“Zero Waste Küche” (“Zero Waste Kitchen”), the newest German cookbook from Berlin-based vegan chef Sophia Hoffmann, hit shelves earlier this year. The book offers tips and recipes to help reduce food waste in the kitchen (we interviewed her about it here). Below, Hoffmann shares an excerpt translated into English from the section, “Bread,” and the recipe for her breadcrumb quiche.
It is one of the oldest, most important basic foods worldwide and of great cultural and historical significance. As human societies began to settle, they started farming, and grain became a staple. In history, more wars were fought for granaries than gold. Bad harvests still bring on famine and distress. It all began with flatbread made from a type of porridge baked on the fire, until the Egyptians, so it is told, accidentally invented sourdough about 2,000 years ago. They baked a fermented piece of dough that was lying around and were delighted with the result.
You can read entire books about the meaning of bread in our society today, but what we really should be talking about is the loss of appreciation for this wonderful product. Supermarkets and bakery chains offer full shelves right up to closing time, with tons of bread being dumped every day.
Spend a little extra on good organic sourdough bread from the local bakery and support the preservation of valuable craftsmanship. Pay more and you’ll be less careless about throwing it out. Mass produced industrial bread containing added leavening agents, bake mixes and low-quality flour has little to do with real bread, which is why it’s so cheap.
To avoid packaging, put it directly into a cloth bag at the bakery. Rye and whole grain breads last longer than wheat because they retain moisture longer. There are countless ways to use the leftovers (more on that below).
There are countless tips on how best to store bread. Some people swear by bread boxes, others leave it on the dining table, cut side down, or wrap it in a cloth. Basically, bread shouldn’t be kept too dry or too moist (leading to rock-hard or moldy bread). I like to follow a tip from Milena Glimbovski’s book “Ohne Wenn und Abfall” (“Zero Ifs, Zero Buts, Zero Waste”) — my bread lives in the (switched-off) oven, in a clean cloth bag. That way it keeps fresh and doesn’t take up extra space.
In hot weather, white bread dries out within hours, so you should avoid buying larger quantities of it in summer. Wrapping bread in a damp kitchen towel helps prevent it from drying out. The next day it will taste fresh if you zap it briefly in the oven, but don’t keep it damp for longer than one day or it could get moldy.
Bread can be frozen, either whole or sliced (then it’s easier to defrost). You can use a closed cloth or paper bag. In case of freezer burn, you can simply remove the affected areas. Frozen bread rolls can even taste better after freezing. Lightly coat them with water and bake briefly for a crunchy, oven-fresh flavor.
Home-baked bread tastes best, but it takes time. Making sourdough is fun and there are countless tutorials to be found online or in books. When you hold that fresh, fragrant load in your hands on a Sunday morning, you’ll know the effort was worth it!
Carefully prepared sourdough bread is particularly healthy, as the fermentation process makes the nutrients in grains easier to digest. Whole wheat bread is generally healthier than white bread, as it has the highest nutritional density. Bread is only unhealthy if it’s cheap and white, if it makes up the bulk of your diet, or if you suffer from an intolerance, allergy or celiac disease.
It’s important to distinguish between celiac disease, allergies and mild intolerances. Celiacs should avoid all gluten, which is found not only in grains but also in products such as beer, pasta and soy sauce. People with intolerances and allergies should only have to avoid certain varieties. Often, what is assumed to be wheat intolerance is just a sensitized reaction to conventional wheat. Modern wheat varieties have a gluten content ten times higher than varieties common 50 years ago. Sourdough bread and pasta made from heirloom or organic grains are often much easier to digest.
ZERO WASTE PROBLEM
Bread has become a disposable product. With low prices, consumers no longer feel they have to eat leftovers. They can simply buy something new when they feel like it — usually without realizing that they are consuming inferior, potentially unhealthy products.
The “freshly baked all day” slogans of discount supermarkets are based on the oversupply of cheap produce, which a sustainable baker can’t compete with. Only active consumer choices can change that.
Breadcrumbs: I use the blender to crumb old bread, but you can also use a grater. It’s easiest when the bread is fully dried in slices, cubes or pieces. The thicker the chunks, the more challenging they are to shred. Breadcrumbs can be used in many ways — as breading for fried vegetables, as a binder for veggie burgers and in countless other recipes. Whenever a mass is too moist, a few spoonfuls of crumbs can help perfect the consistency. Roasted with a little olive oil in a pan and used as topping on pasta, creamy dishes and casseroles, they are traditionally known as “pauper’s parmesan” in Italy. You can also make a quiche base, crackers and salty-sweet biscuits from breadcrumbs. More finely ground, the flour made from old bread can be used in muffins. Anyone who knows my recipes is familiar with my homemade bread, colored with beetroot juice, spinach, red cabbage juice or charcoal. The breadcrumbs from these scraps are real eye-catchers and perfect as garnish and decoration.
Larger (half) dried pieces of bread can be soaked in water or (plant) milk and turned into classic dishes such as French toast, bread and butter pudding or traditional Bavarian dumplings. Excess fresh bread can be turned into easy-to-store croutons or bread chips. Completely dry crusts can be added to stews and soups. As they are boiled and dissolve, they bind the liquid, giving the dish a delicious consistency.
The fewer ingredients, the better. Quality over quantity.
- Equipment: 1 25-cm baking tin
- Time: 60 min
For the base, I use breadcrumbs, seasoned with a little rosemary. The filling is silken tofu based, but you can also puree firm tofu with water to create a creamy consistency. Beyond that, simply use your imagination. Slightly shriveled tomatoes, tired rocket, wilted spinach or old-age mushrooms get a second chance in this delicious dish. In the picture, you can see a variation using leeks and portobello mushroom.
- 150g breadcrumbs, preferably homemade
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 150mL of water
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp chopped rosemary, fresh or dried
- Vegetables to taste, e.g. 6-8 cocktail tomatoes, a handful of rocket, leaf spinach or half a leek or a handful of mushrooms
- 400g silken tofu or natural tofu
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp of nutritional yeast to taste (available at the health food store)
- 1 clove of garlic
- Salt, pepper, nutmeg
- Optional: a pinch of turmeric
- Preheat the oven to 180°C on top and bottom heat setting.
- For the base, mix breadcrumbs, salt and the finely chopped rosemary in a bowl, add oil and water and knead them together until you have a crumbly but compact dough.
- Put the dough in an oiled springform tin and distribute the mass evenly with the palm of your hand and your fingers. Prick with a fork and pre-bake for 15 minutes.
- Wash the vegetables, remove larger leaves and cut into strips. Stalks can also be cut finely and added to the filling. Cut the tomatoes and mushrooms in half.
- Blend the silken tofu with the starch, 2 tablespoons of oil, the nutritional yeast and the peeled garlic. You can use a blender or a food processor. When using regular natural tofu, add about 100mL of water, as needed, to achieve a slightly more liquid, creamy consistency. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
- Distribute on the pre-baked base, spread the vegetable filling evenly and press down lightly. Place mushrooms and tomatoes cut side up.
- Bake on the middle rack for 20 minutes at 180°C, then bake at 150°C for another 15 minutes, until the mass is fully solidified.
- Let it settle for a short while before cutting, then detach the base from the tin with a knife and enjoy warm or cold.