We don’t believe in wasting bread, in wasting any food.
Bread is one of the most wasted items in our food chain. In fact, 44% of all bread in the UK is wasted. That’s the equivalent of 24 million slices every day. 16,666 slices a minute, 278 slices every second.
We’re determined to do everything we can to make good food go further. There’s no time to waste.
This month, we interviewed our baker, Roz Bado, to hear from her about the inspiration behind some of our most innovative bakes.
Where did the inspiration for the Waste-less Sourdough come from?
The idea came about when I was asked to help with a sustainable supperclub; I thought we might use some leftover bread… could we upcycle our bread somehow? At the time, I had just developed a bread using porridge – the Porridge Sourdough – at which point the idea came to me about making porridge from the leftover bread. The next day I tried it. I shared it with Roy (Levy) and Tom (Molnar) who liked it and encouraged me to carry on developing the loaf, so I did until we thought it was just right. The reaction our customers have had to the Waste-Less Sourdough has been brilliantly encouraging.
How long did it take to develop the loaf?
From the initial idea to getting the loaf on the shelf, it was just over a year. Every day the types of leftover bread are different, so you don’t know what the porridge is going to be made of, and therefore what the Waste-Less loaf is going to be made of. So, there was a lot of experimentation to get to the right amount of porridge to mix with a new dough – we wanted to put in as much as possible without making it difficult to work with.
Some of our bakers thought it was a strange idea to use porridge in a bread at first, but once they tried it and understood the reasons we were so passionate about it, they were on board. It was about changing perspectives. And, of course, making great tasting bread.
Can you describe the process of making the Waste-less Sourdough?
We take surplus bread and mill it to make crumbs. Then, we dry them in the oven and use the crumbs to make porridge, in just the same way that you’d make your breakfast porridge. We mix dough but keep it slightly more dry than we normally would normal, so it holds the porridge mixture best, staying moist. Then, we prove and shape the dough, as usual.
How did people react to the idea of a bread using leftover bread?
Once I had the recipe in a good place, I tested it on my family and they loved it. In general, there was a little confusion about how it was made at first, but once the idea was explained, it makes sense and people love and respect it. And, crucially, it tastes great! The fact that it’s only grown in popularity every month since we started baking it in our shops tells us that people are becoming more and more engaged with reducing food waste.
How important is reducing surplus food to you?
Reducing food waste is critically important to me. It’s crazy to think that we waste so much bread in the UK and yet there are people who are starving.
When I go to my local farm shop, I know exactly where everything has come from. It’s about traceability, which is also something that’s really important to us at GAIL’s. We know where everything we use comes from. For us, this is the right way of doing things.
Our Head Baker, Roy Levy, is always trying to find ways to help small businesses and producers, including using waste products like the whey and offcuts from Quicke’s cheese. Every time we develop something new, we always take into consideration where the ingredients come from and whether there are ways we can reduce food waste. We are always having discussions about what else we can possibly use in our kitchens. It’s about being observant, noticing when even the smallest thing may go into the bin, and thinking of innovative ways to make a change. It’s also about talking to our suppliers. We wouldn’t have known about the offcuts from Quicke’s unless our relationship with them was so good, and we had such open conversations. We’re constantly tweaking and seeing how we can make our recipes more sustainable.
Tell us about the other products in the Waste Not range.
We have so many recipes that use offcuts or wonky fruit or veg. In terms of bread, we love the Wasteless Roll, which is a baby version of the Waste-less Sourdough. We use it to make a delicious Mayfield Swiss cheese sandwich in the bakeries.
The Einkorn & Whey Sourdough is made with ancient grains and almost all the liquid in the mix is whey, a by-product from the cheesemaking process. This dough is really lively because the whey is fermented – it’s having a bit of a party in there! There are also lots of seeds in this loaf, which we soak before adding to the mix as it makes them more nutritious.
The Sourdough Croutons are made from leftover Blackheath Wild loaves. We cut them up and add garlic, rosemary and thyme, then use them with our soups. You can also buy bags of them to take home.
The Cheese Crackers are our buttermilk crackers sprinkled with the offcuts from Quicke’s cheddar. Simple but incredibly tasty.
Our Soho Bun, which is a favourite for a lot of our little customers, is also sustainable, as its made with croissant dough offcuts, turned into a brioche-like dough and then filled with lots of chocolate chips. Our filled croissants, with almond and chocolate, and ham and cheese, are also made with yesterday’s surplus croissants.
We look at every stage of the baking process to see where we might be able to be more conscious. For us it’s about constantly adjusting, monitoring what we’re ordering to reduce the surplus, and catching what might be falling through the net.
What are your favourite ways to reduce bread waste at home?
– Cut a few slices when your loaf is fresh and freeze them if you think you won’t get through it all (we can slice it for you at the bakery).
– Make breadcrumbs and freeze them if you won’t use them straight away. Use these for stuffing, to sprinkle on gratins and pasta bakes, or to make treacle tart
– Cut into chunks and make croutons
– Rip up and make panzanella
– Dip in egg to make French toast or eggy bread
– Layer in a baking dish with custard and sultanas to make bread and butter pudding
– Make a brown bread ice cream