The Chorley Wood Process

If you are not a Brit, the chances are you have never heard of Chorley Wood. Many Brits probably don’t know much about the place. It is a small town in Hertfordshire (Pop: 6800-ish in 2001). It lies about 20 miles north-east of the centre of London. It was here in 1961 that something terrible happened…

According to Wikipedia: researchers at the British Baking Industries Research Association in Chorleywood improved upon an earlier American bread making process. This resulted in what is now known as the Chorleywood Bread Process (CBP). It is estimated that about 80% of the bread produced in the UK is made this way. The main advantages of CBP are that it speeds up the making of bread and allows the use of a greater proportion cheaper, low-protein domestic wheat flour. The process is highly mechanised. And the resulting bread is

In fact, in my not-so-humble opinion, it more closely resembles expanded polystyrene than bread. Now, I don’t know what expanded polystyrene actually tastes like, but I do know what CBP bread tastes like. Please refer to the image above. It is also pretty certain that CBP bread is nutritionally far inferior to bread made by more traditional methods, not least because CBP requires a much larger quantity of salt to be added.

Some countries, the USA for example, are fortunate enough to have largely escaped this particular example of “progress”. Most USA flour has too high a gluten content for the process to work. But the plague has spread to Australia, India, New Zealand, and even to France, Germany, and Spain. It makes me want to weep.

I think the best bread I have ever tasted came from Echternach in Luxembourg. Turn your back on Chorley Wood and head for Echternach.


5 thoughts on “The Chorley Wood Process

  1. May I join you in your rant? Being a Kraut I’m used to what some Brits call German-style bread. Now, I’m not a trained baker but I believe it consists of rye and wheat, and it’s a sourdough type of bread. Whenever I happen to be in England (in the narrow sense of the word), I start longing for this bread after a couple of days devouring and digesting this chewing gum like substance which Brits offer me for breakfast. Ah! these little cultural differences!

  2. Hi there,
    I have been living in Switzerland for 5 years and have rediscovered the joys of excellent daily bread. The bread I buy there is only good for a day or two at most before it becomes tastes great, is nutritionally superior to anything here. The British people have been totally swindled by being deprived of what, in my opinion, should be a daily staple. Only the middle class foodie who is lucky enough to live near an artisan baker in the UK can enjoy what for everybody in Switzerland is seen as a basic everyday foodstuff…whether you’re a bus driver or an investment banker.

    So what’s to be done? The supermarkets perpetuate the whole sorry scandal, however, campaigns by top celebrity chefs like Hugh Fernley-Wittingstall had a definite impact on improving the chicken we buy and increasing the quantity of free range birds….it’s about time we started a similar campaign to reinstate the proper daily loaf. It saddens me that in the UK real bread is almost impossible to buy. I went to Tescos yesterday and I am simply appalled by their so-called bakery….all the bread is vile.

  3. Perhaps I have never eaten “real” bread (although I have travelled widely, so that seems unlikely) but for me the Asda Tiger Loaf is about as good as it gets. OK, a freshly-baked French stick or similar is better initially, but the Tiger loaf remains fresh and moist for far longer, and whether or not it is made using the Chorley Wood process it still seems to me to be a fine exemplar of a crusty white loaf.

  4. @Philip Taylor Not sure if you work for Asda or not. Regardless of this, the Chorley Wood process adds enzymes to make the bread feel softer. This fools people like you into thinking it is “fresh” for longer, until it suddenly goes green.

  5. No, I am retired (have been for 10 years), and spent my last 35 years working for the University of London. You are probably quite right that as a Tiger loaf ages it only appears fresh, but does that matter ? If my mouth tells me “this loaf is fresh”, then I am content. When mould starts to appear I will still eat it toasted, but as the mould takes over there comes a time (of course) when it gets consigned to the composter.

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