Thursday, June 20, 2019

Pilot Bread

When I bought the canned bread for last week's article, I also picked up a package of pilot bread and some light rye crisp bread for comparison. Both are shelf-stable breads that have been around for a long time; the brands I picked were both founded in 1919 by coincidence. Let's see how they stack up.

Pilot Bread Crackers
  • The 2 pound box of Sailor Boy Pilot Bread Crackers costs $12, or $6/pound. Cheap saltines run around $3/pound, with some brands getting close to the price of the pilot bread. There are 38 crackers in a box.
  • About 80% of the Sailor Boy crackers are shipped to Alaska, where they are a staple food.
  • These are a round cracker about 3.5 inches in diameter and ¼ inch thick. Not something you're going to pop into your mouth and chew on.
  • A form of hardtack, they are mostly enriched wheat flour with salt, oil, yeast, and leavening added. This brand also uses artificial flavoring and a preservative. Hardtack has a long history as a staple of explorers and military forces on deployment.
  • The flavor is close to that of a normal saltine cracker, but the density is much higher. There's not a lot of air in these crackers, making them harder to bite into than a saltine.
  • Being a baked cracker, there are crumbs when you bite into them. The density makes them less fragile than a saltine, but they can make a mess if eaten dry.
  • The box they came in was made of thin cardboard and the crackers are in an open-top plastic bag with a twist-tie closure inside the box. The crackers themselves are sturdier than the packaging.
  • There was no “best by” date on the box, just a production code. Looking around the internet, I've seen claims of a 10 year shelf-life for this brand and up to 30 years for the brands that package them in steel #10 cans. For comparison, normal saltines have a shelf-life of 6-9 months.

Wasa Light Rye Crispbreads
  • Wasa is a brand name, founded in Sweden in 1919 and more popular in northern Europe than in America. There are other brands out there, but I can get Wasa at my local grocery store.
  • The crispbreads are about 2” x 4” and 3/16” thick. There are 30 in a package.
  • The light rye is one of about a dozen offerings from Wasa. They even make a gluten-free crispbread.
  • A 9.5 oz package costs a little under $4 at the store. Amazon has them in 12-packs for about $3/pack. This is comparable to the cost of the pilot bread if you look at price per pound.
  • The “best by” date stamped on the package was about a year from now, which isn't great, but I believe they'd last quite a bit longer if properly stored. I think it's time to get out the vacuum sealer and experiment.
  • The ingredients list is short: rye flour and salt. I like simple things.
  • The rye flour isn't as processed as common wheat flour, making the bread less fragile than a cracker. It has fewer crumbs and is easier to bite into than the pilot bread, which is a plus.
  • Rye bread has a stronger flavor than common wheat bread, something that I've come to enjoy but that might take some getting used to for people who are used to tasteless white bread. The light rye is a good middle-of-the-road if you're not a fan of rye.
  • Rye is closely related to wheat and barley, so it does contain a form of gluten.

Both the pilot bread and the crispbread are a good source of carbohydrates for energy, and they're sturdy enough to use with various spreads and toppings to make a quick meal. Both would make a good addition to a storage pantry, with the canned versions of pilot bread being the best bet for long-term storage.

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