Several weeks ago, I received an email from the people at Manna Organics Bakery asking if I wanted to trial some of their Manna Sprouted Breads. Curious, I headed to their site to find out what exactly Manna bread is. They state that, “It is a cake-like, sprouted bread, yeast free bread, organic bread, free of salt, no oils, no sweeteners, no leavening agents. Manna is a moist and delicious, high in protein and fiber.” Intrigued, I agreed, with one stipulation, no rye varieties. We aren’t rye fans here. Hearty yes, rye no.
They listened, and what I received was four very, very dense loaves of rustic bread that included: Banana Walnut Hemp, Carrot Raisin, Fig Fennel, and Millet Rice. First, my initial sum-it-up review: I love it. This is a fantastic line of breads that takes wholesome to a new level.
Now, let’s get into the details …
Manna Bread is true to almost all of its claims – yeast-free, organic, free of salt, oils, sweetener, and any unhealthy ingredients that you could imagine – but cake-like? Now that is one extremely dense and super-moist cake! I can see the difficulty in describing it though, as comparing Manna Bread to an ordinary fluffy white loaf could yield confusion. But in reality, it is nothing like cake. And for that, I’m grateful.
To note, Manna Bread appears surprising small and squat in size. Did I mention that it is dense and hearty? Though it is more petite in stature, Manna Bread packs an energy wallop and just a couple little slices will do you. One organic sprouted wheat loaf lasted me all week for breakfast (with a little nut butter slathered on each slice). For the price and quality (I spotted it at my local (expensive) co-op for around $4 a loaf) I consider it worth it (making my own organic whole-grain) bread at home can cost more than this), and will definitely purchase it myself in the near future.
All of the Manna Bread loaves that I trailed had a wonderful thin, but perfectly hearty and crispy crust (in other words, that great “crusty” loaf texture without the thick bread-your-teeth barrier). On the inside, they were deliciously moist, though a little too moist in some instances. Each loaf has a wonderful homemade appeal, and the ingredients are simple, so the flavors are simple. I loved that there was no sweetener added, and agreed that the natural goodness of the flavor additions (like bananas and carrots) supplied just the right about of sweet to the hearty grain background. However, I did think a touch of salt would have heightened the flavor dramatically. That’s probably the only change I would make in terms of flavor.
Here are my quick notes on all of the flavors that we taste-tested:
Fig Fennel – To my surprise, this turned out to be my personal favorite. The combination of figs and fennel didn’t sound appealing to me at first, but oh what a magical combination it turned out to be! Unique, yet more complex in taste than the others, this loaf had the perfect texture and a delightful flavor pairing.
Banana Walnut Hemp – This sprouted bread one came in a close second. Again, the texture was perfect – moist and tender, yet still sliceable, with delicious nutty bites from the walnuts and seeds. I really think a touch of salt and some cinnamon or nutmeg would escalate the flavor, but otherwise, excellent.
Carrot Raisin – There were certain things that I adored about this bread, but a few things left me ambivalent. Again, excellent ingredients, pure taste, and absolutely packed with carrots and raisins. We had no problem polishing off the loaf. There were just two issues. One is that the flavor was just missing something, in my opinion. Again, it might just need some spices and a wee bit of salt. The other problem was it was a bit too moist. As we got to the center of the loaf, slicing this bread became a challenge. I think it was a bit under-baked in the middle. I like my baked goods on the tender side and rarely mind slightly under-baked, but this loaf needed another ten minutes in the oven. The picture below shows the firmer, yet still moist, end slices …
Millet Rice – This sprouted loaf was a tragedy as I absolutely LOVED the flavor. It was scrumptious – nutty, naturally sweet, and a perfect blank canvas for slathering with nut butter or a touch of honey – no spices or salt required. However, it was definitely under-baked. It took “moist” to a whole new level. Not only could I not slice this loaf, but I couldn’t even break it with my hands, it literally crumbled to pieces as it hadn’t baked enough to bind. I assume that I simply got a one-off batch that unfortunately didn’t cook through. Fortunately, the ingredients are sprouted, vegan, and so simple that I could enjoy it without worry of a tummy ache (I added the bread crumbles like a topping!), but only got to sample the end slices in their entirety.
Again, this is a whole grain wheat brand that I definitely recommend and will support myself. To clarify, Manna Bread is sold, and stored, in the refrigerated section. You won’t find it next to the generic pillowy wheat. It is sold in most health food stores and Whole Foods Markets (US and Canada), and you can also order it directly from their website (which appears to be less expensive than my local co-op).
In terms of allergens, Manna Organic Bakery states that they don’t use any peanuts in their facility, and I’ve been told by the company in the past that their lines are also dairy-free, egg-free, and vegan. All of their breads use sprouted wheat berries, so there unfortunately aren’t any gluten-free Manna Bread options at this time.
Dietary Note: At the time of my review, these products (by ingredients) were Vegan, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Peanut-Free, Soy-Free, and Sugar-Free. However, ingredients are always subject to change on any product. For the latest ingredient and dietary information, see the product packaging.
Product Info: For more information and to purchase Manna Sprouted Whole Grain Breads, visit their website at www.mannaorganicbakery.com.
This is a third party review by Alisa Fleming, founder of GoDairyFree.org and author of Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living. Alisa is also a freelance writer for several publications, with an emphasis on creating recipes for various types of special diets.