On Stop Food Waste Day, turn Bread into Gold

Here’s Massimo Bottura’s titular dish from the book all about turning unwanted food into great meals for the poor

Massimo Bottura’s first Refettorio – or haute cuisine soup kitchen, turning unwanted ingredients into great meals for the poor  - opened in an old church building during the 2015 Milan Expo. However the chef’s enthusiasm for reworking leftovers dates back to his childhood.

“Every morning over breakfast my brothers and I fought for the leftover pieces of bread from the previous night to dip in warm milk with a splash of coffee,” he recalls in the introduction his book, Bread is Gold. “We called this mess zuppa di latte, milk soup. I preferred the bread grated directly into the bowl and always asked my mother to help me. Then, to my delight, I poured in the sugar, lots of it, until my mother started yelling, “Massimooooo — that’s too much sugar! Look at your spoon. It is standing up straight!””


Massimo at Refettorio Ambrosiano in Milan
Massimo at Refettorio Ambrosiano in Milan

Years later, in the kitchen of his restaurant Osteria Francescana in Modena, he returned to this simple concoction, began experimenting with variations on toasted breadcrumbs, milk, and sugar. 

“The mixture went through numerous stages of blending, filtering, and whipping until it turned into a cream of sorts,” he recalls. “Flipping through an art magazine at home, a gold-plated wastepaper basket by Swiss artist Sylvie Fleury caught my attention. She casts objects from popular culture in silver and gold. The ordinary suddenly became extraordinary. That was it!”

Back in the kitchen, Bottura and his team molded melted sugar into a translucent gold-tinted shell that looked like a piece of crumpled paper from the wastepaper basket. “The dome was so fragile it fractured when touched,” he explains. “In this way, when you ate it, the golden mirage gave way to the formless soup of childhood memories. We put it on the menu and called it Il pane è oro or Bread Is Gold.”

Bottura revisted this dish at Refettorio Ambrosiano, the first Refettorio, back in the summer of 2015, turning day-old bread into this delicious dessert. Now, on Stop Food Waste Day, we’d like to share it with you.


Refettorio Ambrosiano, Milan
Refettorio Ambrosiano, Milan


Bread crisps 3½ oz (100 g) stale bread, sliced ¹⁄8 inch (3 mm) thick and cut into six 4 inch (10 cm) rounds

0.35 oz (10 g) edible gold powder

Bread and sugar cream 3½ oz (100 g) stale bread

½ cup (100 g) packed light brown sugar

3¹⁄³ cups (800 ml) milk

3 tablespoons heavy (whipping) cream

Salted caramel ice cream ²⁄³ cup (150 ml) heavy (whipping) cream

¾ cup (150 g) packed light brown sugar

1½ teaspoons salt

²⁄³ cup (150 ml) milk

Caramel croutons 3½ oz (100 g) bread, cut into small pieces

4 tablespoons packed light brown sugar



Make the bread crisps Preheat the oven to 350°F (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.


Bread is Gold
Bread is Gold

For more on this dish and many other creative uses for unwanted ingredients, all drawn up by the world's greatest chefs, order a copy of Bread is Gold here.