Documentary series. Gregg Wallace, Cherry Healey and Ruth Goodman look at the production, science and history of bread in Britain.
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Here in Britain we love our daily bread, munching our way through
12 million loaves every single day.
Believe it or not, come August, the green shoots in this field
will provide enough wheat to make 300,000 loaves of bread.
From field to factory, it's a nonstop processing line,
but how do they do it?
We've come to West Bromwich, to one of the biggest
bakeries in the country, to find out.
'I'm Gregg Wallace and I've been given exclusive access to
'reveal the secrets behind this epic production line.'
Rolling it up like a cigar and cutting it into four,
-and that's the professional secret?
-That's the professional secret.
'I'm going to follow the entire process over 24 hours.'
'To show you the amazing technology that goes into making
'the perfect loaf every time.'
That may be the most incredible thing I've seen since I got here.
'I'm Cherry Healy and I'm heading into the nation's kitchens to
'uncover the surprisingly simple tricks
'we can all use to make our loaves last longer.'
-I keep my bread in the fridge.
-Don't keep it in the fridge!
'And I'll come face to face with the mind-boggling machines...'
I can feel it on my face.
'..that are working around the clock to provide enough flour to
'bake for a nation.'
Along the way, historian Ruth Goodman will reveal
the hidden killers that used to lurk in our bread.
Oh, my goodness! Look at that fizz up. That ain't flour.
This place just gets weirder and weirder.
You'll never look at a loaf of bread the same way again.
This is the incredible story of the factories that feed Britain.
Allied Bakeries in West Bromwich is one of the largest
bread makers in the country.
Each week, this one factory produces 1.3 million muffins
and up to 5 million rolls.
At the heart of the factory is the giant bread-production line, which
bakes, bags and dispatches 1.5 million loaves every week.
And tonight, I'm going
to follow every stage of that process by helping them
bake the bestselling white and wholemeal mixed loaf in Britain.
But it's not about baking one of them,
it's about baking 140 of them perfectly every single minute.
Before I can get anywhere near a mixer,
we need to get our ingredients together.
Starting with the flour.
420 tonnes of it stored in these giant silos,
trucked in from mills across the country.
Every year, over two million hectares of wheat
are grown in the UK, in a land area the size of Wales.
Because of our climate, wheat can only be planted once a year,
so the annual harvest in August has to provide enough wheat to
feed the nation for the year ahead.
It's kept in stores around Britain and then trucked to mills like this -
the Coronet Mill in Manchester - and this is where your bread begins.
Right, let's see what's inside this truck. Ready?
Around ten varieties of wheat are grown for bread making in the UK.
A mill will buy a selection of them and mix them together.
For manager Steve Britton, this is the key to making the perfect flour.
How much of this comes through your mill every day?
Well, we bring in up to 50 wheat vehicles a day,
about 6,000 tonnes a week.
-6,000 tonnes a week?!
The wheat could have been sitting in storage for up to a year,
so before a truckload is allowed anywhere near the mill itself,
a probe sucks up a sample...
and sends it to the on-site lab.
The truck has to wait while they test the quality of the wheat
and check for any impurities.
20 minutes later, they get the green light,
then the wheat is cleaned before embarking on a violent journey
through a six-mile-long network of pipes.
Which race it from silos to machinery
all over the ten-storey mill at speeds of up to 60mph.
This is where we will store that clean wheat
and it's basically filling up these silos as we speak.
I can hear it. So, it's all going through these tubes?
Well, open the door and have a look.
Oh, my goodness.
Coronet Mill combines various types of wheat
to make over 100 different kinds of flour, each for a specific product,
from doughnuts to pasties, to bagels to cakes and bread.
But to unlock the flour inside a kernel of wheat,
first you have to take the whole thing apart.
All wheat is basically the same.
It's made up of three constituent parts. It's got the bran layer
on the outside, it's got the white endosperm,
and it's also got the germ.
In a wholemeal bread, the flour used has combined all these
elements, as they use the whole of the grain.
But in a white flour, it's just the endosperm -
this white central part - they're after.
The wheat is soaked in water
and left for up to 24 hours to loosen the outer shell.
Then it's ground through steel rollers, which shear open the kernels
and separate the bran from the endosperm.
So, this is after the first time it's been ground?
It is, so what I need to do now is separate it into its constituent
parts, so we need to separate the bran from the endosperm.
So, what we do is we sieve it.
I can feel it on my face.
That is insane.
The Coronet Mill sifting floor is a disconcerting
maze of seven giant sieves that work 24 hours a day,
processing more than a tanker-load of flour every hour.
The crushed wheat kernels pass through increasingly
finer sieves, which remove more and more of the course
material, releasing a small amount of flour each time.
This course material is sent on to yet more steel rollers to be
re-ground and the process is repeated again and again and again.
-It's really fine.
-..and smooth flour.
Our finished flour is now ready to be trucked to the bakery.
Flour dust is combustible and, in a confined space, can create
an exclusive environment where any electrical spark could ignite it.
So, the mill has to take great care while they're loading.
The truck has to be earthed to prevent any static build-up,
while powerful air ventilators prevent the dust from escaping.
How much flour is now going through this funnel into this truck?
This is a 28-tonne delivery now.
-And how many loaves of bread will that produce?
-About 60,000 loaves.
-60,000 loaves of bread from this one truck?!
And how many trucks of flour do you send out of your mill every day?
We're producing a tanker-load of flour every hour.
And is that 24 hours?
-That's a lot of toast.
That is now on its way to the bakery in West Bromwich
where, in just 24 hours,
the contents of that truck will become the bread on your table.
The flour supply is the lifeblood of this bakery.
They rely on it arriving in vast quantities every day
for everything they make.
And before I head in to start baking,
I need to offload that flour Cherry has been milling
and find out how exactly you get 28 tonnes of white powder
out of a truck.
That's the first challenge for driver Tony Jarman.
-Can I help?
-You can, yeah.
I don't want to appear stupid, but flour is a light, dusty thing.
How do you get it out of an enormous vat?
-We pressurise the tank using a land-based blower.
-You blow it out?
Yeah, we pressurise the tank and blow it out.
I came here to see the flour unloaded
and now I feel like a fireman!
This is where the nonstop process of large-scale bread making begins.
It's trembling through my arm.
It's incredible to think that just 24 hours from now, this flour
I'm pumping off this truck will be a loaf on a supermarket shelf.
-Where is this going?
-It's going into the silos above.
This one bakery takes in close to 1,000 tonnes of flour a week.
And they use white and wholemeal flour
for their Kingsmill 50/50 loaf.
That's the loaf they're making now.
In fact, every hour they're making over 8,500 of them.
And just like baking at home,
the first step is getting your ingredients together
and here that's all being done by computer,
under the watchful eye of general manager John Jackson.
This is the fun bit, right?
This is the bit that we start making the dough.
So, what we have here is the flour line
coming right from the silos.
-There it is.
And it's delivering the flour at about two kilos a second
into a holding bin here,
ready to drop into the mixer when the mixer calls for it.
This hi-tech mixer can automatically call on ingredients
from all over the factory.
Right now, flour's being delivered directly from the silos outside,
while the nearby ingredients store room is also
pumping in the other dry ingredients we'll need to make our loaf.
-We've got kibble.
-What is kibble?
Kibble is like wheat bran, that gives you texture.
Hang on a minute, Hang on a minute. I make bread - flour, yeast, salt.
We add it to give it a bit of texture,
particularly to our wholemeal products.
Tell me about soya. That surprises me.
Soya, we add soya, which enriches the process
-and gives a brighter crumb.
-It makes the bread whiter?
-Yes, it does.
-Is that right?
I'm really excited, I've never used one of these.
That is immense!
Despite all these ingredients, there's one star player
at the heart of bread making - a living organism.
-Is that your yeast?
-Yeah, that's our yeast.
That is creamed, fast-acting baker's yeast.
The yeast that I use at home is a solid.
Yeah, we have it in liquid form so that we can bring it in by tanker.
How many tankers come in to supply you with liquid yeast?
About two a week. Two full tankers a week, yeah.
I'm amazed you go through that much. I had no idea.
This is the secret ingredient. Without this, no bread ever.
-How much do you love this jar of liquid?
It's absolutely essential.
But what exactly is yeast and why is it so essential?
To find out, I've come to the Norfolk countryside to meet
scientist Dr Ian Roberts.
So, why am I out in the middle of a forest?
This is a really good place to find yeast.
It's a microscopic fungus related to mushrooms and toadstools,
and it's a living thing and this is a living environment.
Where is the yeast?
It's everywhere, it's all around us on leaves, branches, soil -
the bark of oak trees is a particularly good place to find it,
and indeed it's on us, on our skin.
-You're not kidding me, are you?
-No, it's everywhere.
Yeasts are some of the most successful organisms on earth.
These ancient fungi have been with us for millions of years.
They live all around us,
from the air we breathe to the bark of this tree.
In fact, they're so good at adapting to different
environments that scientists like Ian are researching ways to
harness their potential.
At the Institute of Food Research in Norwich,
they have an extraordinary collection of 4,000 different
varieties of these intriguing little critters.
So, here's a sample from an Antarctic glacier.
Why would you be interested in yeast off a glacier?
Because we think it's got UV protective properties
and it's a potential source of chemicals that can be used in sunscreen, for example.
So, these microscopic organisms have some impressive hidden talents.
But what about the yeast we eat every day?
The stuff that makes our bread rise?
Well, Ian's got some of that in his collection, as well.
You have a little tube like this and inside the tube...
you have that, containing the baker's yeast.
So, I could actually make some bread with this one?
You could, but you'd need an awful lot more of it.
Let me get this absolutely right,
there is no mass-produced bread without mass-produced yeasts?
Yes, there's factories around the world that produce tons and tons of it.
So, how do you make tons
and tons of the stuff when each organism is microscopic?
I've come to the Lallemand factory in Suffolk -
one of the largest yeast producers in the country - to find out.
There are six massive fermenters which are cultivating
yeast 24 hours a day.
Martin Perling is operations director.
How much yeast in one of those?
In each one of those tanks, by the time we finish growing
the yeast, there'll be 30,000 kilograms of yeast,
enough to ultimately bake 1.2 million loaves of bread.
And how much did you start with?
We start with 0.1 gram from a test tube.
-Hang on, how long did that take?
-That'll take us four days.
-That's not possible!
The wonders of living organisms are that they replicate
themselves by doubling their numbers every three hours,
in the case of yeast, and if you do the mathematics,
over the four days that we have the yeast in those fermenters,
they will increase by 35 million times.
Mate, that is the maddest thing.
This is quite an exclusive little yeast club this, isn't it?
Absolutely. That's a very good way of summing it up.
I guess, to the man in the street it's a health spa,
because our primary requirement is to keep our yeast healthy,
happy and growing as rapidly and as pure a state as possible.
One way they keep the yeast happy is by feeding them
vast amounts of sugar through this complex network of pipes.
As they grow and multiply, the yeast cells
get through 42 tonnes of sugar syrup, known as molasses,
in just 16 hours.
Once the yeast has multiplied enough to fill the tanks,
it's dehydrated and then compressed into bricks ready for delivery.
-That's a beautiful thing.
-It's like a marble finish.
That's a really beautiful thing.
-And there's all the big organisms in there.
-A living thing.
We also produce a dried yeast for home baking.
These organisms are so amazingly resilient,
they can even survive being completely dried out.
That is dry and stable and in this form the yeast will keep for
two years, whereas in that form, it has a shelf life of about 30 days.
This has got to be one of the most adaptable organisms the human
race has ever found.
It is, and man has learnt to adapt it to his requirements.
Now, that truck is about to leave, and that has got enough
yeast on it to makeover 600,000 loaves of bread. 600,000!
But that's not even a fifth of the bread
that we consume in Great Britain every day.
Back at the West Brom bakery,
their yeast has now been pumped into storage tanks.
And then, just three minutes after the flour delivery,
it's all combined in the mixer.
We're almost ready to start making bread,
but first I need to add one final group of ingredients
known as conditioners.
Show me what to do.
Grab yourself one of these, take the lid off,
put the lid on the side.
A mix of vitamin C and various enzymes and emulsifiers which,
along with the high-speed mixer, allow them
to bake bread at a speed impossible in your kitchen at home.
At home now, I've added the yeast to the flour,
I've now got clingfilm over the bowl and I'm leaving it to rise.
If we were to use the old method,
we would have bowls of dough all round here, waiting.
We use something called the Chorleywood bread making process,
that was developed in the early 1960s.
At the heart of this Chorleywood process is a special mixer,
which uses controlled pressure and immense energy to precisely
manage the size of the air bubbles in the dough.
Which means every loaf is practically identical.
It also means that a process that would take you 25 minutes of mixing
and kneading at home can all be done here in a fraction of the time.
-So, how long does it take to mix the whole thing up?
-Just three minutes.
-You're kidding me!
-Well, the actual mixing itself is just three minutes long.
-Can I get in there and have a look?
Every stage of the process has to be precisely monitored,
including the temperature of the dough ball, to ensure
the yeast has the perfect environment to grow.
And we're looking for 28 degrees plus or minus one.
Too hot and the dough would rise too quickly.
Too cold and they'd end up with a dense, flat loaf.
-Now it looks like a bread dough.
-That's it, yeah.
-How many of these do you do a day?
-20 an hour.
-20 an hour?
And you get about 350 loaves to a mix.
-Is this the dough I've made?
-Yeah, this is the dough you've made.
And we've cut it into the right weight pieces
and this dough piece now won't stop moving for the next
three and a half hours till we actually drop it in a bag.
I can't be the only person in Britain
that finds this very therapeutic,
watching enormous dough balls just floating away, off into the horizon.
Right, what we do next, Gregg, we put it through a rounder
and shape it into a dough piece
and once we've got it into the right shape,
we need to let it relax so that we can then mould it
and shape it before we put it in the tin.
-How long has it got to relax?
-About 30 seconds.
Is that why you made the conveyor belt so long?
-That's exactly right, yeah.
like all the energy and heat that goes into a piece of beef,
it's like bringing that out the oven and letting that rest.
-Exactly the same.
-Yeah, it's the same process.
I'm getting quite attached to this dough ball.
After they've relaxed for 30 seconds,
the dough balls are almost ready to be left to prove.
But first they go through one surprising extra step.
-You've rolled it up like a pancake!
-Yeah, we roll it up like a pancake.
Why would you do that?
It's all about developing the structure of the dough,
and we cut it in four and turn the grain through 90 degrees to
give the slice of bread a stronger texture, allowing you
to butter it without ripping it all into holes.
Is that it? Is that my four separate bits?
That's the four separate pieces that have actually moulded together
in the proving and baking process inside the tin.
I wouldn't notice this, would I, on a sliced loaf?
No, because on a sliced loaf,
the slices will actually cut through that and you'll not see that.
Mate, this is nothing like making bread at home, let me tell you.
Nothing like it.
What would happen if we didn't roll it up,
didn't cut it into four and just put the dough into a baking tin?
It would look exactly the same, a square loaf, however,
it would be more susceptible to ripping if you actually buttered it.
I'll show you.
This is the loaf we made earlier
and with four pieces here, as you can see.
And this is one that we haven't,
that we made specially for you today,
so you could actually see the difference.
And that's the standard 50/50?
That is. We would make 40,000 of these every day
and we don't make any of those.
-And you reckon it will spread better?
-Do you want to bet on it? Spread betting?
-Spread betting, yes.
# He likes bread and butter... #
It does spread ridiculously well! It does! Right, swap them over.
# ..He likes toast and jam... #
-It's tearing here, yes.
# Well, I like bread and butter
# I like toast and jam... #
That's nuts! Look at that!
Everything depends on you rolling it up like a cigar
and cutting it into four, and that's the professional secret.
And that's the professional secret.
This four-piecing method was developed in the 1960s
and by the late '70s, most bakeries were using it to improve
the texture and structure of their bread.
And while I'm getting my head around the subtle art of four-piecing...
historian Ruth Goodman has been looking at why
we've always been in love with the white loaf.
For centuries, bread has been really important to us -
not only in Britain's diet, but in our culture.
-Hiya, Ruth. How are you?
So, I've come to meet Colin Lomax who's worked for Hovis for 37 years
and has a lifetime's experience of making bread by hand.
I always think about using that part of my hand
and pushing it against the table. You'll get some friction.
He's going to show me how our love affair with bread has risen
through the centuries, starting off with the medieval loaf.
It didn't look anything like the modern white loaf, did it?
No, that's so true.
Let's just have a look at some rye bread and rye is what
really the poor people had to eat when wheat was too expensive to buy.
This is indeed the sort of texture I would expect from a medieval bread.
-It's quite dense. It's not very springy, is it?
If you've got to live on bread and water...
Which they did of course, didn't they?
Which they did, then this is about as good as it gets,
-but, boy, you have to chew it.
Workers' bread was generally made from whatever was growing locally -
rye, barley and oats - which were sometimes mixed with wheat.
This produced loaves in various shades of brown.
If you were wealthy, you could treat yourself to a loaf of white bread.
But preindustrial white bread was quite
different from the sandwich loaves which we know today.
You properly can't see it from there,
but there are still flecks of bran particles in there.
But it made good bread.
Good for the gentry, maybe, but not for the bakers.
The conditions in bakeries were terrible.
Most of the bakers had respiratory diseases...
-As they were in amongst the dust all the time.
They worked terribly long hours
and it really was kind of backbreaking work.
After 25 minutes in the oven,
it's time to check on our preindustrial white loaf.
-All of our efforts - fantastic!
Bread was so fundamental to society that it became
a symbol for social division.
When they were baked on the oven bottom
and you get this kind of dust, they used to slice the bottom off
and that was oven bottom,
and the top bit was upper crust, so the so-called rich people
had the upper crust bit and the other people had the bottom.
Well, now, that does look like white bread.
It's sort of creamy white, rather than white white.
Try a little piece of it.
And it should almost melt in your mouth,
-it shouldn't be as chewy and as dense.
-It's much softer.
And you can see yourself eating that with a nice meal.
For the upper classes, white bread was
the height of refinement in every sense of the word.
It wasn't until after the Industrial Revolution that it came
within reach of the ordinary worker.
In the mid-19th century,
cheap wheat was imported from the prairies of North America and
it was milled through steel rollers, creating a much finer product.
Can we have a little look at what white bread had
-become by the end of the Victorian period?
-Just cut through that.
-Oh, my goodness!
-A lovely, bright white loaf.
Let's go and have a look at that old white.
And I think this is very white in comparison to that.
Essentially, put one hand on there, one hand on there
-and you can really feel the difference.
-Oh, my goodness!
That's a huge difference.
One sinks right in, the other one scarcely at all.
And our love affair with white bread just goes on and on.
Throughout history and through the checkouts,
the white loaf remains the nation's favourite.
My loaf is only seven minutes old, but already it's been mixed,
the dough balls have been cut into the critically important four pieces
and now it's just a short conveyor belt ride to the prover.
At home, I'd put a little bit of oil in the bowl
and I'd try and find somewhere dry and warm like an airing cupboard.
That is just a giant airing cupboard, right?
-It's a giant airing cupboard.
-How much bread have you got in there?
About 7,000 loaves at any one time.
And what do you want? You want it to double in size in about an hour?
At least double in size in about an hour, yes.
I could do that after a good lunch.
'Whether you're baking tens of thousands of loaves in a factory,
'or a single loaf in your kitchen at home,
'at this point the science is the same.
'The prove is all about giving the live yeast
'time to feed off the starch.
'As it does, it produces bubbles of carbon dioxide, which is
'what will give our loaf its structure.'
Ooh, that's quite heavy, mate.
That's the dough we've made straight from the mixer and four-pieced.
And there is the proven dough -
-more than double, I'd say almost triple the size.
'But it's not enough just to create the bubbles.
'The key is holding them in place,
'and that's where the elastic stretchy gluten comes in.'
So the yeast is producing gas, the gluten is holding it all in.
In, like, a big net, and when all that process has finished
it creates, like, a soft, springy texture.
So the yeast is, like, eating the sugar
and then it's breaking wind on an enormous scale.
-And then the gluten's trapping it all.
That's the scientific way of describing it, yes.
-I'm right, aren't I?
-We have to put a lid on the bread, or the tin.
Well, when it goes in the oven, which is the next stage after here,
the yeast does a little bit of a jump as it does its final prove.
And the lid stops it going too big.
And, it also helps us to create
that nice square loaf to go in your toaster.
'They've thought of everything.
'And now, one hour and 24 minutes after the flour first arrived,
'it's time to start baking.'
I'm guessing, by the heat,
that this is the oven and they're finally going to get baked.
How many loaves of bread would you have in the oven at any one time?
About 3,500 at any one time.
How does it travel through an oven for 20 minutes?
The oven's huge, and it's got a travelling chain or a deck that
actually moves forward slowly all the time, taking the tins with it.
'The loaves are baked at 230 degrees,
'just like you would at home. But that's about the only similarity.
'The internal volume of this oven is about 1,000 times
'that of your home oven.
'The loaves move through continuously.
'They have to, to avoid holding up the rest of the production line behind them.
'It also means they avoid any hot spots,
'which could give an uneven bake.'
I can't believe the bread still doesn't get to sit still.
Never sits still. We never stop.
'From the moment the ingredients were combined in the mixer,
'the yeast has been feeding frantically
'and creating those all-important gas bubbles.
'But now, its time is up.'
The actual heat of the oven then kills the yeast,
and the yeast stops working.
And the heat of the metal round the outside
is actually forming the crust, it's scalding it.
Yeah. It creates a sort of caramelised surface, and you get the crust.
'After 20 minutes in the oven,
'the lid comes off, and my perfect loaf is revealed.'
'But before it can be sliced and bagged, it has to take a ride
'through one of the most bizarre rooms I've ever seen.'
MUSIC: Fanfare For The Common Man by Aaron Copland
This place just gets weirder and weirder.
I'm guessing by the temperature this is some kind of fridge.
Yeah, this is our cooler.
And this is the one bit of the process we can't speed up.
Why do we need to cool it down?
We need to get the bread below 30 degrees
so that we can slice it effectively,
and put it in the bag without creating condensation.
Because if we had condensation, we might encourage mould growth.
Are they going up in a spiral?
So on this side we've got the loaves going up,
they go across, and they come down this spiral.
How many loaves of bread in here, mate?
Well, over the two hours, just over 16,000 at its maximum.
It's really difficult for me to imagine
Mrs Jones from Kincaid Road, Peckham
unwrapping that loaf of bread tomorrow.
I've been in the food business for a long, long time.
And this may be the most extraordinary sight
I've ever witnessed.
'I'm starting to appreciate just how much work goes into every loaf
'they make here.
'But a lot of that work is going to go to waste.
'Cherry's knocking on doors in Birmingham, the food waste capital
'of England, to find out why so much of our bread ends up in the bin.'
Every year in the UK, we throw away over seven million tonnes
of food, including an astonishing amount of bread and bakery products.
24 million slices of bread are thrown away every day.
It seems that we're so used to buying bread whenever and wherever
we want, that we're quick to throw it away in favour of the freshest loaf.
And that means for every three loaves of bread you buy,
you might as well chuck one straight in the bin.
'I'm meeting up with Emma Marsh from the Love Food Hate Waste campaign,
'to help me find out why we waste so much bread.'
The key thing is that actually we all like to have
bread in the house. We just don't want to run out of bread.
And it's really about habit.
'So, I've arranged to pop into some local houses
'to check out their bread habits.'
Gosh, you've got loads.
You've got brown sliced,
you've got wholemeal sliced,
you've got white rolls...
and then one really mouldy pitta bread.
Wow. This is a lot of bread.
There's some crusts, and there's one bit here that's stale.
There's one, two, three, four, five,
six, seven, eight loaves in here.
-How many people are in your house?
-So that's two loaves each.
-Reckon you've got...
-Two loaves per person per day.
-These two like bread.
-Do you like bread? Yeah?
And what does your little sister like?
She likes small, small, small sandwiches.
-She likes tiny sandwiches?
With stale bread you just need to think about it very, very differently.
So toasting with it is great, especially if you like
really crispy toast, because it makes it absolutely perfect.
Or you can turn it into breadcrumbs, or you can actually get
the really hard bit, run it under the tap
and put it in the oven, so if you've got something else in there,
and it makes it completely palatable again. You absolutely can rescue it.
What you can't rescue is the pitta bread. That is absolutely a no-go now.
'Moulds are quick to grow on bread kept in a warm, moist place.
'Spreading through the whole loaf, some can be deadly.
'So, rather than risk it, mouldy bread should go straight in the bin.
'16% of all the bread we throw away is entire loaves.
'That's over £90 million worth a year, totally wasted.'
Please may we see your bread?
Does any go to waste?
-The crusts top and bottom I don't eat.
-I don't know,
I just don't eat the crusts. I think the birds'll eat them.
A lot of us don't eat the crusts,
but actually the same amount of effort, time,
-energy, resources go into getting those crusts.
So, actually, it will save money if we can make the most of those bread ends.
Especially for things like breadcrumbs.
Because you can just whizz them up and then use them
on things like macaroni cheese... Anything like that. Don't always have to let them go to waste.
'With the Abbott family, there are more surprises.'
It's like a bread graveyard.
Three-quarters of a loaf of wholemeal.
Four still-edible pains au chocolat.
Oh - wraps, I love a wrap.
-You like variety in this house, don't you?
-Everyone likes different things.
Hiding at the back...more crumpets.
I think we are nearing the end of the collection.
17 varieties of bakery and bread goods. Wow.
I think for me it's about making it a bit more visible,
because actually that just stops it going and hiding right at the back.
# Da-da-da... #
-You've got your basic wholemeal sliced...
-And some 50-50...
-Yeah. That's for my son, he's quite fussy.
And one fresh bagel.
-What I'd really like to ask is, do you ever waste any?
-Oh, we do.
Because quite often it's not used up before it's out of the sell-by date.
Has it gone stale, or is it mouldy or are you just going by the date?
Er, I'll tend to look at it and think, oh, no, that's a bit stale.
OK. So the key thing you could do there is actually freeze that bread.
You can take it out in the morning, make a sandwich,
and then you put it into your lunchbox and by the time you've
-got to work and you're ready for lunch, it's just defrosted.
While we're here I just have to ask something,
cos I'm noticing that no-one keeps their bread in the fridge.
I keep my bread in the fridge, because the fridge keep things fresh.
-Don't keep it in the fridge!
You are one of the 9% in this country that keep their bread in the fridge.
It makes it go stale so much quicker.
'The cooler temperatures cause the starch in the bread to harden,
'making it stale six times faster than at room temperature.
'So it turns out that I waste bread unnecessarily, too.'
We very much do what my mum did. She had a bread bin, I have a bread bin.
-My mum kept bread in the fridge, I keep bread in the fridge.
It seems, when it comes to bread, we are creatures of habit.
But if we just change one thing, whether it be how much
we buy or reviving it with water, or giving it a home in a bread bin,
it IS possible to love our loaves, and enjoy every last crumb.
'Right now the loaf I'm making's got nothing to do
'but chill out for a couple of hours.
'So I'm going exploring, to see how
'they make one of the nation's other bakery favourites.
'Ooh, we love our muffins in the UK.
'We get through over 146 million of the things every year.'
That is maybe the best thing I've ever seen!
'And almost half of those are made in this one factory.
'Joanna Turner is in charge of making sure
'they're all up to scratch.'
Everybody should have one of them at the end of their gardens!
A life-size one.
Why do they come down that... slide like that?
What it does, it slows the process of them coming down.
If they came down on one big chute, it'd be too fast.
'After they're baked, the muffins come out of the cooler upstairs
'and are dropped down to this packing line.
'As they drop, these spirals also divide the muffins into two rows,
'to give Joanna a better look at them as they go past.'
They all look exactly the same to me,
how would you know the difference between...
Right, let me have a look.
We've got that one, near perfect...
is small and dumpy. So it ain't really any good.
As someone who considers HIMSELF as small and dumpy,
I think that's a bit mean.
How many muffins go in through here?
Roughly 18,000 pieces an hour.
-18,000 an hour?
And roughly about 1.3 million a week.
-We are eating a lot of eggs Benedict, aren't we?
Yeah, it's like a pinball machine.
Why is it doing that?
It's evenly dispersing them so the same amount goes both sides.
If I was going to be a bakery product, I'd want to be a muffin!
It's like a day out at Epsom Derby(!)
And they're under starter's orders...
And they're off!
That is just brilliant.
-Do you know the muffin man(?)
# Oh, yes, we know the muffin man
# The muffin man, the muffin man
# Yes, we know the muffin man
# We know the little man from Drury Lane. #
'While Joanne's busy making muffins to feed the nation,
'I've come back to check on how my loaf's getting on.
'It's spent two hours lazily circling the cooling tower...
'..and now it's on the way to meet Lee Smith, the man whose job it is to bag 'em and tag 'em.
-I've been watching these loaves of bread since they were flour.
-This is the final stage, right?
What'll happen next is it'll travel through a slicing machine,
it'll be sliced into different slices, whether you want medium or whether you want thick.
Medium you have 20 slices,
on a thick you have 18.
-I like thick.
-You like thick?
You're on the right side, this is thick. You've got 18 slices on here.
'Thick sliced is the most popular type of bread everywhere in the UK.
'Except the northeast of England, where, for some reason,
'they prefer their slices a little thinner.'
Next up, the sliced loaf goes into an unbelievable invention.
The high-speed bagging machine -
literally, the best thing since sliced bread.
As the scoop's moving forward, it's blowing air into the bag.
The scoop will raise up, it'll open it up,
and it'll actually drag the bag onto the loaf of bread.
So, from what I understand about that, the bread is falling,
the loaf of bread sliced is falling from one conveyor to another?
-It is, yeah.
-And in that time,
an arm is blowing up a plastic bag and pulling it over it.
-That's right, yeah.
-Get out the way.
-Yeah, have a look.
Go and get a cup of tea, I'm going to watch this for a while.
All right. OK, now what? Is this the end of the journey?
No, no, it's got a bit further to go yet.
-It's got to be metal detected for contamination...
-How can metal get in there?
-There's all kinds of machinery on the plant.
If you asked 100 people on the street
something that they would least expect to find in a bakery,
I reckon top answer would be metal detector!
-Can I test it?
-Yeah, course you can, carry on, yeah.
'To make sure the metal detector is working properly,
'they regularly feed through a fake loaf
'with tiny pieces of metal in it.'
'The plastic bags on the loaves do more than just protect them.
'They also tell you exactly what the ingredients are in your bread -
'something we now all take for granted.'
In days gone by, not only could we not be sure what was in it,
we couldn't even be sure it was safe to eat.
The Victorians were no strangers to food scandals.
With few food safety controls, buying your loaf from the baker
could get you rather more than you'd bargained for.
Back then, there could be almost anything in the bread,
including an awful lot of things
that you wouldn't want to be putting in your mouth.
Unlike today, three quarters of all food on sale
had been tampered within some way.
Bread was perhaps the most adulterated of all,
with suspect ingredients like ash, sand, chalk,
plaster of Paris, alum and sawdust used to bulk of the bread out.
Things that could lead to malnutrition
and, in some cases, chronic diarrhoea,
which could be fatal for children.
Thankfully, today we have professional food inspectors,
like Duncan Campbell, looking out for us.
We've got a whole load of adulterated loaves here.
What exactly is in them?
You do read a lot about the use of ground-up bones.
Chalk was another thing, and also alum
was quite a common adulterate in bread in Victorian times.
-And what exactly is alum?
-Alum is a salt.
It has got aluminium in it, so it's potassium aluminium sulphate.
As well as whitening the bread, it allows you to get more water in,
so for a given amount of flour you put in
you get a bigger weight of bread out.
So a baker down the street produces something that looks nicer
and is cheap, which means he gets all the business and everybody else
is in danger of losing their business unless they also cheat.
Yes, so they go and get their supply of alum or chalk
to make their loaves as white as the baker down the road.
These whitening additives could significantly reduce
the nutritional value of your loaf.
There were no professional inspectors to ensure food standards,
so Victorian women had to carry out their investigations at home.
Advice in women's magazines helped to transform housewives
into an army of amateur chemists.
So, there's a test here, which is to take an loaf which is a day
old and pierce it with a knife that's made very hot,
and it's saying if there's alum present,
little particles of it will stick to the blade,
and it will also indicate its presence by a peculiar smell.
Oh, well plunged.
-Well, it's certainly stuck to it.
Any peculiar smell?
I think so.
It is bready, but there's something else there, as well.
There's an under note of something slightly acrid, I think, yes.
In her quest to outwit the food cheats, the Victorian homemaker
was advised to keep some rather dangerous products
in the kitchen cupboard.
I have noticed that we've got a great big bottle.
-A small bottle of hydrochloric acid.
Chemicals you simply wouldn't be able to buy in the high street today.
Hydrochloric acid could cause severe burns, or even blindness.
Here we are, going to all this bother, and yet Victorian housewives
were sort of recommended to try out these tests at home.
Just to do it in the kitchen alongside the chopping board.
Would you like some glasses to go over your glasses?
Oh, yes, I think I need to be double glazed for this.
'In this test, if your flour froths like mad when you add acid,
'it must contain chalk.'
In goes the hydrochloric acid.
Oh, my goodness, look at that fizz up.
-Flour with chalk.
-That ain't flour.
You'd spot that fairly easy, wouldn't you?
If you happened to have hydrochloric acid sitting on your kitchen shelf.
With Victorian ladies having to be this vigilant in the kitchen,
something had to change.
The catalyst was scientist Arthur Hill Hassal,
who set out to prove that chicory was contaminating his coffee
and went on to test 2,000 other foods.
He was one of the first people to apply the compound microscope
to food adulteration, publishing his findings in The Lancet
and that, together with the escalating scandals
around food adulteration at the time, led to the first Act
to prevent adulteration of food and drink - the 1860 Act.
As a result of this Act and many other laws
and codes of practice that followed it,
food safety became a matter of public regulation -
a benefit that we all still rely on today.
Human nature hasn't changed in thousands of years,
so today we're using mass spectrometry,
we're using techniques involving DNA to fight food fraud
in just the same way as the Victorian era.
And with modern-day mass production of food,
it has become even more critical to ensure that
what's written on the bag is what's inside it.
The final stage for everything made here at the bakery
is the 62,000 square foot despatch hall -
an area almost the size
of West Bromwich Albion's home pitch across the road.
Exactly 3½ hours after the flour first left the silo,
my loaf is ready to hit the road.
And it's despatch manager Matt Stevens' job
to get that done as quickly as possible.
I baked a loaf today. I've been hard at it in the bakery.
When are the customers going to be able to actually get their hands on it?
Tomorrow morning, no matter where in the country you are.
-Is that right?
-That's not bad, mate.
Our busiest time of day for vehicle movement
is about three o'clock in the morning.
-So it can get to the stores by nine?
-Is that right?
I know this cos I used to be a greengrocer delivering to restaurants.
We would start at about one, two o'clock in the morning
so we could get deliveries to their door at nine - exactly the same for you.
That's right, every store likes to have their bread as early as possible.
So, does that mean this space might fill up and then empty again?
It does. We started picking this morning,
and we pick the customer orders until about two o'clock tonight.
By five o'clock in the morning, all those orders will have disappeared
and the floor will be virtually empty.
So, while the rest of the nation sleeps,
this place is a massive hive of activity?
Absolutely. It's at its busiest at night-time.
You guys are vampires. Some of you must never see daylight.
The despatch hall is responsible for delivering every product
made at the West Brom bakery,
but they also handle products from Allied's nine other bakeries,
which means this place never, ever stops.
How many loaves like mine are going through your despatch everyday?
On our busiest day it could be up to a million loaves.
That includes bread, muffins, rolls...
-Which one causes you the most headaches?
In the winter, demand can be about three million a week,
but in the summer, if the sun comes out on a Thursday afternoon,
you know that forecast could go up to five million,
especially as it gets towards the weekend.
You know full well that people are watching the forecast,
barbecues on the go, and we're going to be in for a torrid time for the next 48 hours.
So the rest of the nation loves its picnics,
loves its barbecues, apart from you,
-you hate them.
-Exactly, we love the rain.
Supermarkets only place their orders the day before,
so the process of despatching a million items a day
is an incredible feat.
It takes some heavy lifting, some careful planning
and, it turns out, a fair amount of hard graft.
We've got about 30,000 baskets to pick by hand today
before two o'clock in the morning. You ready?
Hang on, hang on, hang on, hang on,
so I understand and don't mess it up -
these brown baskets here, we have to fulfil 30,000 of them?
-We have to lift them all by hand?
The vast majority will be picked individually, yes.
Like most large bakeries, the despatch hall uses
a bit of hi-tech kit to help keep the humans in check.
The pick by voice system is a simple voice-activated computer
which collates all the supermarkets' orders
and tells the packers exactly what needs to go where.
Well, when I say simple...
-Take three two of six.
Take three two of six? What does that mean?!
That means take 32 of six units. How's your maths?
Er, not great.
Right, so I need 32 lots of sixes. How many's 32 sixes?
-How do you know that?
-I just worked it out.
-192, and how many have I got in each tray?
-Do you enjoy a muffin?
-I love a muffin, yeah.
-Good to know.
Whoa, five, six...
Yeah! Right, I've completed that one.
So drop that in the bottom of the first stack,
-so we're starting a new stack.
-Oh, my gun's fallen off!
Right, that's my first supermarket done. Brilliant.
Good, that's the first one. Got thousands to do, let's get going.
-Next, go to stack two.
-Right, that's what I want.
-So I scan that.
Take two of five muffins.
Two of five - that's 10, that's 10.
Next, take 375-35.
My maths is terrible. Er, 200.
-Go to store 375.
-Go to bay...
-Five of these - that's ten. That's easy.
This despatch hall is working 24 hours a day.
But it's not until the wee hours when we're tucked up in bed
that things really get manic.
Every night, bakeries like this all over the UK
are frantically loading bread that's just hours old,
ready for us to buy the next morning.
Over 60 trucks will leave this one bakery tonight.
And the loaf I made could end up as far away as Ireland,
or it might just end up at the supermarket round the corner.
It's impossible to comprehend baking bread on this scale
until you see every single loaf of bread come whizzing past you.
I stupidly believed it was going to be a simple process. It's not.
It's a highly complicated process, because it's such a fast process.
It has to be if they are going to supply
the whole nation with thousands upon thousands
of identical loaves of bread.
'Next time, I'll be taking you inside
'one of the world's largest chocolate factories...'
'..to find out how they produce
'over 7 million bars of chocolate in just 24 hours.'
Oh, my word.
'I'll meet the people who work on the production line...'
That is just chocolate heaven!
'..and Cherry gets hands-on
'to reveal just how our favourite chocolates are made.'
You can't get a fresher Easter egg than that.
We've only got another 8,999,999 to go, then.
Gregg Wallace discovers how one of Britain's largest bakeries makes up to one and a half million loaves of bread each week. Following the production of one of the nation's favourite loaves, he uncovers the secrets to baking four thousand loaves at once and reveals the incredible machine that can bag a loaf of bread in mid-air.
Cherry Healey goes inside one of the largest flour mills in the country to discover what it takes to make the perfect flour and reveals the secret science to storing bread at home.
And historian Ruth Goodman looks at why we've always been in love with the white loaf and shows the hidden killers that used to lurk in our bread.