It happens to everyone. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Take a deep breath and forgive yourself...
...for letting the bread go stale, that is.
Maybe you forgot about a loaf, or perhaps you made too much of a good recipe. Instead of throwing it to the chickens, make something tasty. Much of what you can do with old bread isn’t an “extra”—it can actually replace some items (like crackers and croutons) that you might normally purchase at the store.
The main thing to remember when working with leftover bread is just go with it—instead of trying to return the stale bread to its original form (I have no idea how you would try to do that, actually...) work with the staleness. Recipes that involve further dehydrating the bread are often a good bet. Below, I’ve given three recipes that work particularly well for using up that old bread.
- Whatever stale bread you have on hand
- Spices to taste
- The spices you use obviously affect the type of croutons you wind up with. I particularly like to coat my croutons with ranch seasoning or dill, salt and pepper, or garlic. Experiment to find your favorite.
- Olive oil
Cut your bread into crouton-size pieces. I prefer larger croutons, so I cut mine to suit. If you like them smaller, go for it.
Next, put all the pieces into a bowl. Add enough oil to evenly coat each crouton. Finally, add whatever spices or flavoring you prefer. The amounts will vary depending on how strong you want the flavor and how much bread you’re making into croutons; start with a teaspoon. Generally speaking, you’ll want each crouton to be at least half-coated with the mixture.
Spread the croutons onto a baking sheet. It’s okay if they’re touching, but don’t layer them. Place them in an oven that’s been pre-heated to 300 degrees.
After 15 minutes, check to see how crispy they are. If they need more time, return in 15 minutes and check them again. When finished, let them cool before storing them.
Though technically croutons are supposed to be crunchy, I actually like mine with a slightly soft center. Your preferences may vary. Store your homemade croutons in an airtight container.
- Olive oil
This is an incredibly complex recipe. Are you ready?
Slice your bread into ¼ inch-thick pieces.
Lightly brush with olive oil.
Spread on a baking sheet.
Place in an oven that’s been preheated to 400 degrees.
Come back in 10 minutes. If they’re not toasted to your liking, come back in another 10 minutes.
Optional: Teething crackers
The only difference here is that you’ll want to make them a bit thicker—somewhere between ¼ and ½ an inch thick. I also like to cook them just a tiny bit longer to harden them up a bit more.
Store homemade crackers in an airtight container.
I saved the best (well, the sweetest) for last.
Stale bread works great for this recipe, since it gets all saturated with gooey-rich liquid.
- ½ pound of bread (sweet breads work well for this, but I like to cut the sweetness of this recipe by using regular, non-sweet bread)
- 4 eggs
- 1 ¾ cups milk
- 1 cup sugar
- ¾ cups whipping cream
- 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
- Optional: ½ cups of nuts, raisins, or anything else you want to try
For the sauce:
- 1 cup of whole milk
- ½ cup of powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
- Optional: ¼ cup of rum or whisky
Cube the bread into one-inch cubes.
Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Add milk, sugar, cream, and vanilla. Mix. Add in cubed bread and optional add-ins. Pour into a buttered glass baking dish. Refrigerate for one hour.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour.
For the sauce
Heat the first three ingredients on low in a small saucepan. When heated through, add optional rum or whisky and then pour over the bread pudding. Serve.
Like I always say—experiment! You could add a ½ cup of pureed pumpkin to the pudding mixture—or even the sauce. You could add vanilla to the sauce and take away the cinnamon (or not). Use this recipe as a basic starter, and then develop it as you become more confident in your baking.
The next time you find a stale loaf of bread or even a few pieces, work with the staleness and make one of these easy recipes. Make homemade croutons, crackers, or bread pudding and never waste another piece of bread again.