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In supermarkets in the UK, either in store or online, their are multiple types of bread, of which two are:

  • "Sliced" bread, eg. this. A large proportion of this bread on the shelves is wholemeal, I would estimate over 25%.
  • "Freshly baked" bread, eg. this. As I understand it this is supplied to the store part baked and finished in the store bakery. A large proportion of this bread on the shelves is wholemeal, I would estimate over 25%.
  • "Part Baked" bread, eg. this. This bread is almost exclusively white. You can get "brown" part baked baguettes but as I understand it this is just while flour that has had some of the bran added back in, it contains none of the germ of the seed which is supposed to be healthy. I have never seen wholemeal part baked bread for sale anywhere, though I have not looked much beyond supermarkets.

Why is the apparently popular wholemeal bread not available to the consumer as part baked loaves? It seems it cannot be a technological problem as the supermarkets manage it for "freshly baked" bread. It seems there would be the demand considering other bread styles are so commonly offered in wholemeal.

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    As another possible alternative to bread when you want it, there’s a book ‘Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day’, and they had a follow up book that included whole wheat bread ( amazon.com//dp/0312545525 ). The general idea is that you make up the dough, stash it in a container in your fridge, and can bake it off any time over the next week or so
    – Joe
    Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 14:52

4 Answers 4

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"Part-baked bread", of the sort one might find at a supermarket, is really "baked bread". Eat a loaf if you don't believe me: The crumb is fully cooked. (You wouldn't want actually half-cooked bread, which would have a collapsed crumb and would in general be ruined and irredeemable by further baking.)

The promise of this stuff, though, is tied to the idea that it's freshly baked at home. For them to sell that, the crust needs to be as white and undercooked-looking as possible. But whole wheat bread crust isn't white; it looks cooked. (Because it is cooked, and because whole wheat bread browns much more readily than white bread.)

So if you want part-baked whole wheat bread, just buy whole wheat bread and finish it in your oven. Basically the same stuff.

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    I reckon white part-baked must be baked at a lower temperature though, to cook it through without appreciable browning, and allow it to get hot through without burning at home. It certainly looks rather undercooked - like if you make a pie knowing you'll reheat it in the oven.
    – Chris H
    Commented Apr 25, 2023 at 15:05
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    @ChrisH Basically, yeah. The temperature is lower, and more steam is used, so that enough heat is delivered but without surface browning. But the cooking time is likely about the same.
    – Sneftel
    Commented Apr 25, 2023 at 16:23
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    The big thing about part baked bread for me is that it lasts months in the packet. I do not eat that much bread, and always having some to hand is what I really buy part baked bread for.
    – User65535
    Commented Apr 25, 2023 at 18:54
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    Ok, you can see why there would be no market for irradiated/preserved wholemeal bread, though, can't you?
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Apr 25, 2023 at 22:02
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    @FuzzyChef it's almost certainly in a protective atmosphere; I doubt it's irradiated. They keep for quite a lot longer even than stated, but if the pack is damaged, only for a few days (comparable to fresh bread).
    – Chris H
    Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 8:51
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Simply because there's not enough profit.

Wholemeal is a fairly small fraction of the market. Part-baked is an even smaller fraction. The intersection of the two is probably too small to be worth serving.

But if you look at what's typically sold as part-baked, it's bread that doesn't keep very well, isn't easy to make at home (certainly not just throwing everything in a bread machine), and is traditionally white - mini baguettes plus rolls made of the same dough. Most wholemeal bread keeps better than this, reducing the market from one end, and is easier to make at home, reducing it from the other. Look at bread mixes and you'll find a much more even balance.

I have seen some rather good part-baked wholemeal boules, sold frozen in a bakery/deli where I used to buy lunch.

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Additional answer based on comments:

Apparently one reason why people buy "bake at home" breads is to keep them for long periods before baking, since the bread is irradiated or preserved in some way. This would be a problem for wholemeal breads for two reasons:

  1. Even irradiated/preserved, wholemeal breads would not have the same shelf life because whole bran degrades faster
  2. A lot of the wholemeal market is anti-preservative, further restricting who would buy such breads

This explains the reason why the only par-baked wholemeal breads I've seen are sold frozen.

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    I do not think they are irradiated or has added preservative. From here I think they part bake it and that heat sterilises the mixture. It is then immediately packaged in modified atmosphere packaging, making it shelf stable at room temperature.
    – User65535
    Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 9:29
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    OK, I've found a review article. Page 17 says an atmosphere of 70% CO₂ and 30% N₂ (with the right sealed plastic packaging) is better than UV irradiation, preservatives, etc., though other studies differ. It sounds like some of the preservatives found in typical supermarket loaves are still used. Overall the article is worth a skim-read at least, if you're interested in the topic
    – Chris H
    Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 11:01
  • Point 1 still applies regardless
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 14:41
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I second the thought that availability is a matter of demand by english customers. In Germany, dark bread made from rye sourdough or spelt and the like to ready-bake at home is available in most stores. The bread is kept at room temperature.

Sorry for embedding the images, the web shops don't like deep linking their images.

Mehrkorn-Brötchen Dinkel

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