Waste Bread Is the Curious Reincarnation of Old Bread Into New

©. Gail's Bakery

Usually stale bread is turned into different things, but GAIL's Bakery has figured out a way to transform it into delicious loaves.

What to do with old bread? This question has plagued people for time immemorial and has driven the invention of delectable dishes like panzanella in Italy, fattoush in the Middle East, skordalia in Greece, and bread pudding in Britain, among many others. But never before had I heard of old bread being turned into new bread, which is precisely what GAIL's Bakery in London is now doing in an effort to cut down on food waste.

'Waste bread,' as its rather unpoetic and self-explanatory name suggests, is a loaf of freshly baked bread whose raw ingredients include, in part, leftover stale loaves. If you've ever baked a loaf of bread before, you're probably scratching your head. How exactly would one do that? The process is quite interesting.

Roz Bado, development baker at GAIL's, makes her dough with the usual Canadian wheat flour, malt, and sourdough starter, then adds something called 'bread porridge' – "a brownish, flecked mush of fresh breadcrumbs from leftover loaves which have been blitzed into tiny pieces." The final result is a hearty 750g loaf that is one-third old bread. Another baker at GAIL's, Roy Levy, told the Guardian,

"We’re calling it Waste Bread, which.. might sound a bit odd, but we think this is being honest and clear with our customers. It's re-using leftover but edible bread from our own supply chain, which means we know exactly what is in it and where it has come from."

Bado said it took her nine months to develop the technique and recipe, and one critic says it's tastier than the non-waste sourdough made by the bakery. Bado added, "The beauty is that because every day’s leftovers are different, every loaf has its own slightly different taste."

waste bread closeup

© Gail's Bakery

In the meantime, GAIL's continues to donate uneaten food to 40 charities in the London area, but whatever cannot be donated is repurposed as Waste Bread. Levy said last month, "This is most definitely not a trial but a full production launch. We want to see what customer reaction is but we hope it will be very positive."

As a home baker, I am curious to play with this technique. I know from experience that bread dough is amazingly versatile and capable of handling all sorts of additions – I like to mix in old oatmeal porridge – so it makes sense that this would work. Then I guess I'll have to amend my list of "All the things you can make with stale bread."