Bread may be one of the most humble foods, but it is also a dietary staple around the world. Despite its place as a mainstay food, bread has a short shelf life and becomes stale within a few days to two weeks (depending on preservative content). Which likely means that there is stale bread lingering somewhere in your kitchen on any given day. What to do?
There are the obvious reuses for dry bread, like throwing it into the food processor for quick bread crumbs or seasoning and cubing bread into savory croutons for soups and salads.
that a loaf of day- (or two-day) old is more than just feed for fowl (“Feed the birds and what do you get? Fat birds!” Mary Poppins, anyone?) here are a few more creative takes for using dry bread:
1. French Toast
Yes, you thought of that already, but not like this. Brioche french toast with vanilla bean creme anaglaise, triple berry coulis, and cascading fresh berries. I savored every morsel, well, as much as I possibly could, of this monstrously large and delicious brunch offering at The Bongo Room in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Pure genius. The hardest part is waiting for your bread to go stale to make this!
This recipe from Food Network superstar Ina Garden combines the fresh taste of tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers with the great absorption of stale bread.
Prep Time:15 min
Inactive Prep Time:30 min
Cook Time:10 min
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 small French bread or boule, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons capers, drained
For the vinaigrette:
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed.
For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.
In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.
3. Croque Monsieur
This French bistro mainstay, which literally translates to “crunchy Mister,” is comfort food at its best. Traditionally, a grilled ham and cheese sandwich is dipped into Mornay sauce (bechamel sauce with cheese), covered with tangy Gruyere and/or Parmesan cheese and baked to toasted wonderment. I’m opting to trade the ham for baby portabella mushrooms (just as satisfying!) in this version created by Bon Appetit, but feel free to use both as the recipe suggests. http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2011/03/mushroom_croque_monsieur
4. Cinnamon Toasts
Think of this transformation of bread as a buttery cinnamon cookie. Recipe from http://orangette.blogspot.com/2010/05/her-recipe-box.html
1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, cubed
6 slices white sandwich bread, or more as needed
½ cup sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 325°F. If you want, line a baking sheet with parchment or aluminum foil. It makes cleanup easier.
Put the butter into a pie plate or similar baking dish. Slide the dish into the oven, and keep an eye on it. You’re looking for the butter to melt completely.
Stack the slices of bread, and then cut them diagonally into quarters. You should have 24 triangles.
In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and cinnamon. Turn the cinnamon sugar out onto a dinner plate, or another pie plate.
When the butter is melted, remove it from the oven, and brush it onto both sides of a triangle of bread. Don’t be shy: apply the butter generously, so no spot is left uncoated. The bread should feel a little heavy in your hand. Dip the bread into the cinnamon sugar, taking care to coat both sides. Lay it on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pieces of bread.
Bake the toasts for about 25 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer to a rack. The toasts will crisp as they cool. When cooled, store in an airtight container at room temperature.
5. A Sponge!
I’m totally serious! White bread, that’s not too dry and still has some “squish” to it, can be balled up and used to remove pencil marks and fingerprints from walls and other surfaces. It’s not exactly a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, but in a pinch, it’s a super cheap cleaner.
6. Picking up Broken Glass
While we’re on the subject of non-edible bread uses, try this hint when you’re without a broom and dust pan. Gently press a slice or two of bread onto the shards of glass, and carefully place the whole thing in the garbage.