One of the curses or perhaps benefits of experimental bread baking is the plethora of left over bread, the uneaten or slightly stale bread. No way can I possibly consume all of the bread that I am making right now. So the obvious ways to dispose of unwanted or surplus bread are to share with friends, which I am doing at my place of work, or transform it into an entirely new form. I always warn my coworkers that everything I am producing right now is trial and error and mistakes are sometimes made along the road of progress.
Breadcrumbs were made famous in a children’s fairy tale called Hansel and Gretel. These two children went walking in the forest and afraid they would get lost, they decided to drop bread crumbs as they went so they could later follow them back home. As an adult it is easy to foresee the folly of their plan but it made for a good story in a child’s mind.
A popular scene in many movies is someone feeding the pigeons from a park bench. Seeds, bread crumbs being fed to a flock of birds is a peaceful bucolic scene. There is a man who lives in my condo building who daily makes his way to feed the numerous pigeons that call our little piece of property their home. They flock around him eagerly awaiting the tiny morsels he brings them each day.
Bruschetta is another way to use stale bread. Slices of toasted bread topped with a multitude of savory spreads make for a delightful, satisfying appetizer accompanied by a nice bottle of wine. And a cousin of bruschetta would be crostini, a smaller size bread base with a variety of toppings. Both make excellent antipasta.
Homemade bread crumbs are probably the easiest way to use up old bread. Cubed, seasoned and tossed with a drizzle of quality olive oil and toasted in a slow oven begets some pretty crunchy, tasty croutons. Old bread shredded to crumbs in a food processor are easily stored in the freezer and used as bread crumbs for coating meat or as an additive to the best meatloaf recipe ever.
Barbecue Meatloaf – A Paula Dean Recipe
- 1 1/2 pounds (96% lean) ground beef
- 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
- 1 onion diced
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 2 -8 ounce cans (or 1 16 ounce can) tomato sauce or puree
- 3 Tablespoons vinegar
- 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 cup water to thin sauce if necessary (I never thin)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix together beef, bread crumbs, onion, egg, salt, pepper and 8 ounces of tomato sauce. Form into loaf and place in loaf pan. Stir together remaining tomato sauce, vinegar, sugar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and pour this sauce over the meatloaf. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Baste frequently.
Panzanella Salad is another wonderful way to combine toasted stale bread croutons into a salad of fresh spring lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and purple onion making for a very tasty meal.
I think my favorite way to use up stale bread is making my favorite dessert…bread pudding! Not too many years ago, my BFF Kathleen and I went to NOLA for a few days. One of my most favorite cities in the United States, we of course enjoyed many wonderful culinary masterpieces in various restaurants throughout the Quarter. And at the end of each meal we indulged in one of many sumptuous deserts offered and at each place I was on a quest…to discover the restaurant that created the BEST bread pudding I had ever tasted. Bread pudding should be a melt in your mouth savory smooth filling bathed in a sauce that enhances the bread filling and makes it a sensual experience. I have already recycled some of my bread into a savory chocolate bread pudding that wasn’t half bad.
And this morning I cranked out some sourdough blueberry muffins to use a portion of my starter so I could feed it again. The recipe came from the King Arthur website and the muffins were tasty if not a little unconventional. The stone ground corn meal ingredient gave them a slight crunchy crumb and they weren’t super sweet which was a plus for me. My only wish was that I wanted them to be bigger in size. It seems that one thing leads to another…my muffin pan is standard size and if I want bigger, I either need to purchase a larger muffin tin or devise a way to make parchment paper cones that will house a larger amount of batter.
This baking journey is turning into a wonderful learning adventure! Happy Baking!!!