The Chorleywood Bread Process. Written by Stanley Cauvain and Linda Young

The provenance of the Chorleywood Bread Process goes back to the 18th century, when the Earl of Sandwich was sustained during his prolonged nights at the gaming table by two slices of bread “sandwiched” with a filling of cheese.

Today, the remarkable refinement of the product, which bears the venerable Earl’s name, has allowed its development into a worldwide convenience food. Notwithstanding the increasing sophistication of high care factories and cold chain distribution, at the heart of this phenomenon lie the technical advances in sandwich bread production, due to the invention of the Chorleywood Bread Process (CBP).

Whereas our continental cousins have been accustomed to buying their bread several times a day, we are not so fastidious. We have always preferred our bread made in a rectangular tin. And we certainly cannot be bothered to buy it more than once a day. If it keeps for a couple of days or so, so much the better and the technicalities of flour or fermentation have never unduly worried us.

However, Imperial preference and access to Canadian wheat enabled good-quality pan bread to become the norm, leading, in the latter half of the 20th century, to two things: the huge growth in large industrial bakeries and the integration of milling and baking.

The Chorleywood Bread Process is a fascinating account of the way in which the inexorable growth in industrial baking, combined with the interests of the flour milling industry, led to the development of this remarkable, innovative and timely process. The extensive and almost total adoption of the process in the large plant sector resulted in consumers’ overwhelming choice of the 800g sandwich loaf as the staple loaf in every bread bin.

Extending palatable life

If anything, the unintended consequence of the process was to refine an already very popular loaf and develop textural quality, with steadily improved keeping properties. Its extended pala-table life ­– through longer distribution, shelf display and home consumption – increased from two or three to four or five days. The acceptance of wholemeal bread and its growth in popularity is directly attributable to this process, which solved the problem of dry poor-volumed bread. Now, wholemeal has a fine crumb structure with excellent keeping properties.

Not only did a major staple food become very convenient, but also very good value for money, as those readers who saw the table in the British Baker Directory 2006, page 8, will have noted. For the record, around eight million loaves per day are made using the CBP in the UK.

You would not expect Stan Cauvain and Linda Young to write anything other than the most authoritative, comprehensive and readable book on the CBP phenomenon. They record and recount the historical and technical progress of the process comprehensively. Even critics of the CBP are resoundingly answered, although I fear that Stan Cauvain’s objective analysis will never manage to banish entirely the irrational, subjective prejudice of CBP’s detractors.

Some of the most difficult conceptual sequences in dough mixing and processing are described with a clarity which non-scientific or inexperienced readers will find easy to follow. Nearly 50 pages of the book are devoted to variety production using the CBP and, as you would expect, there are no bread or rolls, enriched or crusty, fruited or soured, which the CBP cannot produce. Recipes and guide notes are extensively documented.

However, the guidance on dried fruit addition, which can avoid tearing and smearing, can be easier than described and, to mention a small omission, the CBP also produces superb Brioche bread and rolls.

The book goes to some lengths to explain why the CBP process has not penetrated the North American baking industry and it is interesting to read that the reason for this is the extensive use in North America of their staple bread-making wheat – Dark Northern Springs – which, to produce the characteristic bubble structure of American bread, requires a different processing approach. One of the main drawbacks of flour made from this wheat is that the large amount of energy needed to deliver CBP quality leads to unacceptable rises in dough temperature.

Primary resource

The knowledge-based systems described in the book’s pages should now become a primary resource for imparting experience and knowledge to the growing number of qualified food technologists, who are not necessarily trained as bakers but who are expected to manage our sophisticated bakeries. The Intelligent Mediator and Bread Advisor, described here and developed by Stan Cauvain and Linda Young, capture the authors’ collective experience in the most effective teaching and learning medium that computer technology can deliver.

In the 166 pages of The Chorleywood Bread Process lies carefully documented and detailed guidance on every aspect of bread production. Unquestionably, this book should have a place in every technical department, including flour milling, ingredient suppliers and bakeries. It will be recognised by anyone involved in bread production as an indispensable reference book, both readable and authoritative.

The Chorleywood Bread Process costs £115/US$205/E165 (plus p&p). It is published and sold by Woodhead Publishing. Contact tel: 01223 891358 or email: