The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

British School Bread - magic ingredient?

Twisticles's picture

British School Bread - magic ingredient?

So this is a bit random and nostalgic.

Back when I was a lad in the eighties, my school would make bread rolls daily, I think from pre-made dough.  Being part of a school meal, I can't imagine there was anything very special about the recipe, probably as cheap as you can get.  If you ever had a sausage-roll sandwich at school break time you know what I am talking about.

But there was something about the taste that I cannot replicate at home.  Nowadays the closest thing with a hint of the same taste is the M&S fresh-baked in-store crusty white bread.  It's something more tasty than basic white bread.

Does anyone have any idea how they get that unique taste?  Either in terms of ingredients or process?

I've tried playing with obvious culprits like Malt, MSG, butter, milk, sugar etc but still can't come close.

Any school dinner ladies here who know the secret?

idaveindy's picture

The three magic ingredients for addictive junk food are: fat, sugar, salt.

Butter would be too expensive, so try what would have been cheap back then: soybean oil or shortening (Crisco in the US).

I think the 80's was before the big anti-salt movement, or at least it was not in full swing then.  So maybe try 2.5% to 3% salt.


Personally, I believe we can make food at home that is both tasty and healthy.  And we don't necessarily have to continue in whatever less-healthful habits were foisted upon us in childhood.  

But, I also understand the desire to time-warp back via food.  Food memories are powerful.

Bon appétit.

pmccool's picture

That might have been used to increase the protein content in the rolls.  It would also have contributed milk sugars and, possibly, some fat.


la vecchia saggia's picture
la vecchia saggia

Difficult to believe and don't hit me , but

bitter - naaaa
sour - could be (levain)
sweet - yesss ... sugar obviously
salty ... yes a little bit of salt ... or, instead of this, what about ... 


semolina_man's picture

Please describe the texture.  Tough?  Crunchy?  Hard?  Dense? 


Sugar is probably the most "pleasing" flavor across nearly all types of foods. 

Salt is the "I want more of this for some strange reason" flavor.

Fat is the "mmm, this is pretty good, I'll have another bite" flavor, and it affects texture.  


If the dough was pre-made (manufactured industrially), ingredients known as "dough conditioners" or "enhancers" or "extenders" may also have been added.

GaryBishop's picture

You aren't the lad who enjoyed those rolls back in the 80's. He is long gone. It could be both that your memory of them has been enhanced by the passage of time and that your sense of taste and smell aren't what they were nearly 40 years ago. 

I'm shocked as some of the things that I thought tasted great as a kid. And I mourn over the many smells I no longer experience. I'm older that you but time changes us all. 

kendalm's picture

I didnt grow up in England but I do remember in Australia where I grew up the 'canteen' smelled intoxicating.  They made a lot pastries (saussage rolls, pies and pasties) and one thing I know is that lard is used.  I never smell that scent here in the states.  Since living here for a long time, I have gone to lengths to reproduce the pastries I ate back in the day and one of key ingredients is beef lard.  May have been in some of the white loaves too - certain loaves of white bread that we got were incredible.  Another substitute for lard is margarine.  I cant stand the stuff as substitute butter spread but when baking pasties (savory ones) its a good sub for lard and for whatever reason it makes for mad shortcrust.  Maybe shortening is the ticket ??? 

idaveindy's picture

McDonald's french fries tasted better when they were cooked in lard.

kendalm's picture

If I knew that I could build a time machine that worked so I could back and fish and chips cooked in lard in the 80s in Sydney it would be worth the labor.  Also while there I would tell everyone not to go to the future in my time machine because the future is crap ! 

yozzause's picture

i went to school in the UK and had school dinners to, but we never had dinner rolls down in Hampshire . I do think that most likely will be the FAT  as stated it would no doubt have been the cheapest. Ironically  I do recall there being a huge storage of butter in the UK whereby there was some scheme to support dairy farmers and also EU  problems and i think recently efforts were made to reduce that mountain by giving some of it away to pensioners, Can you imagine the cost of stockpiling. anyway we are talking before those modern day problems. 

You had Pork Lard and Beef Dripping which would have been cheap compared to the then new age margarine. As an apprentice in Australia and we are going back over 50 years i remember we got tubs of lard and dripping  and used those in the bread as against the boxes of Hydrogenated shortning mixes. Now adays it would be a problem with disclosure of ingredients used and in deed cultural and ethical beliefs. 

I do recall when meeting my wife's relatives in the North of England and being asked to make a lardy cake, and one of the key ingredients was of course Pork Lard, copious quantities from memory but it turned out great and suprised me how good it was too. 

At the supermarket s in Australia  now Lard and Dripping are more expensive than Butter or Margarine.

When i worked at a training college i questioned why they were using a boxed fat that was Hydrogenated and had other emulsifyers and extenders in it for their dinner roll production when it was about 3 times the price of butter that they could buy and was on government contract, at the time i was the purchasing officer  for the college. but still very interested in baking. I suggested a taste test i would gladly eat a tea spoon of butter  if the chef would eat half a teaspoon of the other stuff. That was the last box they ordered! 

kind regards Derek

Wild-Yeast's picture

European butters are traditionally cultured. It may make a difference(?)...,