Five Easy Ways to Use Stale Bread
The Good Old Days
When I was a child, bread came in crinkly cellophane wrappers that ripped easily. Bread that was not used up within a few days would quickly go stale. That was okay; there are uses for stale bread.
Nowadays, bread is packed in plastic bags, and can be sealed up nearly airtight. This traps moisture, and moisture and bread are the perfect ingredients for mold. I don’t know of any uses for moldy bread.
French bread, such as shown in the photo above, can still go stale, as it's packaged, for the most part, in the same open-ended paper sacks as it was in my childhood. The pre-sliced loaves also still come in those easily-torn cellophane wrappers, so stale French bread is still a problem unless you overwrap it in a plastic bag.
Never fear: I am here to rescue you from stale bread woes!
No Intent to Mislead...
This is categorized under dessert recipes. Hang on, those are here, I promise. I just started with one of the easiest uses for your stale bread.
Further down, I snuck in another not-for-dessert use, but hey--you got 2 desserts here, and maybe 2 breakfast dishes as well. Heck, I'll eat either one as dessert or breakfast. Thing is, we cannot use multiple categories in the same article, so my hand was forced.
So, what's for dessert? Keep reading to find out! ;-)
1. Easiest of All the Uses
When I was a child, some 50+ years ago, we used to do go out to Golden Gate Park and feed the ducks at one of the several lakes there. Alas, that is no more, as it turns out that feeding bread to ducks, or other birds, is really very bad for their health.
So, instead of doing that, I suggest you simply use the stale slices to make your own homemade garlic bread. Since garlic bread is toasted, anyway, it gets a bit crispy, and the butter in the garlic spread serves to soften up the center as it melts into the bread.
Garlic butter is very easy to make, but if you don't care to do that, there are commercially prepared spreads available, and it's as easy as 1-2-3!
(1) Just spread the slices with the garlic butter,
(2) put them on a baking sheet, and
(3) pop them into an oven set at 375o F. for about 5 minutes.
No cutting or other 'processing' of the bread is required.
(Isn't it interesting that we turn up our noses at stale bread, yet turn it stale on purpose by putting into a toaster, thus drying it out and making it crunchy?)
Don't Feed Bread to The Ducks!
2. The Next Easiest Thing
Croutons!! It is so easy to make your own croutons to top a salad, or sprinkle on top of soup. Simply cut up the stale bread into cubes about 1/2" square, and spread them out in a single layer on cookie sheets. (Use the kind with sides, sometimes called ‘jelly roll pans.’)
You can either toast them in the oven as-is, or season them to taste. I prefer to leave them plain; they are more versatile that way. It doesn't take very long; perhaps 8 to 10 minutes total. Stir them a bit halfway. You aren't going for a lot of color; you just want some crunchy texture.
If you don’t go through a lot of bread, you can save the heel ends for this by simply tossing them, still in their original bag, into the freezer. Add to this until you have collected enough. You can thaw to cut them into cubes, but you don’t have to. It depends on what kind of knife you’re going to use. A serrated knife will easily cut frozen bread, as bread is one of those things that doesn't freeze as rock-solid hard as say, a piece of meat.
Some families don’t ever use the heels; some use every last piece of bread. When I was a kid, in the days of the cellophane wrappers, we did not eat the heels. Mom proclaimed that the heels had a purpose: namely, keeping the air off the next slice in the loaf. The heels, then were sacrificed to going stale to keep the rest of the loaf fresh.
I also recall that a lot of bread went into the stuffing at Thanksgiving. I don’t know if back then, pre-packaged bread cubes were not available, as they are now, or what. I do, however, recall mom putting every slice of an entire loaf out on a tray to deliberately go stale, for use in the stuffing.
But, If you have saved your stale and leftover bread, and cubed it up into croutons, stuffing is certainly another use for those croutons!
3. Now We’re Cooking!
A delicious use for bread gone stale is to make French Toast. It is not difficult, and only slightly time-consuming.
Yes, this use requires actual cooking, on the stove. It's slightly more involved than putting croutons into the oven. This is an excellent starter-dish for teaching kids to help out with meals.
Most everyone knows what this is, but, here is my recipe:
French Toast á là Dizzy Miss Lizzy
- 6 to 8 slices moderately stale bread
- 2 to 3 eggs, beaten
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup milk, (or 1/2 cup milk + 1/4 cup heavy cream)
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract, (more or less to taste)
- Pre-heat a griddle or large frying pan, and lightly oil, or use a non-stick pan.
- Beat all ingredients except bread, in a flat-bottomed bowl until well blended and evenly colored.
- Using a fork, dip each slice quickly into the egg mixture, turn over to coat both sides, and remove. Let excess drip back into bowl, and place the slice on the heated griddle. Repeat with as many slices as will fit. Adjust heat to medium. (Note that the more stale the bread, the longer you can leave it in the egg mixture to soak up some liquid. Fresher bread has to be a quick dip in and out again, or it will fall apart.)
- Turn over when golden brown, and fry other side. This happens fairly quickly, so stay focused.
- Repeat until all slices are used.
- Serve hot with butter and maple syrup or sprinkled with confectioner's sugar. Some people prefer jam to syrup.
This is a nice treat and change for the weekend, from the work-day breakfast fare, and the quantity can easily be adjusted up or down for more or less bread. It is not a scientific recipe; it can be modified to suit personal taste. Unlike cake--which depends upon certain proportions of certain ingredients in order to turn out well--French Toast can be whipped up with no actual recipe, just an ingredients list.
If you end up with more than you can eat, simply cool on a rack, and package in freezer bags. Then, you can either re-heat in the toaster or microwave for a quick treat.
Can You Get French Toast in France?
In France, the dish is called “Pain perdu,” or “lost bread,” for it salvages stale bread that would otherwise be thrown away (lost). It is also more likely to be served as a dessert, and not for breakfast as we do here.
4. A Step Further
Aha--now that you have croutons, you can take it a step further, and use them as the base for bread crumbs. Breading with crumbs is a common method for preparing many foods, whether baked or fried.
Whether you prefer fine bread crumbs or coarse, you have full control. Simply toss your croutons into the food processor, and blend until you have the consistency you want.
Alternately, if you don't have a food processor, you can put the croutons into a plastic zipper bag and crush them using an old-fashioned rolling pin.
If you don't have a rolling pin, an unopened can of spaghetti sauce, or other canned food with some weight to it will work.
5. Would You Believe, Dessert?
That's right! Stale bread can be resuscitated into a delicious dessert. It's an old recipe, and comes from the days when people could not afford to throw away any food. So, they made do with what they had, and got very creative in using up all the scraps.
What you end up with here is bread pudding, and it can be made in either a plain style, sort of a vanilla custard flavor, or it can be made as chocolate bread pudding (my particular favorite).
Yummy Bread Pudding
My Bread Pudding: I'm Giving Away an Old Family Recipe, Here
This is another super-easy recipe that is good for introducing kids to cooking. They will be delighted to help. If really young kids are involved, and you don't already have the bread cubed up, it can be torn into squares, instead of using a knife, that way they can help and stay safe.
Bread pudding is good either as a dessert or for breakfast. I love it either way. Although, I think I'd use the limber cream; (see definition under 'method,' below) and not the ice cream or whipped cream at that end of the day!
stale bread cubes
cut into 1/2" pieces
- Preheat oven to 350º F
- Beat together all ingredients except bread
- Grease a 2-1/2 quart oven dish, and place bread cubes in dish
- Toss in optional raisins
- Pour egg mixture evenly over bread cubes
- Gently press down bread with a spoon to be sure all is coated
- Bake at 350º F for 30 - 45 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out nearly clean
- Serve warm or cold with whipped cream, limber cream,** or ice cream
Makes about 8 servings.
**Limber cream: this is a New England usage from my family. It simply refers to heavy cream that remains liquid, instead of being whipped.
Make Mine Chocolate!
To turn this into chocolate bread pudding, just use 2 squares of baking chocolate in addition to the other ingredients.
However, instead of mixing the milk, eggs, and the rest together, you are going to put the milk and chocolate into a double boiler, and heat until chocolate is melted. Beat together, and turn into a large bowl. Add in the eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla, mixing well. Add nuts if desired; omit raisins.
Pour into greased baking dish, and set dish in a shallow pan of hot water. Put in oven and bake at 350º for about an hour, or until firm in center.
Please don't ask me why the chocolate version requires the baking dish to be sitting in a pan of hot water. I don't know, and neither does anyone I've asked. If you can enlighten me, dear reader, I'd be most grateful.
© 2017 Liz Elias