Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Give us this day...

...our daily bread...

I read something yesterday that struck me as rather ironic.

A feature all about Chorleywood & the 'bread that changed Britain', if you want to read the actual article you can (hopefully) find it here.

The bread here in Germany is delicious and is baked fresh every day and therefore not meant to have a long shelf life - unlike the bread most Britains have to tolerate from the supermarket shelves.

Whenever Germans query my reasons for living in Germany I always say that the bread and the ice cream here are way superior to that available in England (make 'em laugh is always my policy) although the language is ******* hard. My comments are certainly reinforced by the visitors we get here from England, they rave about the huge variety of bread that is only surpassed by that of the ice cream in the numerous eis caf├ęs in Germany.

Anyway, back to the 1961 scientists at the Chorleywood Flour Milling and Bakery Research Association laboratories discovered a new way of producing bread, the new loaves were 40% softer (how do you measure the softness of a loaf?) cheaper to produce and with a longer shelf life, and so the phrase 'the best thing since sliced bread' was born.

The origins of this research date back to the late 1950s and the need to try to find a way for small bakers to compete with new industrial bakeries. During the war and the continuing years of rationing, the nation's households had to put up with the 'national loaf', a dirty beige wheatmeal affair with a gritty texture. This bread had past its sell by date, and consumers wanted soft, white bread that stayed fresh for longer.

At Chorleywood the scientists discovered by adding hard fats, extra yeast and various chemicals and mixing this at high speed they could produce dough that was ready to bake much more quickly than previously. This discovery also enabled bread to be made easily and economically with the low protein British wheat that was available.

However, this research was not just about satisfying the public stomach but it was also intended to help the small, independent bakers compete with the new industrial bakeries. It's a rather cruel irony that this great invention also paved the way for the closure of most of the small bakeries as they were unable to compete with the large industrials when they also adopted the new methods. So what was clearly the greatest thing since sliced bread then went on to completely destroy the market for delicious, tasty and freshly baked bread from the local bakers.

Today in Britain, most people have no choice but to buy their daily loaf from the supermarket, white and fluffy it may be, but satisfying on a day after day basis? Here in Germany I could go to a different bakery every day of the week and buy a different loaf/bread roll every day for a month, I'm spoilt for choice.

The Chorleywood process is used in more than 30 countries while Britain's white bread market is worth about £1bn a year, and most of that is Chorleywood bread. I'm slightly worried that Germany might decide to adopt the Chorleywood loaf, although as Germans seem to take their daily bread as seriously as they do religion, football and relaxation maybe the local bakeries are safe.

Word for the day; bread - das Brot

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