You jumped on the bandwagon and are now either making homemade wheat bread or homemade sourdough bread. Then you realized that soft texture is only good for a few days with no preservatives or dough enhancers. You want to be frugal and not waste your new healthy hobby, so what to do? This post will give you some helpful tips on what to do with old bread that I’ve learned over my almost two decades of bread making.
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Plan Ahead When Making Bread
It’s important to know how many people in your family will be eating bread, and how much bread you consume. Both of my recipes I’ve shared make two loaves. Even when we were a family of five, I would freeze one loaf as it would take us about 3 days to go through a loaf. Plan ahead and know that bread freezes well in all forms (like the ideas I give below). It may serve you well to go ahead and slice up a whole loaf and freeze the individual pieces if you don’t eat much bread. Alternatively, you could cut a loaf in half and leave out half and freeze the other half.
How to Freshen Stale Bread
On day four, you will need to resort to my tips in this post as your once soft bread will become pretty dry. The easiest fix is a quick pop in the microwave. Slice the number of slices needed, place them on a damp paper towel, and microwave for 3 seconds per slice. You don’t want it hot, just barely warm. This will soften up the bread so you can use for sandwiches.
A fun sandwich idea we like to do with leftover bread is to do an open-faced melt. We do regular cheese toast, but also tuna melts, lunch meat melts, or even hummus melts! Place your topping of choice on a piece of bread, cover with a slice of cheese, then toast in a toaster oven for five minutes. Since you are actually toasting the bread (in addition to melting the cheese), this option doesn’t require soft bread and turns out perfect!
Make Homemade Croutons
Croutons are a sure-fire way to get kids more interested in eating a salad! If you purchase croutons at the store, not only will they have some unhealthy seasonings, but they will be using refined bread that won’t benefit your health in the least. As with everything you make from scratch, you will be able to control every ingredient you use. Making croutons is simple and only takes about five minutes of hands-on time. Follow these steps:
- Cut up dried-out bread into cubes. I like to use about one inch cubes- bigger than that becomes hard on the jaws!
- For every one cup of bread cubes, use 1 Tbs of oil or butter. This is your preference (I use olive oil) but just make sure you have the correct ratio of fat to bread cubes.
- Toss in a bowl with choice of fat and seasonings. Seasonings are also your preference- I use simple salt and pepper and this yields a versatile crouton. You can add a small sprinkle of garlic powder as well. Italian seasoning and even parmesan are delicious! Sprinkle on just the amount that will cling to the croutons from your added fat.
- Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for about 15 minutes. You’ll get the most even results if you flip the croutons midway through baking.
- Allow to cool completely before storing. You can put in an airtight bag at room temperature and use within a week, or place in a freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
Make Homemade Bread Crumbs
Bread crumbs are used for so many recipes in the kitchen. They can be used for anything from a topping to a binder. Some recipes will call for soft bread crumbs while others call for dry. I’ve got you covered on both options! It doesn’t matter if your bread loaf is dry. That will still yield soft breadcrumbs. To make, simply break into chunks and process in your food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, crumbling by hand is an option, though I find the crumbs not to be as uniform. Soft breadcrumbs are literally that easy!
To make dried bread crumbs, follow the instructions above- use your hands or food processor to break into small crumbs. The food processor does a better job for dried crumbs because you want them to be very small. Next, place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 250 for 20-30 minutes, or until golden. You may stir midway through cooking to assure even crispness.
For storing your bread crumbs: soft bread crumbs will store at room temperature for a few weeks, but will continue to dry out. You may place in an airtight bag and freeze for up to six months. Dried bread crumbs will last much longer in your pantry as long as the container is sealed tightly. I live in a humid environment, so I always choose to pop mine in the freezer just to assure no mold growth.
Make a Breakfast Strata
One of the most delightful things about breakfast stratas is that you prepare them the night before so all you have to do in the morning is pop them in the oven! There are a multitude of recipes out there, both savory or sweet. Here are a couple to get you started:
Make French Toast
Most French toast recipes call for “day old” bread, which means your bread that is starting to dry out is perfect! Slice up one inch thick slices of your bread- trust me, you’ll want them to be this thick, otherwise, they’ll fall apart when dipped in the egg mixture. Allow them to set out for about 10 minutes after slicing while you prepare the egg mixture. This keeps them from absorbing too much and falling apart. You will need:
- Six slices of your old bread
- Egg Mixture: 2 eggs, 2/3 cups whole milk, 1 tsp of brown sugar (I use turbinado for just about everything). Wisk very well- the eggs need to incorporated all the way or you’ll have chunks of egg on the outside- yuck.
- Melt 1 Tbs butter in a large skillet. Work as you go with your slices- dip quickly on each side in the mixture and place in skillet. If you let soak longer, your bread will fall apart.
- Place about three slices at a time into the skillet with lightly browned butter and cook on each side about 1 minute.
I hope these ideas will continue to help you in your bread making journey! As always, feel free to shoot me an email with any questions you have to support the health of you and your family!