During World War 2, Great Britain was facing many storages on the home front. With many food staples being rationed and the threat of attacks on shipments from Canada the ministry of Food needed a solution to make what resources it did have to be fully utilized. In 1942 the National Loaf was born.
The National Loaf was born from the ministry of foods mandated National Flour. The Ministry increased the extraction rate of wheat to 85% from 70%, this allowed for an additional 15kg of flour to be produced. Calcium and other nutrients were added, as well as potato flour, rye, barley, milk powder, and oat products. These ingredients and amounts added to bread were regulated. Throughout the war the flour did undergo various changes. However it consistently produced an unappealing grey loaf with an extremely tough crust.
Loaves could not be sliced, or wrapped as it was an unnecessary waste of time and materials. And could only be bought the day after baking. Salt levels were increased to prolong the shelf life of bread.
Nothing could be done to mask the horrible texture and taste. The government tried to persuade the public with various tactics. It was rumored with the elevated levels of vitamin E from the wheat germ could aid with fertility and that it was aphrodisiac. The public called it “Hitler’s Secret Weapon”
As the war came to an end white sliced bread was reintroduced to the public and finally in 1956 the National Loaf came to its end.
I can only imagine how the first slice of fresh bread tasted to the folks at the time. For so long the simple pleasures such as fresh bread were rationed and controlled.
If you are interested in food history and some baking fun I would recommend watching The Great British Bake Off!