of the breads we tried—and it tastes as good as it looks. The chewy crust gives way to a subtly sweet, airy crumb that still has enough heft to support even the most ambitious sandwich.
Use for: Toasted tomato, mozzarella, and basil
Sandwichability score: 5
($2.25–$5.55, 192 Airport Rd., Hyannis, 508-778-8588, paindavignon.com; $1.49–$2.99, Golden Goose, 179 Commercial St., Boston, 617-367-3189)
Nashoba Brook French Bread
This plump loaf has a firm, golden brown crust and a fresh, yeasty scent. Its creamy, mildly nutty flavor and tangy finish were a hit among our tasters, but the holey texture makes it risky for drippy sandwiches.
Use for: A cheese and fruit plate or butter and jam
Sandwichability score: 3
($2.40, 288 Columbus Ave., Boston, 617-236-0777; 152 Commonwealth Ave., West Concord, 978-318-1999, slowrise.com)