- Don’t slice until cool – Tempting though bread fresh from the oven is, it’s best if left to cool before slicing.
- Keep wrapped – Once completely cool, put the loaf in a container or bag that will reduce evaporation.
- Keep cool – The warmer the environment the faster the evaporation, which speeds up staling, but…
- Don’t refrigerate – Starch retrogradation takes place most quickly at fridge temperature, although deep freezing is fine.
You can also resuscitate a loaf that has gone a bit stale by wetting it slightly and popping it in the oven for 20 minutes. It won’t reverse the process but it will make it more flexible and tasty.
And there’s always toast. We’ve found a week-old sourdough makes for marvellous crunchy toast!
Finally you can of course freeze all our bread. Some people like to slice it first and take what they need from the freezer.
For small bakeries like us there’s the No Loaves Lost initiative to help us reduce the amount we throw away. It boils down to three Rs:
- Reduce the amount of surplus you generate
- Reuse any that you do, or redirect it to people
- Repurpose as animal feed, fertiliser or for energy as a last resort
Over the last couple of years we’ve been trying to ensure we always have bread on the shelves when we’re open, as turning away a customer is a great way to ensure they never return. This has meant we usually have a few loaves and buns left on the shelves, so how do we measure up on food waste?
Firstly, we record our daily leftovers along with our sales and use them to inform the bake quantities. This has gotten much more granular since we switched to the epos till and our spreadsheets are things of wonder.
Secondly, we have regular pickups from the B30 Foodbank and Incredible Surplus who take our leftover bread and distribute it to people who need it. This is usually between 10 and 30 loaves each bake day, depending on the weather.
Sales of sticky buns are totally unpredictable in Stirchley. Sometimes they sell out and sometimes we have a disconcerting amount left, so we often take a bag to our friends along the high street. If you see a plate of cinnamon buns in the Wildcat or Artefact, this is why.
Unsold croissants are left to go stale for a day so they’re perfect for rebaking with fillings, be they savoury on weekdays or sweet on Saturday. Pain-au-chocs are frozen until we have enough to re-bake in a croissant pudding.
Thirdly, there’s the waste we can’t prevent. We have a commercial food-waste bin which takes it to an anaerobic digestion site to generate energy. Alongside this is Pete’s compost bin, for any veg matter and bits of stale bread that didn’t make it to the food bank.
We’re pretty pleased with how this is working on the whole. There’s always room for improvement, but we’re baking more bread and feeding more people while our kerbside pickups are significantly lighter. That’s an all-round win.
More about Food Waste Action Week 2022.