A while back, The Baker asked her friends how much they’d pay for a fresh loaf of home baked bakery bread to be delivered to them. One of the answers was “I wouldn’t, it goes stale too quickly.” The current standard loaf in our household takes a lot longer than a day or two to go stale, but we still end up with a lot of ends of loaves going stale and this got me thinking about what you can do with stale bread.
The obvious answer is toast. I love toast, and it’s perfect for using up old bread. Once you toast it, it gets all crispy on the outside and the insides get soft again from the heat of the toaster. And then you melt some butter on it, with maybe some cheese or jam or a fried egg, and it’s great. But what else?
Grilled cheese sandwiches are good on stale bread too. You want the bread to be pretty sturdy for grilled cheese anyway, and the same magic happens as when you toast it. Plus you get melted cheese, which is never bad. Add some sliced tomatoes, or my favorite onions and mustard, and you have a great snack.
There’s French toast, and its cousin pain perdu. I don’t know what the difference is, but one of my favorite food bloggers is former New Orleanian Chuck Taggart, who has an awesome pain perdu recipe on his website. You know how to make French toast, right? Whisk together some eggs with some milk and vanilla or maybe sugar, then soak the bread in it (both sides, please) and fry it up. Very tasty with powdered sugar, jam, or syrup of any kind. I’ve also heard of adding bourbon to the egg mixture, which sounds pretty damned good to me.
If you’re a salad person, you can make croutons. Cut the bread into appropriate sized cubes (big, little, whatever floats your boat), toss with some olive oil and salt and pepper and maybe garlic, and bake at about 300 degrees F for fifteen minutes and voila, croutons! You can also fry them if you want, for that extra crispy effect. This also helps if you don’t like your croutons really crunchy (it’s that way in our house). Fry them just long enough to get the crispy edges without drying out the inside. These are only good the day you make them though, so be sure to eat them all.
What else? There are two Italian recipes I’ve had that use stale bread: bread salad and bread soup. They’re pretty similar recipes, both devised as a way to use up old bread. Bread salad has stale bread and tomatoes and vinaigrette, with maybe cucumbers or onions or whatever else. The soup has the same bread and tomatoes, but is made with broth instead of vinaigrette. To be honest, I’m not all that fond of bread soup; I don’t care for the texture of soggy bread. But the flavor is great.
I once stayed in a bed and breakfast where they served us strata, and I loved it. How can eggs, cheese, and bread be bad? It’s also one of those recipes where you can get creative. Add ham, or sausage, or sautéed vegetables, or whatever you have that sounds good.
You can make bread pudding, with or without raisins. It’d be good with other kinds of dried fruit too, and I bet candied orange or candied ginger would be great with the whiskey sauce. Or just leave out the fruit – it is, after all, mostly about the whiskey sauce. Here again Chuck Taggart helps us out. My mother learned how to make bread pudding in a cooking class in New Orleans, so I’m not surprised he’s all over that. He’s got a mess of recipes for it, including one which calls for chocolate. That sounds good!
And if all else fails and the bread is too dry to be used for any of these things, put it in the blender or the food processor (or just crush it by hand in a plastic bag, I’ve done that before) and make breadcrumbs. Then you can make meatloaf for dinner! I used to do that with the ends of loaves and it worked really well. Keep it in the freezer though – I kept mine in the cupboard and then one day it had worms in it. (I know, gross! Sorry, but it’s one of those things where I’d rather warn you than let you find out on your own.)
I’m sure there are plenty more uses for stale bread, but this is a start. Don’t throw your stale bread away!