Stefan Gates reveals the secrets of supermarket food by making his own. Stefan challenges John Torode and Lisa Faulkner to make rival 'wheaty breakfast bricks'.
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Dried spaghetti and wheaty breakfast bricks,
two of the most popular supermarket foods.
They're both made from the same single ingredient.
To find out what, we're going to make our own, from scratch.
We think we know these foods,
but how much do we really know about them?
How would you think you'd go about making one of those?
Well, it looks a bit like very skinny spaghetti.
Obviously something sticks it together but I'm not sure what.
How do you think they make it so straight?
Let it dangle.
I just eat spaghetti, I don't know.
I love finding out what happens to the stuff that we eat.
But finding out what factories do to our food isn't easy.
So to copy the big boys, I've set up my own Food Factory
here in this barn.
To help me discover what the masters of mass production do,
I'm going to need some factory workers.
Clocking on for today's shift are MasterChef host John Torode
and Celebrity MasterChef champion Lisa Faulkner.
But whose version of today's supermarket food
will go in the basket and whose will go in the bin?
Our shift at the Food Factory is about to begin.
John, Lisa, absolutely fantastic to have you here at the barn.
Would you like to look at what we're going to be making?
Yes, please. I think we better had, hadn't we?
-I'm really nervous.
You're going to be making wheaty breakfast bricks -
that's what I like to call them.
Are these things that you would have eaten in the past?
I've eaten one of them in the past.
Could you fill them with chocolate like a pain au chocolat?
-That would be lovely.
-Ah, now it's coming out.
No, you can't, John.
Once you achieved one of these, you know what,
you can do whatever you like with it. But how hard can it be?
They're just chunks of wheat, aren't they?
-More like noodles.
Lisa and John, are you ready for your first shift here in the barn?
There's only one ingredient, but making these breakfast bricks
is much harder than it seems, even for these two.
Shall we have a little look? What can you see inside?
-It is noodley, isn't it, yeah?
And what is the texture?
-Well, it's just dry and crispy.
-OK, what else?
They're bland as anything. They look like a loofah!
They taste like a loofah.
Well, your challenge is to make two rival wheaty breakfast bricks,
and then when you've made them,
we're going to offer them to some Taste Testers, and they will decide
whose is most like the one that you buy from the supermarket.
It all starts here, with your ingredients.
Now, this one's easy, because there's only one
and it's already been pre-cooked.
Grab your ingredients, please. Get to work!
They're not completely alone.
My factory foremen, Marty and Tod, are here to help.
We need a machine that's going to turn this grain into shreds.
-I have a cunning plan.
There's only one ingredient - wheat -
and I've made this challenge even easier
by boiling the wheat in water first to soften it.
So all they've got to do is flatten the wheat into sheets
and cut it into thin shreds.
Easy for two chefs of their calibre, surely?
How many are we going to make?
Hopefully, at least one.
-What we need to do is...
-..give this mangle a makeover.
Working out how to make such a simple food
may look deceptively easy.
In fact, John and Tod look like
they've cracked the rolling bit from the off.
See how it's making a film of dough already?
Oh, my goodness. Look at that. That's cool.
Marty's hoping his contraption will flatten and shred
the wheat at the same time.
This is what's going to make our shreds.
We've got two new rollers, what I have carefully made.
You're very clever.
That one's the smooth roller.
That one though has got lots of little grooves cut in it,
so when they roll together, this will squish the wheat,
and we'll end up with our shreds in the grooves.
Breakfast cereal was one of the first foods to be mass produced.
Its inventors had to work out not only how to build the machines,
but how to prepare the ingredients.
John and Lisa only have one ingredient - wheat.
But breakfast cereal pioneers
realised they had to do something to it
before they could make it into shapes.
If I crush an uncooked grain of wheat
and put it under the microscope,
you can see what they discovered they had to do.
So this white stuff up here is starch.
That's all ground up to make flour.
But this sort of powdery stuff here is no good
if you're trying to make breakfast cereal.
So what happens is they boil it for an hour first.
When the white starch powder is boiled in water,
something amazing happens.
It turns to jelly.
Look what happens when I squeeze it.
All of those powdery starch granules have bound together
into one big blob.
And then they leave this for a while to harden just a little bit,
and you can bind it together into a big ball of putty like this.
The softened starch is the secret to making shapes
and it's what makes this breakfast cereal possible.
-How we going, guys?
This looks like some sort of tennis training device.
-No, that's Dennis.
-He's the hopper. So we're feeding the wheat into the hopper.
And then it's going through a set of rollers
and then it's being rolled off and being scraped off in sheets.
Then we'll just try and get long sheets of it,
roll it all together and then we'll cut it out.
Let's start the production line.
-So you ready to catch, John?
-I am, yeah.
-Ah, there we go.
-So you're going to knit them together?
Yeah. Knit them all together first.
And then we'll dry them a bit before we shred them.
That is not bad.
As long as you end up with a wheaty breakfast brick,
I'll be a happy man.
John's pinning his hopes on a two-stage process -
flatten, then cut into shreds.
Lisa and Marty's mangle mash-up combines both stages.
This laundry device was much more common
back in the day these biscuits were invented.
You seem to have a wheat torturing device here?
-We've got a wheat mangle.
-A wheat mangle.
Can you explain to me how it's going to work?
Do you know what, it's going to work brilliantly!
This is going to be squished between the two rollers.
And this is going to shred the wheat.
Well, please, start your production line.
Are you sure this is going to work?
-Yes, it's going to work. We'll get there.
Do you know, Marty knows exactly what he's doing.
He's built this brilliant machine.
I think some adjustments, guys?
-A few adjustments.
-We're going to oil our rollers.
-Shall I come back later?
-Yes. Come back.
-That's probably a good idea.
'Oh, dear. Not such a promising start for Lisa.
'John's sheets worked well, but now his shredding device has hit a snag.'
The rollers aren't rolling. Do you know what I mean?
Yes. Well, it's shred-ish.
And finally Lisa has come up with a fix for the malfunctioning mangle.
-Take this away.
-Throw it in the skip?
Get rid of that. We'll use it as a rolling pin.
What we need a paper shredder or linguine cutter, pasta maker.
-Paper shredder, I can do.
-You got a paper shredder?
With their original ideas lying in shreds,
these MasterChef veterans might be heading for a fall.
It's time for quality control, and John's still having problems.
John. It's a bit like tagliatelle.
-No, that's paper shredder.
We had to use a paper shredder,
because we can't cut through the old pizza wheels.
And what happens here you see, is they stay together,
and every so often, you get lovely, lovely little ones like this,
-which we should have.
But to do that, I mean,
about five hours work to get those seven strands so far.
So the paper shredder it is.
So they're a little bit bigger, but, look, they're cool!
That's pretty good.
What do you mean pretty good?
Let's have a look over here.
This reminds me of something my cat did the other day,
but also it reminds me a little bit of...
-you know that wallpaper that was made with woodchip.
-It's largely like that.
-Can I tell you something?
The good thing about this, is that I think it might actually look
more like a shredded brick thing than that.
And so, aesthetically, this might just do it.
Currently they look more like sheets than wheaty bricks.
What you need to do is find a way to chop them off neatly at the sides
and then plump them up into nice little pillows like this.
OK? Back to your stations, please.
'After five hours in the barn, John and Lisa are only partway through,
'but I'm sure they won't be beaten.
'I'll leave them to work out how to layer up their wheaty sheets
'and transform them into breakfast bricks.'
I'm off to discover why another wheaty treat
keeps in the kitchen cupboard for ages.
How long do you reckon pasta lasts on the shelf?
I would have thought it would have a shelf life of six months.
Six months? Grab the blue pack there.
Have a little look at the back.
-It says how long it lasts.
So it lasts, from now, three years.
That's quite a long time, isn't it?
I'm shocked by that, I really am.
How do you think they make it last so long?
Do they nuke it?
They might not nuke it, but just how do they make it keep so long?
In fact, come to that, how do they even make each strand so long?
To straighten out this pasta puzzle, I'm going to make my own.
First, I need a special kind of flour to make my dough.
This flour comes from durum wheat.
I've never made dough in an industrial plaster mixer before.
Oh, my Lord, she's going to blow!
This type of dough is super-sticky.
I'd like to see anyone make a spag bol out of that!
So how do they turn a sticky blob into super-straight dry spaghetti?
In the factory, they use a machine called an extruder,
and it's a massive gleaming tower of stainless steel.
I thought I'd cobble it together using one of these.
It's a meat mincer.
There we go.
A spiral inside the mincer will force the dough
out of the holes, forming long and perfectly straight strands.
At least, that's the idea. Oh, look, here we go!
It's coming through, look! This is really difficult.
It's quite hard work.
OK, it's starting to drop and as it drops,
it's getting faster and faster. Argh! Oh, no!
Oh. Hmm. It's all going a bit wrong.
But with less of a drop and some nifty knee work, I'm in business!
Look at that, that's brilliant!
But dried spaghetti it isn't.
It's not that straight either, but I've got a fix for that.
Now, I know it looks a bit crazy,
but this is what they do in the factory - they hang the spaghetti up
and they use gravity to get the strands of spaghetti
really, really straight, and I think it's kind of working.
A few little kinks left.
Straighter, but still not dry.
This shed will solve that.
In the factory, rows of pasta curtains pass through
Just like mine, sort of.
Fitted with these fan heaters, it'll be a roasting 80 degrees in here.
I can't dry my spaghetti too fiercely, though,
because it'll crack.
Under the microscope, you can see the problem.
The outside edges dry faster than the inside -
as the outer layer shrinks, it's not long before...
..there are cracks all along the outside of the spaghetti.
The challenge for the big boys is how to dry the pasta
to the brink of cracking.
And then, they put water back in!
I'm going to use a wallpaper steamer.
By making the air moist again from time to time,
the pasta will dry faster, with no cracking.
will I be greeted by dried straight spaghetti or a pasta disaster?
Oh, blimey, look, it's like a shed load of monster hair.
It looks quite dry.
It's pretty straight - little bit of a bend on it but not bad.
That's a pretty good one!
Under the microscope,
my spaghetti is as straight as the shop-bought stuff,
and no cracking!
A few bits of flour to stop mine sticking, but otherwise it's perfect.
It's a bit brittle, but that just proves it's dry.
It's the dryness that stops bugs and bacteria growing.
And that's why spaghetti keeps safely in your cupboard for years.
Time to put my spaghetti in.
Of course, there is a classic student version of testing
whether or not your pasta is cooked - chuck it at the wall
and if it sticks, it's supposed to be ready.
# Hey mambo
# Mambo Italiano
# Go, go, go
# You mixed up Siciliano
# It's a so delisha everybody come copisha... #
Here goes. This pasta has come a heck of a long way.
Well, it looks like the sauce is clinging onto it quite nicely,
that's a good start.
Hmm. It's nearly there!
It's nearly there. It falls apart a little bit too much in your mouth.
It's kind of a bit more like the stuff you get out of a can.
My very own dried spaghetti.
Made from 100% wheat.
But only our Taste Testers can decide
whether my spaghetti's as good as shop-bought stuff.
You're not actually judging the sauce, you're judging the spaghetti.
I think this more like the tinned spaghetti you get.
-I don't think it holds the flavour of the sauce as well.
It is more wheaty.
What about the texture - has it got the same bounce?
-It's got more flavour.
-You reckon this is like the stuff you buy in the supermarket?
Back in the barn, I've challenged John and Lisa
to make me some wheaty breakfast bricks
made from just one ingredient - 100% wheat.
If anyone can do it, it should be these MasterChefs.
Now they've got to come up with a method
to transform their wheaty sheets into something
that looks much more like the shredded stuff
we buy from the shops.
All right, are we ready to pick this up and get it crimped?
OK, guys. So, wow, what have you got here?
What we've got now is we've got all our shredded wheat
laid out in layers.
And now what will happen is we'll bring this down and then, with all the pressure we can muster,
push it down, but not cut it.
-But crimp it.
-Squeeze it, crimp it.
Squeeze all the things together.
-Well, that's the theory.
-It's a thing of beauty.
It is a thing of beauty.
OK. Before you get too far, guys, before you get too far,
can you explain to me, two things?
How are you going to layer your wheat into nice bricks
and then how are you going to chop them up
into nice little pillows like that?
-What we've decided to do is fold them...
..over. So we're going to roll them, really, we're folding them.
So they won't have like 20 layers,
-but they will have a lot of layers.
-Maybe. We'll see.
-But they're quality layers.
-It's like a Swiss roll made out of wheat?
-Yes, but it will still have the grooves.
I think it's going to look all right.
I think it's going to look pretty near to him.
OK, that's the theory.
Later on, we'll test them and decide which one of these bricks
is going to go in the basket and which one is going to go in the bin.
Lisa is hoping rolling up her flattened wheat
will prove the winning formula.
Or perhaps not.
John's pinning all his hopes on his crimping contraption.
Ooh, they're looking good.
120 years ago, it took the inventor of Shredded Wheat,
Henry Perky, three years to perfect his machine.
The idea of mass producing food in factories was brand new,
and breakfast cereals didn't even exist.
Here he is.
And he invented it together with his friend, William, back in 1892.
Now, his brainchild did make them rich,
but it almost bankrupted them first.
Because they didn't try to sell the bricks themselves,
they tried to sell the machinery to make them.
It was only when Perky started selling the cereal,
he got seriously rich.
Now, a lot of people think that cornflakes
were the first ready-to-eat cereal, but it's not true.
It was these bricks.
In fact, Perky looks so pleased with his breakfast biscuit innovation,
he even seems to be wearing one!
John and Lisa have given it their best shot to copy Perky's brick.
-Now, that, I get excited about.
-Look at that!
-That is fantastic!
But these bricks contain too much moisture for a breakfast cereal
which must keep for months.
Oh, they're a bit crumbly.
So the next stage is vital.
Now they need to bake them, and that requires an oven.
And when they're baked, the bricks will puff up and dry out.
If the starch isn't baked right through,
they'll end up with soggy bricks, which will rot in the box.
So as they prepare for the bake-off,
whose biscuits will be baked best - John's or Lisa's?
Yeah, I think this will do the job.
Wheat is an amazing ingredient -
you can easily eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
And by far the most popular way to eat it at lunchtime is,
you guessed it, the sandwich.
In a world without wheat, there'd be a lot less bread
and millions fewer sarnies.
Well, we all have our favourite sandwich,
and inside this box is mine, the ploughman's.
The trouble is, however well I wrap it,
I know that within a couple of hours,
that sandwich is bound to turn soggy.
And if not soggy, then certainly stale.
So where am I going wrong?
Tell me what you think of that little baby there.
It's quite wet.
Your ingredients are falling out, your bread's going wet.
-You wouldn't make a sandwich like that?
I wouldn't even feed that to the birds.
These workers are all sandwich savvy.
They make thousands of them every day.
# It ain't what you do it's the way that you do it... #
They all work here,
one of the largest sandwich factories in the world.
At Greencore in Nottinghamshire, over three million sarnies
roll off this production line every week.
Emma Cox is one of their sandwich experts.
I'm all dressed up to find out
how they stop these sandwiches from going soggy and stale.
You can't relax, can you?
Look, we're actually running out, we'd better get a move on.
It's cold in the here, like working inside a fridge.
But the bread we're loading up is lovely and soft.
When I make a sandwich at home, if I put it in the fridge,
it would come out really hard, and my kids wouldn't eat it.
Yep, that's right.
Apparently, normal bread goes stale in the fridge,
because the cold causes the starch inside it to grow into crystals.
It's these crystals which make the bread go hard.
But that doesn't happen here.
We add special natural ingredients
that try to help the starch not crystallise,
which stops it from going stale.
These special natural ingredients are called bread improvers.
They don't stop the starch crystals growing,
but they slow them right down.
That means the bread stays soft in the fridge. Genius!
Can I have some to take home?
We've stopped our bread from going stale,
but now we need to prevent it from going soggy.
We love tomatoes in our sarnies, but bread hates moisture.
So why don't tomatoes turn supermarket sarnies to mush?
We buy a special variety of tomato
which is slightly lower in moisture content
and has slightly thicker walls.
So you're actually after tougher tomatoes,
-so that they'll hold up better?
-That lose less water.
Yes. And it's also important the way we slice.
So we put the top of the tomato to the top.
We slice through that way to keep the seeds in the middle
to stop them falling out. And if the seeds stay in,
then that stops the bread going soggy.
But that's not all they do.
They've got another trick to stop the sandwiches going soggy.
We use mayonnaise or butter as a barrier,
because they're high in fat.
-As a barrier?
-Barrier to what?
So if we're putting tomatoes on, or leaf,
then it stops the water from going into the bread
and making it soggy.
Making sandwiches on an assembly line
requires lots of people to layer up the fillings.
How hard can it be?
-Can I have a try?
-Yeah, do you want a go?
They've let me loose making my favourite sandwich, a ploughman's!
Ooh, hang on!
I'm sorry, so I got a bit over-enthusiastic. Argh!
What do I do...?
They're getting away from me, that's the trouble! Agh!
Why can't I do it?
What I need is one of these babies.
This robot can churn out a whopping 3,600 sandwiches an hour -
an average of one a second!
Can this fella make the cheese and pickle ploughman sandwiches as well?
No, this line just makes the really simple sandwiches
that are just a mix. So cheese and onion, or an egg and cress mix.
It can't put on tomato or cucumber.
So it's not quite as clever as humans yet?
Not quite as clever as that.
Who'd have thought there'd be so much going on
inside a supermarket sandwich?
They've tinkered with the bread and selected special fillings,
just to make sure, by the time we eat them,
they're as fresh as when they were made!
Back in the barn, John and Lisa are approaching the final bake-off.
These breakfast biscuits must be baked until brown but not burned!
Remember this is a factory, not home cooking -
we need speed, scale and standards.
Lisa and Marty are hoping to achieve precision
with their wheaty brick barbecue.
-How long do you reckon?
-I don't know.
-A couple of minutes?
-Before it starts charring!
John and Tod are using a metal locker from a factory.
It's a blow torch-fired locker-shocker!
-We've got toasty stuff going on.
The back as well.
-I think we need to turn it round.
-Turn them round?
This is the critical stage of the process.
They must decide how long to leave their biscuits inside the oven
so the starch is cooked right through.
It's going to take a little bit longer than I thought,
-because they're really squidgy, they're really soft in the middle.
I think now drop it down to 140.
-So what's the temperature now?
-Hard to say.
The soggy starch in the softened wheat
must be completely dried out in the oven.
If it isn't, the biscuits will rot in the box.
Has Lisa been too timid?
Has John over-cooked it?
It's the moment of truth.
OK. John, Lisa. Please stop your production lines.
Package up your product, and we'll taste them.
-Thank you, John.
That's the end of production. Bring me your wheaty breakfast bricks.
OK, let's have a good look.
OK. What we're aiming for is one of these.
I'd say this is slightly more Swiss roll-like,
John's slightly more hedgehog-like.
So you've got a bit of browning. Bit of dark brown, light brown.
-That's actually burned, isn't it?
-No. It's just a little extra colour.
Let's remember, right, we had all day to make those.
These guys have had 120 odd years to work their process out.
Right, so I'll dig in. Lisa's first.
Tough. I mean it doesn't have the crispness and the lightness
of the real thing.
It's very soft inside.
-Inside, the starch is still wet.
OK. Shall we try the hedgehog?
Oh, look, it's falling apart very nicely.
Don't kick me!
Did you see that? What you've done here, John, is you've managed
to get all those starch granules to dry out again.
And that is quite an achievement, I have to say.
So, the taste, fantastic. There's nothing there at all!
A slight wheatiness, but in this situation, that's a positive thing.
I'm very impressed. OK, well.
We've got a whole group of very hungry Taste Testers,
and it's them who will decide
which one is closest to the ones in the supermarket.
OK, John and Lisa, grab your trays,
because we're going to go outside and meet the Taste Testers.
-That's not yours!
-What do you reckon?
-Lot of crunch.
-It's the closest you could probably get.
-You're a star.
-It's nice and light. I
-think I must have got the only soggy bit.
Oh, well, didn't see that.
-I thought it smelt right.
And I liked the little burnt bits too.
-I rather liked the crunchiness of the outside.
-It's very crunchy.
-It is quite a nice taste.
-Good, I'm pleased.
Lisa and John, come here, please.
OK, so if you thought that Lisa's breakfast brick
was most like the one you buy in the shops,
please raise your hands.
If you thought that John's was most like the one you buy in the shops,
please raise your hands.
Four, five, six!
Ooh! We have a winner.
Lisa, I'm terribly sorry, but your breakfast brick
is going in the bin.
John, your wheaty breakfast brick is going in the basket.
Give them a round of applause.
-Well done, well done.
Well, John cracked it because his bricks were light and airy,
and the starch was cooked all the way through.
His breakfast cereal will last in the cupboard for ages.
But John and Lisa have proved that making a simple breakfast cereal,
even made from just one ingredient - 100% wheat -
can be a massive challenge.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Stefan Gates reveals the secrets of supermarket food by making his own from scratch. Why does dried spaghetti keep so long, and why do supermarket sandwiches stay soft in the fridge? Stefan challenges MasterChef's John Torode and Lisa Faulkner to make rival 'wheaty breakfast bricks' but whose will go in the basket and whose will go in the bin?