Return to the 1940s- Wartime Loaf


Here is the 1st of 100 recipes which will be recreated and photographed over the year of my blog…

Nothing Fancy Wartime Loaf

* 600 ml (1 pint) of warm water
* 5 teaspoons of quick rise yeast
* couple pinches of sugar
* 2 lb of wholewheat (wholemeal) flour
* 1.5 teaspoons salt
* 1 tablespoon rolled oats (for top)
* spoonful or butter or margarine (or a drizzle of vegetable oil)


Place flour in large bowl
Mix in all dry ingredients except the rolled oats
Add fat (or drizzle in vegetable oil)
Pour in warm water
Mix thoroughly
When dough comes together knead for 10 minutes until dough is silky
Place back in bowl and cover
Let dough rise somewhere warm until doubled in size
Knead dough briefly again
Place dough into 4 x 1/2 lb tins (or 2 x 1 lb tins) that have been floured
Brush top with a little water and sprinkle on some rolled oats
Leave to rise for around 20 minutes
PLace in oven at 180 0C for around 30-40 mins (depending on the size of the loaf)
Remove from oven
Cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting

PS Note that the original recipe called for old fashioned yeast but I replaced with quick rise yeast (it simply is very hard to get hold of those little squares of yeast that would have been used)


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87 thoughts on “Return to the 1940s- Wartime Loaf

  1. I love making our own bread. So satisfying! I’ve been doing it for 4 years now and it’s so easy at this point. I will have to convert this recipe and check it out. Thanks!


  2. Hi
    Loved your recipes and would like to copy them for whole series of event we are having next year about living during World War 2.
    I want to create items for a Nostalgic Tea and another for a supper meal between a “Bingo and Dance” evening.
    Several of your recipes seem ideal for all our events but I seem unable to copy or save them on my computer.
    And of course I would want to distribute the recipes to my various cooks in the village.
    Hope you can help

  3. How is this different to how we would do this today? Sorry, I just can’t work it out, am I just being thick or….?

    • Hi it isn’t really any different (except the type of yeast in the 1940s would have been different)- the recipes I am using are all authentic recipes but occasionally I change an ingredient like yeast simply because I can’t get hold of old fashioned type yeast anymore!! 🙂

      C xx

      • Just an FYI. Larger supermarkets (with their own bakeries in-store) like Asda will give you an oz or two of fresh yeast if you ask. I make my own ‘morning goods’ from time to time and always do this at my nearest store.

      • I dont remember cooking oil being used in making of bread in my childhood. Came popular in the 60’s.

      • In the UK any baker or supermarket instore baker will sell, or even give you some freah yeast. The problem buying from outlets is that yeast usually comes in 1kg blocks & no amateur baker wants to buy that much as it does not ‘live’ for long enough to use it up.

        You are reduced to dried/fast acting yeasts as are the home brewing fraternity, incidentally it’s sometimes cheaper buying it at your home brew shop. It’s the yeast for beer you want, not the ones for wines & lagers. While you are there try some dried malt in place of some of the sugar to ‘feed’ the yeast, it changes the flavour in a wonderful way, do try it.

    • Regular whole wheat bread is cut with white flour and more fat to help the texture. This loaf reminds me of cardboard.

      • Yes you’re right, but in those days it was how bread was made, we didn’t use improvers and vitamins as they do today, food was basic and unadulterated and frequently not very nice, such as dried egg, but we either ate it or went hungry, there was no alternative as there is these days, consequently no problems with obesity and health

      • Try the bread recipe below entered by Outlander. It’s a good one for the virgin bread maker to learn with & I found even I improved my efforts from building bricks to edible loaves.

        The reason the WW2 loaf was not as decadent as the modern loaf, by necessity was due to the fact that flour was imported. The recipe below started of as a heavier loaf but was tweaked to improve the texture using mashed potato, which is surprisingly good, especially for pizza. Why not try it out ?

  4. Hi. Today my lovely old Auntie in Auatralia said she fancied making some ‘Dunkirk’ bread but couldn’t find her recipe.

    This was a recipe created for wartime and the days of austerity following the war.

    I tried my Mrs Beetons but it was published in 1939, too early.

    She can only remember that she should use self raising flour.

    Can anyone help, please?

    Judith. Durham

    • Hi Judith – not thee Judith Durham ???

      The bread you are referring to is a variety of soda bread (self raising flour contains bicarbonate of soda) used in place of yeast, which was difficult to buy during WW2. it was probably harder to buy yeast in OZ at the time. There are a few recipes for soda bread on this site for you to try, how about this one ?

      Soda Bread
      3 cups self raising flour
      1 tbl baking powder
      2 tbl sugar
      1 tsp salt
      ¼ cup dripping or lard
      350mls soda water (or any carbonated drink such as beer)
      Sift all the dry ingredients together , rub in the fat then make a dough with the liquid. Handle the dough lightly either into 2 x free form loaves on a tray or in loaf pans. Bake @ 350°F/180°c for about 45 minutes, it all depends on your oven. Cool before cutting & use a serrated knife as it’s best for cutting non yeasted breads. The combination of the carbonated liquid & bicarbonate of soda help the dough to rise, hence the unyeasted loaf.

  5. I don’t recall anyone baking bread since it was one of the few things which was NOT rationed. That didn’t come about until after the war! I suppose some people did, but t wouldn’t have been a common occurrence.

    • David et Al, many did make their own bread, If you chose not to buy from your baker you could be provided with the flour etc… in place. This meant more flexibility for cooks with the skills to create what they needed and perhaps have enough flour left over to do as they wished with.

    • My mother did. She was lucky enough to buy a small sack of flour and made fabulous bread in the coal fired stove

  6. For these measurements, I assume that the measurements for teaspoons and tablespoons are in UK measurements and not US? (I only learned there’s a difference today!) I assume that it’s UK, but one needs to make sure… lest I end up with absolutely revolting bread.

  7. Great recipe. Does anyone who reads this blog remember the old Bee-Ro flour cookbook. It was a freebie and was some fifteen pages of recipes. Don’t know why but I have had this little book on my mind when reading around here. It was published in the UK to promote the Bee-Ro flour. I do remember the ration books, I was around six years of age and needed them to buy the occasional candy treat in the UK.

    • I have two Bero cookery books, an original version, the second a modernised one, though there is very little difference. The recipes are excellent, and great favourites with my family.

    • I have the Bee -Ro flour cook book ,rather tatty because through the years I have used it a lot.straight forward recipes not fancy ingredients.

    • I have a centenary edition of the be-ro recipe book which I could not survive without. I have purchased a more recent edition for all my children.

      • Hi all. I grew up learning to bake from the Be Ro book. Mum bought me the centenery book in the mid 80’s and I have been given the latest edition by a friend only 6 weeks ago. Not easy to obtain in Australia but the sister of a friend got it for me. Bake on Be Ro.

  8. I am not from the UK, so the Bee-Ro cookbook is not familiar to me, but I am always interested in old cookbooks. Did you not find it on Amazon? They sometimes have books like that.

  9. David, according to some of the war diaries, baking bread was common in the UK. Some, I suppose, did not wish to stand in food lines for the rather awful bread that was being provided.

    • I read that the National loaf was not sold fresh out of the baker’s oven, but rather only as day old bread by government regulation. I think it was so people would naturally eat less of it!

  10. I doubt the Bee-Ro flour book would be on Amazon as it was a freebie when you bought the flour. It is purely nostalgia on my part by enquiring if anyone had heard of it. There were some nice recipes for scones and cakes etc. in it.

  11. Yes, my mother had the small Be-Ro cook book. I dont know what happened to it, probably my dad threw it out.

    That bread recipe is more or less how I make bread anyway, except I use half wholemeal and half white flour. You can do without the sugar, which is really only there to make the dough rise more quickly, you just need to be patient.

  12. Just wanted to let you know that the BeRo book is still going strong and can be purchased on the Be Ro website. I bought one each for my (adult) children and they use them all the time. It has all the basics in there and they are all old faithfuls. Well worth buying.

    • Modern mass produced breads (especially white) do not keep well due to the ‘Chorleywood’ method of baking. bakery bread is a little better, then there are the artisan breads, which, uncut, can last racked in a dry atmosphere for the longest period.

      If you bake more than you can eat then slice the loaf, wrap then freeze it, removing it as you need it slice by slice – but defrost in a bag, in a microwave or toast it.

  13. This was a bread my mom would make when I was a child…having grown up in England during the war she remembered well the rationing and though I do not remember her saying bread was rationed bread was baked in the home. Loved coming home from school to the smell of fresh bread warm out of the oven slathered with butter. Thank you for the recipe and bringing a good memory forward today. I will make this.

    • Thanks for advising of the Be-Ro website. Never even thought this might have existed. I did mispell Be-Ro. Saw a very simple recipe for plain scones with minimum ingredients and I will try this soon. Can’t beat simple. This has made my day and thanks a million.

  14. Tip – if you have a bakery in town see them. I was happy to sell or give a bit of yeast depending on quantity to those who asked.

    30g of Bakers Yeast would be more than enough for this recipe. (20g to 1 kg of flour is standard)

    Be nice to the baker though – you’re ‘cheating’ him/her out of selling a loaf, so buy a few finger buns or tea cake or something when you ask.

    Another tip –

    You don’t NEED sugar in bread – but it helps the dough to rise quickly. You can get bread improver from the supermarket or the baker. Bread improver is just soy flour with enzymes. The enzymes help the yeast convert the carbohydrates in the flour into sugars the yeast can use more readily.

  15. Golly …. must be getting old!
    Big mistake … Lord Dalton was responsible for our wonderful nutrition! Not Hugh Dalton, who came along a bit later!

  16. Goodness …. Woolton! Woolton!
    I seem to have Dalton on my mind!
    Baron Frederick Marquis, 1st Earl of Woolton to be precise!

  17. This is a great idea for a war memorial website and very eye opening lest we forget what people were capable of living through and the great ways they adapted. Thank you for this peek into history.

    • Thank you Adam!!! What a kind thing to say!! 🙂 Even after this years experiment ends I’ll still keep re-creating recipes!!

  18. Would they have baked bread? My mum tells of one neighbour, when a child, who commented on another (getting above herself?) “Well, she buys shop bread!”

    • People did bake bread (probably more that lived in the countryside because of access to shops) but most would have bought their bread the National Loaf, same as we tend to do today xxxxx

  19. Hi.. Well I am weighing in here… My grandmother was an amazing cook and coming from the prairies of Canada during the war years her family as most did, all baked their own breads. It was a weekly event. No one had ‘store bought ‘ yeast. So in the context of this blog.. Let me share what I believe all of you are seeking and are just missing… The yeast. My grandmother was determined I should learn how to do very specific survival techniques as she was not certain that we would never revisit those terrible times. To wit.. I have found what I needed to understand how to create and again.. It is All about the yeast. If you want to have the real deal then you must understand yeast is already on all plants, including grains, potatoes, raisins. The goal is to separate the yeast from the plant, feed it, and ferment it, and voila! You have yeast. I have looked everywhere for many years and the site I have linked this post to has several types of methods to grow your own yeast. I prefer the potato yeast and believe you me.. The bread is outstanding… I have never purchased any bread which is as good as potato yeast homemade bread… As a survivalist to make bread… You need water, a grain, tuber, or dried fruit, sugar, a lidded jar, wooden spoons.. You are good to go!

    • My mom made her own yeast too, she also made fermented fruit and would combine it into a recipe for bread very similar to the war time loaf during the holiday season. I am not sure how she did this recipe since I was not the least bit interested back then in cooking or knowing anything about it. lol. Wish she had wrote it down, but she kept all of her recipes in her head. I think homegrown yeast is superior to store bought myself.

  20. I am now not certain where you are getting your information,
    however good topic. I needs to spend a while finding out
    more or understanding more. Thank you for excellent info I used
    to be in search of this info for my mission.

  21. I always get fresh yeast from the larger Tesco bakery sections. They give it with no cost. I had heard that an old law says that bakers have to give yeast to people if they ask. Super recipe.

  22. Hi Caroline, I just made your wartime loaf. I’ve been putting it off – had it in my head that bread making is hard and bound to fail… Well, guess what? It was a success! Both looked and tasted like normal bread – who would have thunk. So – thanks, Caroline. Jay.

  23. Hi, I love your website Carolyn, I have been interested in rationing and the homefront for a few years now, and have made a few of the marguerite patten recipes with success and also your wartime loaf (lush), baking bread was very big in the war (so my grandma, and mum tell me), especially if you were living on a miners wage (live in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire)! My mum got some fresh yeast from Morrisons the other day, asked how much it was and he said they not allowed to sell it, but can give it away!! Good luck with the move back Carolyn, you wont be far from us. Claire.

  24. Hi Carolyn. I found your blog by happy accident when I was searching for recipes. I make all my food from scratch (so does my daughter with four children). I am always looking for new ideas and think this is just a marvellous blog. Right now I am cooking the lentils I soaked before work, have anasazi beans soaking in the fridge, making apple cinnamon rollup bannock. I want to make vegi soup tomorrow and some lentil pasties/turnovers. Keep up the great work on your blog and best wishes to you for your health.

    • Here’s a Soda Bread Recipe from Ray Mears TV show:
      Campfire Bread
      2 handfuls of plain flour
      1 handful of powdered milk
      2 teaspoons of baking powder
      Small amount of water
      1 handful of dried fruit/raisins
      Mix flour and powdered milk. Add water slowly and mix by hand until dough is moist and holds together without becoming too sticky, than add fruit. Heat a small amount of oil in frying pan until hot then then add mix, shaping to fit the whole pan; cook for a short time over the fire, then take away from heat and place at side of fire, with bread facing directly towards the heat (you can do this by placing a log or stone under one side of the frying pan) . Rotate bread every so often to cook evenly, before turning and repeating process with other side.

  25. Hi Carolyn. Like many others I found your site by chance. Going back to the top of this list I can remember my mothers Be-Ro book and it was all she ever used. When she went off on holiday I asked to look for one for me. Now my sister, sister-in-law and myself have them here in Australia. With regard to baking bread, it’s the first time that I have heard that yeast cannot be sold but has to be given when asked. I wish our supermarkets knew that rule, or is it only an English law? I will dwefinately keep tabs on your site and will be making many of your recipes. Regards Susan Mahony, Adelaide , South Australia

  26. What a fun and important site. Good luck on your journey.

    I once read an interview with Audrey Hepburn. She said that she ate bread made with pea (flour?) during the war. She said it like it was a hardship, but it sounds really good and a possible gluten-free alternative to me.

    Have you come across recipes for war-time pea bread?

    • Hi AlpineB

      Pea flour can be sold as Chana flour (chick pea) or Green Pea Flour, ie milled peas. Use them in a Soda Bread recipe – also good for naans, chapatis, pooris, etc. This information comes from an old book I picked up & it’s the earliest book I have using soya flour:

      “Bakes, Buns and Biscuits” by Mabel Osborne’s (pub 1940).

    • Just found a recipe for pasta using green pea flour & rice flour, here it is:
      2 cups green pea flour
      1 cup rice flour
      2 eggs
      1 dash olive oil
      50 ml water
      1/2 ts salt
      Made in the usual way, looks good & tastes good too, I made lasagne.

  27. I made this today. I think I did something wrong because it came out very dense. I used 2 packets of instant yeast. I probably should have bought the glass jar and measured it out. Still good though, just a small loaf.

    • Hi Michelle….there are so many variables when it comes to breadmaking. Sometimes I can use the same recipe and occasionally it comes out not so good. Today we made white bread rolls and they were the nicest I’ve ever made. I’d say some of the main things to watch out for are
      a) Adding warm water
      b) Making sure the dough is nice and moist and is kneaded until smooth and silky. If the dough is too dry and tough the bread comes out dense.
      c) Putting the dough somewhere warm for at least an hour until the dough has risen to twice the size
      d) Knock back the dough, place in tin and cover again and let it rise again somewhere warm.
      e) Make sure not to over cook.

      Nothing is ever precise with baking but I do hope this helps C xxx

      • This loaf is easy (I would call it fool proof) and the dough can be used to make anything from pizza to rolls. As most novices complain that their efforts end up as building bricks it’s a good one for the yeasted bread virgins to learn with. When you have confidence in this then it can be tweaked to add less white flour if you want to experiment with brown flours, which scare the knickers of most novices.

        It’s a ‘refurbished’ potato bread recipe my mum & aunties used post war as it uses less flour by using mashed potatoes as about a third of the starch. You will also note the vitamin C tablet which is the reason it only has one rise as the tablet boosts the yeast action. Good luck & happy baking.

        Fast & Easy Yeasted Potato Bread
        270g strong white flour
        2 tsp fast acting yeast
        1 crushed vitamin C tablet
        60ml blood heat water
        2 tbl buttermilk (or plain yogurt)
        2 tbl salted butter
        1 tbl dripping or lard
        1 tbl caster sugar
        ½ tsp ground white pepper
        115g mashed spuds

        Sift the flour into a large warm bowl & make a well in the centre Blend the yeast, tablet, water, buttermilk, butter, dripping, sugar & water, then when combined add the potatoes. Pour the spud mixture into the flour then work together to form a dough. Knead the dough till it’s smooth, soft & elastic. Form the dough into a ball, oil it lightly then replace into the same bowl. Cover the bowl with cling film or a clean damp tea towel, then allow the dough to rest in a warm place until the dough has at least doubled in size.

        The dough now needs to be formed into loaves, rolls or a pizza base. Bake as appropriate till golden brown, here’s a general guide baking the item you decide to make. The timings are approximate as all ovens are different, get to know your oven !

        2 large pizza takes about 20-30 minutes at 200°c.
        2 small pizzas takes about 15 20 minutes at 180°c.
        12 rolls (round, knotted, plaited, etc) takes about 15 20 minutes at 200°c.
        2 x small loaves (either in loaf pans or free form) take about 20-30 minutes at 180°c.

    • Just bear in mind that a recipe is a chemistry experiment. You must weigh or measure things, especially if you are a beginner Using more yeast does not mean it will rise more. Provingproving is the boring part and can test your patience so if you use the standard method make this one adjustment – bring your bread to the stage of the last prove in the evening then cover and refrigerate overnight, it will rise very slowly over the night. Remeove from the fridge, preheat the oven when you get up, then bake when the oven is up to temperature.

      Always remember, just follow the advice of Master Yoda, patience Padawan, patience !

      You can follow the Dark Side of the Force & ‘speed up’ any yeast recipe buy adding one vitimin C tablet, ground really well into the blood heat liquid. This means you can ignore the first rise and put the dough into it’s tin/pan for it’s proving then bake. Your oven is another factor, make sure it’s actually registering the correct temperature by seting it then put a thermometer in to check, if it’s different then the timing needs adjusting.

  28. Just found your wonderful blog. I spotted some “proper” yeast in Morrison’s the other day, but I will stick with the quick yeast.


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  30. Hi Carolyn,
    I’m going to make the wartime loaf today for myself, I’ve been following your recipes along with some other marguerite patten ones for 4 weeks now and have lost 9 pounds in weight!!!!
    This is a big achievement for me as I am only 5ft tall lol so don’t carry weight very well 😂
    However, I have been avoiding bread so far as people say it is bad for weight loss but I’m really dying to try the wartime loaf and was wondering what your thoughts are on weight loss and
    Bread, I know people ate a lot of bread as a staple food in wartime so it can’t have been that bad lol 👍😜 xxx

    • As a diabetic my partner has found that bread, potatoes & any starchy foods (which convert quickly to sugar during digestion) are a big danger to weight loss. Most fast foods & processed foods are loaded with hidden sugars (did you know that there are over 100 names for sugars added by indusrtrial chemistry to your foods ?) & that when fat is removed from foods to make them low fat then they add sugar to improve the taste & what they term ‘mouthfeel’ Therin lies the danger, have you every looked at the panel on the side of the tin or packet with the ingredients listed ?

      I started thesame eating plna when he had to & I lost 20kg by cutting out all processed foods for 6 months. I do cheat on occasion, but generally I stick to my regimine of ‘if it comes from a take away or in a tin or packet then what’s in it ?’ I eat full fat Greek yougurt, whole milk, cheese, butter, almost all vegetables (go easy on spuds), most fruits are (beleive it or not) very high in sugars that are no different from the white stuff in your sugar bowl. Generally if grows in the Europe then it’s acceptable but all tropical fruits are only to be eaten in moderation.

      So the moral of the story is ‘everything in moderation’, sound familiar ?

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  35. I haven’t asked for a while as I particularly like the local baker’s wholemeal, but when I last made bread on a regular basis about 9 years ago, you could get blocks of yeast just by asking the bakers at a supermarket that bakes their own, they used to just cut me a lump off, free. A local baker will probably sell you some.

  36. Baking guru, Doris Margaret Louise Grant (nee Cruikshank), educated at Banff Academy, attended the Glasgow School of Art, where she won a scholarship to study in Rome, but turned to food writing.

    One of her most celebrated achievements was the “Grant Loaf”. To produce three of these loaves required 3 lb of stone-ground wholewheat flour; two pints of water; two teaspoons of salt; three teaspoons of Barbados sugar (or, alternatively, a tablespoonful of honey); and three teaspoon measures of dried yeast.

    The key element in the Grant Loaf was the result of an error which she made when she started to make her own bread. After several months Doris realised that she had forgotten to knead her dough. She then conducted an experiment, using kneaded and unkneaded dough, in which her friends confirmed that the latter tasted best.

    The long slow rise overnight in a cool place (or fridge) made the difference, just like the sourdough method the long slow rise makes the difference to the texture and finish.

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  40. Ingredients

    225g/8oz strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
    225g/8oz strong wholemeal flour
    1 tsp salt
    1 x 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
    1 tbsp clear honey
    300ml/11fl oz warm water
    vegetable oil or oil spray, for oiling
    a little milk, for brushing


    Dust a medium baking tray well with flour.
    Sift the flours and salt into a large bowl. Reserve a tablespoon of the grain – the brown bits that are too big to fit through the sieve. Stir the rest through the flour mixture. Stir in the yeast, then make a big hole in the centre and pour in the honey and most of the water. Mix well to form a smooth dough, working it gently with your hands if necessary. If the dough feels a bit stiff, add more of the water.
    Shape the mixture into a ball and place on the prepared baking tray. Make sure the top is smooth and wrinkle-free. Cover the dough loosely with oiled clingfilm, making sure it is airtight, and leave to rise in a warm place for a good hour, or until it has almost doubled in size.
    Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Remove the clingfilm from the dough and make a few slashes in the top with a sharp knife – I use a sharp, serrated knife and saw gently. Brush the loaf with milk, sprinkle with the reserved grain and then place in the oven.
    Put about 10 ice cubes into the bottom of the oven – they will produce steam, which keeps the crust from hardening too quickly. (A quickly hardened crust prevents the bread from rising well.) Bake the bread for 30–40 minutes, or until it has risen, sounds hollow when tapped underneath and comes easily off the baking tray. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the tray.
    Serve fresh from the oven with loads of butter. These loaves do not keep well. However, if the whole lot does not disappear in one sitting, slice up the remainder and put it in the freezer to eat as toast.

  41. I’ve been looking for an original source for a National Loaf recipe, but this post is the oldest source I’ve found so far. You mention adapting the yeast in the original recipe. What’s the source for this recipe? You mention Marguerite Patten on this site, so I thought it might be one of hers. But she wrote so many books and there are no tables of contents online, that I don’t know where to look. Were bakers allowed to use sugar and oil in their loaf at the time? Or would you only find that in a home-baked loaf?

    • Hi there, oh gosh this was so long ago without spending hours going back through all my cook books I can’t confirm but I’m pretty sure it would have been MP at that time when I did the post. There would have been no oil and the yeast would have been traditional yeast, I really ought to put in more sources going forward. xxxx

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