Forgotten, but not lost: a bread pudding recipe

sourdough loaf

A half a round of artisan sourdough bread sat forgotten in the small fridge at work. Stored in a paper bag and left for too long, it had lost both moisture and appeal.

Stale? Very.

I don’t know whose it was, but I took it home with me anyway to save it from the bin.

A breadful waste

It’s often our default to toss food that’s past its prime. Our food prices are artificially low and it’s so easy to just buy more. With Australians wasting $8 billion of perfectly good food each year, and bread being a staple for most, it’s not a leap to imagine we’re binning a lot of perfectly good bread.

We’re long way from where we’ve come.

Humans can and did live on bread alone (the slow fermenting variety). In fact, the daily loaf was so critical to the meagre diet of the French peasantry, it was soaring wheat prices that catalyzed the French Revolution. I feel certain the French of the time would disapprove our bread wasting ways.

How do you do, pain perdu?

The French, as it happens, know a few tricks for using stale bread. One of which is pain perdu, or bread pudding – just the bread soaked in a mixture of milk and eggs and cooked. This is precisely what I did with the stale bread I found.

painperdu2

Here’s my ‘forgotten, but not lost’ bread pudding recipe:

Ingredients //

  • half a loaf of stale bread, chopped into rough chunks
  • 4 eggs (ish)
  • milk, maybe a half cup
  • 1 Tbsp sugar, rice malt syrup or other sweetener (optional)
  • sprinkle cinnamon
  • sprinkle nutmeg
  • pinch salt
  • dash vanilla

Instructions // Mix everything together to soak for an hour. Bake in a 200 degree celsius oven for 30 minutes or until it starts to puff up and the inside is cooked.

Pro tip // This could easily go savoury if you omit the sweets and change the spice profile.

How I made it low waste:

  • I used food destined for the bin.
  • I seasoned with spices I’ve refilled in bulk.
  • I flavoured with vanilla I made myself.
  • I composted the egg shells.
  • I recycled the milk container.
  • I baked it in a stainless steel pan I bought secondhand for $2 at the op shop.
  • I composted the paper bag the loaf came in (if it hadn’t been a bit greasy I would have recycled it).
  • Importantly, I ate all of it.

7 tips for getting the most out of the bread you buy

  1. Buy proper sourdough. It keeps longer, freezes well, and is one of the more nutritious types.
  2. Buy your loaf unpackaged from a local bakeshop. Bring a cloth bag to carry it back home.
  3. Or try making your own sourdough bread from culture.
  4. Don’t store bread in the fridge where it’ll lose moisture.
  5. Do consider freezing half the loaf if you don’t think you’ll eat it all before it goes stale. Slice first so you can toast from frozen.
  6. If the bread’s a bit stale, make bread pudding (scroll up), or croutons, or breadcrumbs.
  7. All else fails, feed it to chickens or compost.

My tips for buying food in bulk refill

bulk food shopping

Food shopping in bulk refill is one of the main ways I am able to reduce my household trash to nearly nothing (composting is another).

I love to cook and like to have a variety of healthy ingredients at my fingertips for my random fits of kitchen inspiration. Only, I hate the orgy of waste that is the typical trip to the supermarket. These days, even if you avoid single portioned ‘convenience’ foods, like I do, many regular ingredients now come ridiculously over-packaged or in material that can’t be recycled.

My answer to this is to buy my edibles packaging-free whenever possible and to also make what I can from the raw ingredients. To do both of these things, I rely on bulk refill wholefood stores (which are not the same as Whole Foods stores, North American friends).

Bulk refills reduce over-packaging and plastic waste

We now have many more opportunities to buy our food without packaging than even a few years ago, when healthy bulk foods were mainly the realm of co-ops – far outside the periphery of most. For staple pantry items – which for me are flours, beans, nuts, seeds, chocolate miscellany, cereals, grains, coconut, oils, the occasional powdered superfoods, and a variety of spices –  I am lucky enough to live in a city with a number of good options for refilling.

Shopping by bulk refill helps reduce plastic waste, obviously. There is no reason we need a new container every time we buy a bag of oats or walnuts. But shopping this way can also help reduce food waste by letting us only buy the amount we need. It’s also just a nicer, calmer shopping experience – as long as you know the basics.

If you’ve never shopped for food this way, it may well seem daunting or inconvenient. I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned about shopping for bulk wholefoods so that it’s simple and painless.

 

My tips for a hassle free bulk refill shopping experience

Take your time // Shopping in a refill store may take a little longer than usual as you get used to a new shopping process. It’s not harder, it’s just a different sequence. Doing things you’ve never done before creates new neural pathways in your brain, so embrace the change. On balance, by shopping this way I’ve reduced how often I need to shop for staple foods since I am putting a bit more forethought into what I actually need.

Go with a list // My advice always seems to involve making a list. I love lists! But seriously, go with a list. Why? The idea with bulk refill is to bring your own container, so you’ll want to plan for how many to bring along. Bonus points if you label these with what you’ll refill with. If you’re not sure what the stores have, do a dry run without containers, or look online, or call to ask.

Mason jars aren’t mandatory // Confession –  in a fit of Instagram envy, I bought a set of Weck jars. Those ones with the little clips to hold the glass top and seal together. Very pretty. And they are lovely and solid and great for things like making salsa or kefir. But let’s be honest, they are terrible for taking to the refill store. Fussy and heavy, especially if I’m biking, walking or transiting. Don’t be a hero – if you have a jar fetish, just fill them up when you get home and use another container for shopping. I will use small jars I’ve got on hand from condiments I haven’t learned to make myself, or just whatever is around and looks like it will work…. see my next point.

Any container can be refilled // Yes, even plastic containers. I am a firm believer in using what I have, even if it’s not beautiful or made of glass. This includes plastic zip top bags that I collect from people I know who are not (yet) on the Zero Waste train. In doing so I’m either saving them from the landfill or soft plastics recycling, so why be pedantic about the material itself? They are also lightweight and waterproof. I know, I know, I just raved about the convenience of plastic – but I’d rather be real, and I’d rather reuse than adhere rigidly to a label of ‘plastic-free’. To me, this is better than using new paper bags each time, or killing myself lugging heavy full jars around.

Weigh containers before filling // When you buy from a bulk refill shop, you most commonly pay by the total weight, minus the weight of the container – this is the net weight. If you don’t pre-weigh your container (the tare), you’ll be paying for the weight of the jar. If you don’t see a scale, some masking tape and a writing tool, ask the friendly person at the register – they know the drill, and are there to help (not to mention, people who run bulk refill shops are usually excellent humans).

Liquids are often sold by volume, not weight // Refill shops sometimes sell liquids by volume instead of weight. If you’re not sure, ask before filling to avoid any confusion at the till. You’ll also do well to bring a container that lists a volume on the jar.

Buy only as much as you need // Buying bulk doesn’t mean you have to buy a lot. In fact, if you’re trying something new, try a little to see if you’ll like it before committing to a haul. This can help avoid overbuying and food spoilage.

Living in Sydney? Check out the waste free shopping options I’ve found so far.

If you don’t live somewhere with unpackaged options, you could try….

  • looking out for co-ops or buying groups.
  • letting your local shops know you’d like bulk options and why.
  • buying foods in packaging that can be recycled most easily.
  • starting a refill shop yourself.

I’m not even joking about that last one.

Zero Waste food shopping is going mainstream

More and more shops are opening to serve people like me, who prefer to pre-cycle than recycle. I can avoid adding hundreds of containers to the recycling bin each year by reusing the same containers over and over. In doing so, I’m putting less strain on overused waste management systems that cost us in tax money and opportunity. I’m probably also healthier for it, because by shopping for what are typically packaged pantry foods in bulk refill, I rarely ever find myself in the middle aisles of large supermarkets.

Join me?

Easy waste-free bliss balls recipe

Need a use for the leftover nut pulp from homemade nut milk?

Whatever your reason for making your own nut milk – you’re vegan, you live Zero Waste, you’re allergic to dairy, or you just think a cold brew coffee tastes rad with a splash of nutty goodness – one thing is certain: if you strain, you’ll have leftover nut pulp.

A portable, packaging-free snack

I like to use the pulp to make packaging-free bliss balls. They’re an alternative to packaged granola/energy bars, and ideal for surfing, hiking and wandering around the city. Packed in a reusable container, they are really the perfect snack for on the go.

The benefit of using the nut pulp is that we’re using waste from one process as the input for another. It also means our bliss ball recipe is uber simple – we don’t even need nut butter, which is a common ingredient in this genre of snack.

Making these on a Thursday or Friday means they’re as ready for weekend adventures as you are. Or make some on the weekend to take to work for when 3pm rolls around.

If I’ve made nut milk and I’m not going to make these energy balls right away, I’ll chuck the nut meal in the freezer for later, Sarah Wilson styles. This saves me from avoidable steps like dehydrating the pulp.

The base of the balls is the nut meal + dates (not too many). I usually add some coconut too, and then whatever I feel like or have on hand, like: chocolate // chili powder // lemon zest // mesquite powder // walnuts // pistachios // hazelnuts // macadamia nuts // peanuts // sesame seeds // chai spice flavouring // tahini // peanut butter // cardamom // sea salt.

I can shop for all of these ingredients packaging-free at the many bulk refill stores in my city.

Easy bliss ball recipes

Here are two of my go-to combinations:

Chocolate brownie

  • nut meal from one batch of nut milk
  • dates (2 or 3)
  • coconut
  • cocoa powder
  • cinammon
  • lemon zest
  • walnuts
  • vanilla
  • salt
Donut holes

  • nut meal from one batch of nut milk
  • dates (2 or 3)
  • coconut
  • oats
  • nutmeg
  • cinnamon
  • ginger
  • vanilla
  • salt

Instructions // add everything to a food processor or high powered blender (which you likely have if you’re making nut milk) and blend until you’re happy with the consistency. It should look a bit like the texture of cookie dough. Roll into balls in whatever size works for you.

If the mix is too dry – try adding some coconut oil, lemon juice, nut milk (ha!), another date, or just water. Too wet? Add some oats or coconut to bring it all together. This isn’t baking, so you don’t need to measure so much as estimate and recalibrate as you go, which is perfect, since why bother measuring how much nut meal you have leftover. You have as much as you have, right?

I store mine in the fridge or the freezer until I’m ready to use them.

Zero waste hints

These energy balls can are only packaging-free if you store them in something reusable…like an old jam jar, or some beeswax cloth covers, or an old plastic container.

It’s also useful to consider the way the ingredients come packaged (or not). If you live in Sydney, check out my list of waste free shopping options to find a bulk whole foods store nearby.

Bonus points if you use locally grown nuts for your nut milk. Here in Australia, we are lucky that many varieties are grown in the country, if not locally. Here is a list of where nuts sold in Australia generally come from. I personally have dramatically reduced my almond intake after learning that 80% or so of the world’s supply comes from drought-stricken California. I never say never, but do treat them as a ‘once in a while’ food, not a staple, and look for Aussie grown.

Easy, healthy, cheap….impressive.

I love these because I still can’t bear to eat a Cliff bar after eating way too many on a months long road trip. Even if I could, I would still chose to make my packaging-free version instead. I haven’t done the math, but assume with me for a moment that these are way cheaper than Cliff bars too!

Making packaging free snacks involves some pre-planning, because if we fail to prepare, we prepare to fail, but it’s definitely not difficult. It’s actually fun. And people will be impressed with you.

What camping taught me about washing the dishes

Big Sur camping

A dishwashing hack inspired by the great outdoors.

After a two month camping trip through the drought-stricken western US, where I saw firsthand how desperately low the water reservoirs had become, I became something of a dishwashing guru.

We made almost all our meals on that trip in a cast iron pan or a pot over a portable gas stove, and washed our dishes under headlamps in tiny, awkward little sinks. Sometimes we’d have to clean up by squatting beside an outdoor tap overtop a small mud pit.

It was here I learned to wash the dishes with extremely little water. The secret is to use an extra vessel to hold the suds so you can scrub everything with the same water before rinsing with fresh. The vessel could be a camp sink, one of your larger pots, etc.

Back at home, a double sink is an ideal setup for this – a smaller sink can hold the soapy water.

But we don’t always get perfectly formed double sinks in our small, rental apartments, now do we?

If you are among the sink-challenged, I offer you this suggestion:

Your slow cooker insert makes a great second sink.

Just another reason to love your crockpot.

(You’re welcome.)