Bookmark and Share August 13, 2009 - Dave Mulder

Panera Bread’s cinnamon rolls

Large restaurant chains tend to rely on artificial ingredients to help preserve their product and create a universal taste. Panera Bread, which portrays itself as an upstanding bakery and purveyor of high-quality foods, is no different.

Standard ingredients in cinnamon rolls: Flour, sugar, yeast, brown sugar, eggs, cinnamon, butter, salt, vanilla

Sure, there are at least 9 ingredients in a standard cinnamon roll recipe, but I bet you can picture what each one looks like and imagine how it contributes to the taste, texture, and inflection of a heavenly cinnamon treat.

Ingredients in a Panera Bread cinnamon roll: Enriched wheat flour bleached (flour, malted barley flour, niacin, ferrous sulfate, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), butter (pasteurized cream), water, whole eggs, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, yeast, invert sugar, cinnamon, palm oil, whey, yellow corn flour, nonfat milk, salt, food starch-modified, monoglycerides, mono & diglycerides, calcium sulfate and ammonium sulfate (yeast nutrients), sodium stearoyl lactylate, caramel color, leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, monocalcium phosphate), dextrose, corn starch, soy lecithin, canola oil, ascorbic acid (dough conditioner), natural flavor, turmeric (as color), spice, propionic acid (as preservative), polysorbate 60, maltodextrin, phosphoric acid, cellulose gum, white icing (sugar, water, corn starch, corn syrup, soybean oil, natural and artificial flavor, glycerin, caramel color, tragacanth gum, xanthan gum, citric acid, yellow 5, sodium benzoate & BHA as preservatives).

Whoa! There’s somewhere around 50 ingredients in that thing! To be fair, Panera Bread must not be too ashamed as they openly post these ingredients on their website.

Quite a few bakeries pull the too-many-ingredients trick, from national chains to local supermarkets. Close attention to ingredient listings can keep these pseudo-breads out of meals. Usually you can find a local bakery that prides itself on simple, all-natural ingredients. In Michigan, we are lucky to have Zingerman’s Bakehouse distributing fresh breads, bagels, and pastries in a fairly local radius around Ann Arbor.

Highly processed foods, like Panera’s cinnamon roll and many of their other baked goods, are designed to melt in your mouth. The complex and delicious taste is the end result of a tedious manufacturing process. Almost everything on their menu includes some variation of the three basic things that humans are evolutionarily driven to eat: fat, sugar, and salt. Panera has mastered the art of appealing to these sub-primal urges and creating new long-term memory circuitry that will bring people in day after day.

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