Saturday, 9 July 2011

The Chorleywood Bread Process

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Chorleywood Bread Process (CBP), named after the Hertfordshire town where it was created in the labs of the Flour Milling and Baking Research Association. However, not everyone will be celebrating. The process enabled bread to be made in record time, using processing aids and artificial additives: the cheap, spongy, sliced white loaf was born. Eighty percent of the loaves bought by the British public are still made using this process.

The Real Bread Campaign are marking today’s anniversary by announcing the winner of a Pappy Birthday contest, from their stall at Chorleywood Village Day on Chorleywood Common - where they will be baking Real Bread from a mobile oven. The prize is for the best ‘pappy birthday’ card to the modern industrial loaf.

The Real Bread Campaign is about community-based bakeries, home-baking, and using only the basic essential ingredients and natural additions (e.g., herbs, seeds), without any processing aids or artificial additives.

Dinas Powys-based baker Geraint Roberts is a supporter of the Real Bread Campaign. He told me recently, “They are trying to raise awareness through the media about all the rubbish that goes into supermarket bread, and equally promote home baking and bread that is made with just flour, water, yeast and salt.” Geraint says the degree of processing involved is not always obvious from the label on bread made using the CBP: “With supermarket bread there are certain things that do not need to be declared on the label because they are processing aids rather than ingredients.” These include enzymes that are added to speed up the manufacturing process. “The time to make a supermarket loaf from start to packaged product is less than two hours”. The Real Bread Campaign wants Real Bread to be defined as a product that takes around four hours to complete its cycle (the time it takes without additives and processing aids).

With a longer fermentation process, more nutrients become available in the bread. The flavour develops and the harmful enzymes get broken down. So, rapidly-produced CBP loaves are nutritionally-depleted and don’t taste as good – hence the hefty salt levels associated with them. The CBP also utilizes weak-protein flours and, so to build an adequate structure in the final loaf, fats, flour improvers and emulsifiers are added.

Geraint is among a growing band of artisan bakers who sell Real Bread to independent local businesses (delicatessens and cafes) and directly to the public. They operate from relatively small bakeries and make a range of interesting loaves, such as sourdoughs with the addition of natural and seasonal ingredients, which are not amenable to mass-production.

The rise of the Real Bread movement is helping to educate people as to the health benefits and the superior flavour of Real Bread. It served it's purpose, but after fifty years the CBP is past its sell-by-date.

Previous post on Real Bread:

Further reading:
Andrew Whitley (2006) Bread Matters. Fourth Estate (ISBN 0-00-720374-8)

Rose Prince.


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