No one would deny that pillowy white bread has a place in the British culinary landscape. It is the ideal base for cheese on toast (thickly cut Cheshire and a blob of HP’s finest), unsurpassed as a vehicle for baked beans (Heinz only, please), or for lashings of salted butter and strawberry jam (eaten in the kitchen sans plate).

However, as delicious as those pre-sliced loaves are, they are not, according to the Real Bread Campaign (RBC), actually, really ‘real’ bread. The high-speed, additive-heavy ‘Chorleywood’ process developed in the 1960s may have perfected making industrial-quantities of something bread-y, but those loaves have little in the way of nutritional value.

Each year the RBC’s Real Bread Week is an annual international celebration of bread and those good people who make it. And here in London GAIL’s make some of the finest.

Started in the 1990s by Gail Mejia, GAIL’s mission is to supply handmade, artisanal, quality loaves to bread-hungry London-folk. Today, there are over 50 GAIL’s bakeries in an around the capital. And it is Roz Bado as their Head Pastry Chef who is responsible for coming up with new bread recipes.

Aware that 44% of all bread produced in the UK is thrown away (the equivalent of 24 million slices a day) she invented their ‘Waste Bread’ – a sourdough made entirely from unsold surplus bread. “I had this idea of using our old bread and recycling it into a new loaf,” she explains. “So, I actually made the bread to give to Tom (Molnar, the CEO and co-Founder of GAIL’s) and didn’t tell him what it was until he ate it and said that he liked it.”

Yum, yum Soho buns

They also make ‘wasteless’ quiches with left over Raclette from local cheese-mongers and work with The Felix Project who collect their left-over food to redistribute to charities in London.

Bado’s most recent invention is the Soho bun, a dangerously delicious little chocolate-studded bap. They are made from croissant offcuts and “all you do is mix it up again to make something like a brioche dough and add chocolate chips. A ridiculous amount of chocolate. Never too much!”

GAIL’s are best known, however, for their sourdough. Made using only flour, water, salt and a sourdough starter (GAIL’s have one that is almost three decades old in their bakery in Hendon) – no yeasts, sugars, dough improvers or emulsifiers - sourdough contains higher levels of folate and antioxidants than other breads, has prebiotic and probiotic properties, and has lower phytate levels which means that your body can absorb the nutrients more easily.

In terms of bread in the UK, Bado thinks “it is getting better, slowly. GAIL’s are celebrating our 15th anniversary and we have quite a lot of shops now, but it is also fun to see new little independent bakeries open. Really,” she continues, “they are our competitors –  the skills they have are wonderful and the loaves they produce are amazing. It is a really interesting time in London for bread.

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