Stale bread always gets the short end of the stick: nobody wants to eat hard, tasteless bread and many people even think it’s unhealthy. But the truth is that stale bread isn’t yet bad to eat! Bread has such a large amount of starch in it that will quickly crystallize in such cooler temperatured rooms as a cool porch or kitchen with open doors and windows, a basement apartment and of course in the refrigerator. It’s a chemical process called retrogradation where crystals form from cool, moist air. I know, it seems strange that moist air would cause dry bread, but the fact is that the crystals are where all the moisture in the bread goes. Depending on the type of bread, it can sometimes become as hard as a rock!
So what can you do with stale bread if it isn’t bad? It certainly is tough on the teeth and lacks a bit of taste, but it can be revitalized by adding water, milk, sauce or oil, and end up tasting absolutely wonderful (almost as great as it was when it was fresh!). So here are some ideas to save your stale bread from hitting the dumpster too soon.
1. Bread Crumbs
The first thing you should consider is the easiest thing in the world: bread crumbs. You can break up and grind your stale bread into very small (not tiny!) pieces and mix it with seasoning to toss over your salad, soup, or pasta, over a steak or chicken, even over a dessert like cheesecake or pudding. The best mixes for entrees tend to involve Mrs. Dash, salt, and basil, and for desserts use white sugar, brown sugar, or cinnamon.
You could use bread crumbs as is or bake them in an oven or toaster oven. Bake them in low heat around 140 – 155 degrees. Wait until they are golden or slightly brown. A great idea is to roll the crumbs in butter before baking for some delicious taste and for easy sticking to spices or sugars.
I know it seems that because they are already stale, they won’t go bad, but that is not true! You should store breadcrumbs in an airtight container just like anything else and even keep them in the freezer if you want them to keep longer. Reheating them is a simple matter of spraying with a water or butter mist and zapping in the microwave for 20 seconds.
2. French Toast
Most, if not all french toast recipes involve egg batter of some kind and this means your bread will get a special, sweet and tasty treatment of moisture for revitalization.
3. Refreshed Bread
This is a strange trick but works. Remember that stale bread has simply had the moisture separated and crystallized, so those crystals need to be melted and more moisture needs to enter the bread. Doing it carefully will yield bread that tastes just like new!
– first preheat an oven to 350 degrees so it’ll be ready for you when you’ve gotten the rest ready
– place the stale bread in a clean paper bag and fold or twist the opening to conceal the bread inside
– wet the edges of the bag with cold water evenly and carefully — don’t soak the bread!
– this sounds weird, but we want to put the bag with the bread in it into the oven and let it sit until the bread is ready — for small pieces (rolls, slices) put it in for 5 minutes, and for full loafs put it in for 15 minutes. you will need to keep an eye on it and dampen the edges again if the water goes away too fast. Also, you don’t want the bag to catch fire, so if you see it start to burn take it out quickly and add water!
4. French Onion Soup
Bread is one of the main ingredients in French Onion Soup. Since it’s a soup, that means you really don’t need fresh bread for it. Sure, if you used fresh bread and the person eating it saw you they would think you were a perfect cook (provided you didn’t burn the cheese!), but chances are they are not going to ever know the difference.
Whether it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas, or any other fall or winter meal, stuffing tends to be a staple of American holiday cooking. What’s more is that it’s usually made with stale bread, which is very well known “secret” of housewives across the nation.
Most stuffing is mixed with a bit of green veggies, such as spinach, broccoli, chopped green beans, peas, carrots, squash or anything else you think might go well with it. I’ve even had some stuffing with nuts and dried cranberries or raisins.
As you can see, there are already quite a bit of practical alternatives to tossing your stale bread in the trash. This article is simply an introduction and we’ll be back soon with more!
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