Books – Bread Is Gold by Massimo Bottura

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In 2015 Milan hosted Expo 2015, with the theme “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”.  Massimo Bottura was asked to run a pop-up restaurant, and decided to use the opportunity to create a space where chefs from around the world could cook with waste from Expo for people in need.  He teamed up with Davide Rampello, former President of the Triennale of Milan and artistic curator of the Zero Hall of Expo Milano 2015.  With assistance from the Vatican and many of Italy’s finest designers and artists, as well as a host of others, they transformed the abandoned Teatro Greco into a 21st century refectory – Refettorio Ambrosiano.  The stage became the kitchen. The auditorium became the dining room, adorned with bespoke tables and artwork created and donated by those involved; an extraordinary space, serving exceptional food spun from simple ingredients for those that needed it most. 

During the six months of Expo, chefs from around the globe came to work, to meet the neighbourhood children and cook lunch for them, as well as creating meals for 100 guests from local homeless shelters, all using food either donated or destined for the bin.  The Refettorio continues its work to this day.   

In the new book “Bread Is Gold”, Massimo has compiled the inventive recipes created for the Refettorio.  It is a collection of dishes from some of the world’s best chefs using simple ingredients and techniques, that anyone can reproduce.  But it is also a call to arms – how can we change the way we eat, the way we relate to food?  What must be done?  For something must be done.  In an extract for Locavore, Massimo talks of the importance of the chefs as bringers of change, and gives us the title recipe from the book, a dish inspired by his childhood breakfasts of leftover pieces of bread from the previous night, dipped in warm milk with a splash of coffee and too much sugar.

Inside Refettorio Ambrosiano

Will the role of chefs define the future of food? Today chefs have a greater social responsibility than ever before. They are not only responsible for their customers at the table but also for the community at large—the artisans, the farmers, and the cheesemakers—as well as the next generation of chefs that will follow in their footsteps. Chefs are becoming ambassadors of culture, influential thinkers, and activists. There is more we chefs can do to make the world a better and more delicious place. As we cooked together at the Refettorio week after week, I imagined a cookbook that assembled recipes and stories about the beautiful and the ugly ingredients we cooked with, the food we served, the people we met, the many spontaneous acts of generosity. Cooking is about transformation. Real beauty is seeing the value in something that might not seem to have any value at all. Something recovered is something gained.

Food waste is one of the biggest problems of our century and our generation’s cross to bear. Numbers are numbers. Almost one billion people are undernourished. One-third of the food we produce globally is wasted every year, including nearly four trillion apples. Just imagine how many apple pies we could make? If we don’t do something about it now, the numbers will only get worse. I am an optimist and I believe that we are already making positive change. This is just one of many projects aimed at reducing food waste around the world.

The good thing is that everyone can participate. A recipe after all is a solution to a problem. Choose to be part of the solution by cooking and sharing a meal around a table. It might be the most revolutionary thing you do all day. 

Bread Is Gold


Serves: 6


 Bread Crisps  

  • 3 ½ oz (100 g) stale bread, sliced 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick and cut into six 4 inch (10 cm) rounds (see note)
  • 35 oz (10 g) edible gold powder

 Bread and Sugar Cream   

  • 3 ½ oz (100 g) stale bread (see note)
  • ½ cup (100 g) packed light brown sugar
  • 3 ⅓ cups (800 ml) milk
  • 3 tablespoons heavy (whipping) cream

 Salted Caramel Ice Cream

  • ⅔ cup (150 ml) heavy (whipping) cream
  • ¾ cup (150 g) packed light brown sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • ⅔ cup (150 ml) milk

Caramel Croutons

  • 3 ½ oz (100 g) bread, cut into small pieces (see note)
  • 4 tablespoons packed light brown sugar


Make the Bread Crisps  

Preheat the oven to 350 (180°C/Gas Mark 4). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Arrange the bread on the baking sheet ¾ inch (2 cm) apart. Bake until crispy and golden brown, about 4 minutes. Let cool. Sprinkle with the gold powder.

Make the Bread and Sugar Cream

In a medium pan, heat the bread and brown sugar over medium heat and cook until caramelized, about 3 minutes. Add half the milk and simmer until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Add the remaining milk and the cream, bring to a boil, and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Transfer to a blender and blend on high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve two times. Cover and refrigerate. Once cold, whisk until stiff peaks form and transfer to a pastry (piping) bag.

Make the Salted Caramel Ice Cream

In a small pot, bring the cream to a boil over medium heat.

In a medium pan, melt the brown sugar over medium heat until completely melted, about 3 minutes. Add the warmed cream and salt, remove from the heat, and whisk. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean pan. Add the milk and generous ¾ cup (200 ml) water. Return to the heat and bring to 104°F (40°C) over medium heat, then simmer for 2 minutes until it reaches 176°F (80°C). Remove from the heat and let cool. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled. Transfer to an ice cream machine and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions. (If you don’t have an ice-cream machine, freeze the mixture until hard enough to scoop.)

Make the Caramel Croutons

In a medium pan, heat the bread and brown sugar over medium heat and cook, stirring, until the sugar caramelizes and coats the bread, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and let cool. Store in an airtight container.

To Serve

Place a scoop of the salted caramel ice cream on each plate and top with 5 caramel croutons, 1 tablespoon bread and sugar cream, 5 more caramel croutons, and 1 more tablespoon bread and sugar cream. Garnish with 1 bread crisp.


Save the leftover bread for the bread and sugar cream and caramel croutons.

Bread is Gold by Massimo Bottura is published by Phaidon (£29.95), click here to buy.

Photographs: Emanuele Colombo, Food Editore/Piermichele Borraccia