Four professional bakers bake their way through the Victorian era. They set up shop in 1837 and must get to grips with centuries-old methods of breadmaking.
Four modern bakers bake their way through the era that gave us modern baking as we know it - the reign of Queen Victoria. Experts Alex Langlands and Annie Gray join them to tell the incredible story of our daily bread.
The journey begins in 1837, when bread was the mainstay of most diets and bakers were at the heart of every community. A rural bake house has been kitted out exactly as it would have been in the 1830s. The bakers must get to grips with centuries-old methods of breadmaking and that means doing absolutely everything by hand.
The first loaves are made with heritage wheat flour and brewers' yeast in a tiny wood-fired oven. It is bog standard bread that fed Victorian rural workers but to modern palettes it is an absolute revelation. Fifth-generation baker John Swift gets a taste of the bread his ancestors once made and artisan baker Duncan is in his element in this unhurried, organic world. There is no shop, so the bakers deliver door-to-door. For industrial baker John Foster, who deals with customers as far afield as China, the fixed demand and lack of competition enjoyed by Victorian bakers is an utter joy.
But the idyll doesn't last. In the 1840s, poor harvests and an economic downturn saw the price of wheat rocket, so barley bread must be made for the poor. It is an irony not lost on the bakers that this bread would only sell in the poshest artisan bakeries today. But it is when they have to turn their hand to making crammings - Victorian chicken feed - that their forebears' role in feeding a starving nation really hits home.
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