This article is part of a Don’t Throw It Out! series on how to preserve fresh foods and avoid food waste.
Don’t toss out that stale French bread, croissant, biscuit or even common sandwich bread that has seen better days. As long as it’s not moldy, there are lots of ways to use stale bread. You may find some of them so tasty that you’ll be scrounging through the bakery to buy the day-old stuff (at half price or less, of course).
Some recipes not only allow you to use stale bread, they encourage it, even require it. It’s a must for Thanksgiving stuffing, perfect for grilled sandwiches and garlic bread.
The most common use may be French toast. Even a kid can beat and egg with some milk, dip stale bread in it and fry it. It’s a basic recipe in most kids’ cookbooks. French toast also can get very sophisticated, be made into a casserole, and adapt to both sweet and savory treatments. But let’s start with the basics. Try this recipe from Alton Brown.
Take bread pudding. This dish was invented to use stale bread, and just about any variety — French or Italian bread, challah, plain old white sandwich bread or, best of all, croissants. Best bread pudding I ever ate was made from croissants. Try Nigella Lawson’s recipe.
What about a strata? This hearty dish can be made ahead of time and starts with eggs and bread (both cheap); then add a bunch of other ingredients for flavor (bacon, ham, spinach, peppers, you name it). It usually includes cheese (a good chance to be frugal and use those bits and ends in the fridge). Great for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Test out this sausage and spinach egg strata by Rachael Ray.
Bruschetta just wouldn’t be the same on fresh bread. You need something a bit drier that will hold up when toasted and topped with wet ingredients like tomatoes. Leftover French or Italian or other rustic bread work well here. Try this Giada De Laurentiis recipe.
The Italian panzanella salad is made predominantly of stale bread croutons and fresh tomatoes — a perfect summer dish. Try this one by the Barefoot Contessa.
Or make a pot of ribollita, a hearty Italian soup with vegetables, beans and stale bread. Rachel Rachael Ray has a great recipe.
Croutons bought in the store ready-made can be fairly expensive. And they’re just stale bread. Make your own for the tastiest salads ever. The Neelys’ recipe is super easy.
Bread crumbs. You paid WHAT for a canister of dry bread crumbs at the store? Make your own. They’re called for in many recipes, from meatloaf and meatballs to coatings for fried foods and binder for crab or salmon cakes. Just leave the bread out to dry overnight or place it on a cookie sheet in the oven for a few minutes and then whirl it up in your blender a few slices at a time. Voila! Homemade bread crumbs. Watch Alton Brown make them.
You’ll never toss out stale bread to the birds again.
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For more information about food preservation methods and recipes, see The Home Preserving Bible by Carole Cancler.