One way to salvage stale bread

Mrs. Homegrown here:

So I bought a baguette this week, which caused Mr. Homegrown to grumble with hurt indignation. His homemade bread is better than any store bought, it’s true–but he hadn’t baked in a few days, and I wanted to make caprese sandwiches. However, my plans went awry and the baguette went stale.  Oh, the shame on my head! Just where did we put out our supply of sackcloth and ashes?

However, tonight I salvaged the bread by making it into Melba toast (?) or rusks, maybe (?).  I have a fondness for hard, blandish cracker breads like this. You can pile an amazing amount of dip-like-substances on them, and as I’ve said, I could live on chips and dips.

I have to admit that for anyone who’s ever made croutons, this recipe is a little “Well, duh”– but, nonetheless:

All you have to do is slice the stale bread up into reasonably thin slices. Lord knows my slices vary in thickness quite a bit. Thinner is easier on the teeth.Very thin would be exquisitely crunchy, but mine are never very thin because I am both uncoordinated and lazy. Baguettes make perfect rounds, but you could chop up larger loaves into bite size squares.

 I like to make these out of bread so far gone it could not be sliced the next day. You know that thin line between salvageable and brick? That’s what this recipe is for. I think there are better things to do with only slightly dry bread–like making bread salad, for instance. See below.

Then I use a garlic press to add garlic juice to some olive oil–maybe one or two cloves to 1/3 cup? It doesn’t really matter, because this is a very loose process. I put the bread slices in a big bowl and drizzle the garlic oil over them and toss them about until it looks like all the slices have been well greased. This usually means I add some more olive oil. I like lots of oil, but I’m sure it would work fine with less. It would also work fine with no garlic.

Finally, I toss the greasy bread with lots of salt and pepper. And yes, of course, you could use all sorts of herbs and spices at this point. Whatever takes your fancy.

The bread goes on a cookie sheet into a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes to a half hour. I’m not sure about the timing because I just check until they look done. “Done” means they’re brown, but not black, and have gone dry and hard as rocks.  Timing will vary by how stale the bread is when you begin, fresher bread taking longer. Thinner slices dry out faster than thicker ones.

Not so wild about melba toast? I don’t have tested recipes on hand, but google up “bread salad” or “panzanella.” This is basically just pieces of stale bread tossed with basil and tomatoes, lots of olive oil and a touch of vinegar. It can be jazzed up with cucumbers or olives or hard boiled eggs or whatever is on hand.

Also, I just saw this recipe for cold bread and tomato soup at the Awl. Haven’t tried it, but it looks interesting.

What do you do with your stale bread?

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8 Comments

  1. If you don’t mind chewy, wrap your bread in a wet paper towel and microwave it for 10-20 seconds (depending on how big it is). You’d be amazed how much moisture this puts back into the bread! At the very least, you will be able to cut it now so you can do other things.

  2. We have a long-standing end-of-the-week bread pudding tradition. We make a lot of our own bread, and it kills me when there’s good bread left over.

    Also, DIY bread crumbs. Wait until its really stale, then throw it in the Cuisinart and grind it up.

  3. Stale bread doesn’t happen here very often, but my favorite use is for strata or bread pudding, which are basically the exact same recipe, only varying by whether you make it savory or sweet. These recipes are also a good solution for the got-too-many-eggs problem. Strata can accommodate nearly any sort of veg and cheese combo, with or without meat. My favorite bread pudding is to make bread and jam sandwiches, fit them tightly in the casserole dish, pour over the egg-milk mixture, and top with a bit of nutty streusel topping, or, in a pinch, crisp topping.

  4. Bread Pudding Muffins are always a hit here.And in the summer when we live off of salads Panzanella is good.
    Other than those its toasts or crumbs.

  5. Being a chef, all kinds of stuff! All the stuff mentioned above. There’s this pasta that I love from the Greens Cookbook. It’s sort of like a meatless carbonara in that it has the eggs, but they use smoked cheese, BREADCRUMBS, olives, etc…My mouth is watering. I must go and make this!

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