Saturday, October 2, 2010

Deep thoughts...

I've been wondering about this for many years now and have yet to find an answer. Why are Italian pre-sliced loaves of bread treated with ethyl alcohol? The first time I bought a bag, I opened it and was blown away by the smell of rubbing alcohol. I thought the bread had gone bad and threw it out. I bought another bag, opened it and it reeked of alcohol again. Upon reading the label I discovered this...

...it actually contains ethyl alcohol (trattato con alcool etilico).

Oddly enough, American pre-sliced bread loaves do not:


Now before you start getting all bread-snobbish on me, let me defend why, on occasion, I buy this kind of bread: bread goes stale quickly and sometimes I like to have an egg & cheese sandwich for breakfast but don't want to have to go out and buy fresh bread before I've even had breakfast SO it's handy to have a bag of this stuff sitting around. Okay?

Back to the point- I don't understand why ethyl alcohol is used in Italy but not in USA, where they tend to do all sorts of strange shit to food. Any clues?

10 comments:

rinaz said...

How about getting regular bread and have it sliced and freeze it to make it taste fresher for longer. Then when you want your egg and cheese sandwich, just defrost it in the microwave oven.

Romerican said...

Thanks but I don't own a microwave (nor do I want to own one), so I would have to defrost the bread slices in the oven...

Kataroma said...

I've noticed the weird smell too. Yuk. I keep sliced bread on hand in the freezer for toast on weekends.

rinaz - I don't think they sell sliced bread at bakeries here but I could be wrong...

AGC94 said...

I read that there is some fermentation in some baking practices.

http://www.eufic.org/article/en/expid/benefits-processed-food-review/

I can't determine from this if the Italians are doing it purposely, or if it's a natural process.

...BUT your blog reminded me of an experience I had in Milan (2003).

So I'm helping a new family adjust to life in Italy, and they're still living in a hotel after about 40 days looking for a place to live. The young wife from Georgia (USA) is having a terrible time adjusting to life there. I'd seen her breakdown in tears twice. So, anyway... their little girl is turning 5 yrs old and they want to give her a little party in the hotel. I agreed to arrange for the cake.

So next morning I went into a city bakery and worked-out a birthday cake for the party. The baker and I decided on a design suitable for a 5 yr old girl.

A day and a half later I picked-up the cake, and it was absolutely better that I expected. It was beautiful. Great.

Got it their room, Mom puts it with the other party things/food and all is well with the world. We sign happy birthday, the candles are blown, and the cake is cut and passed around.

Within seconds I hear an American adult say 'damn'. 'err?' I look at the little girl and her face is cringed with displeasure about the taste of the cake. Then I taste it myself and IT'S FULL OF RUM!

In seconds

Kataroma said...

AGC - what idiot bakers! I can't imagine anyone doing that for a 5 year old's birthday. They didn't mention what kind of cake it was ahead of time? Did you tell them it was for a little kid?

Wow - and I don't think that's an Italian thing just a stupid thing.

Anonymous said...

As this random guy explains, (http://tinyurl.com/2dpjk7r)the alcohol is there as an anti-mold ingredient. In the American loaf instead of ethanol they list sorbic acid, which according to wikipedia is an anti-microbial. You need to add something, as it's not normal for bread closed in a plastic bag to stay edible for weeks and weeks.

I've been freezing slices and heating them up in my oven, takes 5 minutes.

-Alex.

Neil said...

My loaf of San Carlo Pan di Grano Duro indicates that the ethyl alcohol is "per migliorare la conservazione del prodotto."

That's why packaged, sliced bread in Italy lasts for months on end.

Aleta said...

Never heard of that - how interesting! So, how does the bread taste? I don't know if I could get past the smell. We typically buy bread (I live in Louisiana) and put it in the freezer. We don't defrost the bread, we just stick it in the toaster and it comes out perfect :)

Thanks for the sharing that insight on the bread in Italy. Looking forward to reading more on your blog.

Dee said...

Basically, the ethyl alcohol makes it very unpleasant to eat the slices out of the bag. Once you toast them, it's gone completely.
Whit that said: that specific product in the picture, is part of a product line that's meant to be eaten "as is", not toasted. That's how they market it, starting from the picture. And believe me, the smell/taste of alcohol in those slices it's unbearable, out of the bag. They even claim to have recived some kind of best bread award..kid you not.

Anonymous said...

I think that the vapors of the alcohol as a preservative are better than the whole chemical factory of additives found in other breads.