Panera: Has new bread recipe? (moved from L.A. board)
Ate at Panera Bread about a month ago and noticed that their french baguette is not quite as crunchy (we ate fairly often there). The "new" baguette seem chewier. then we returned a week ago and another client told me of her observation as well and that she thought she was the only one that noticed it.
Any thoughts on this?
2733 Pacific Coast Hwy Ste A, Torrance, CA 90505
It's true... the ingredients have changed, and apparently not for the better. As of last spring, this was the list of ingredients in the French baguette, according to Panera's web site (I used web.archive.org to find this information):
Artisan French Baguette - Ingredients: Unbleached enriched flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, salt, yeast.
And here is the current list of ingredients, according to Panera's web site now:
Artisan French Baguette - Ingredients: Unbleached enriched flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, salt, natural base (calcium diphosphate, malted barley flour, dextrose, distilled monoglycerides, rye flour, sunflower lecithin, wheat flour, enzymes, ascorbic acid), yeast.
As to the reason for the change, I don't know... but at least this confirms that you were right; the bread really has changed. It's a bit disappointing to me... don't get me wrong, the bread at Panera is certainly *decent*, but it seems as though every time they "update" any of their bread recipes, the new ingredient list inevitably contains more unpronounceable ingredients than the previous version, and never tastes quite as good.
Money money money money.... money!
The natural base is a 'souring' agent. Sourdough bread has a longer shelf life and doesn't have to be baked every day. They're cutting labor costs and waste by baking less frequently. Unfortunately, unless you're dealing with a truly artisan bakery, sourdough bread sucks.
Even if you're dealing with sourdough from a master baker, it's still a very different animal from 'regular' bread. Personally, I have to be in the mood for sourdough. If I walk into your store with a yearning for fresh non sourdough bread, don't you dare give me otherwise.
The irony is that Panera isn't doing too badly financially. Greed seems to be the word for everyone in the food biz these days, regardless of their earnings.
We still had the good bread until recently. First they changed to awful dinner rolls made from cheap dough. Now the baguette that I had today is the same dough as those awful dinner rolls. I too loved that crusty baguette, my reason to go there and have a salad. Now I wouldn't pay $9.00 for a salad with crappy bread since bread is the reason for life and this stuff is like death warmed over.