Stale? Not for long! Photo of ciabatta loaf
by Vincent Talleu | Wikimedia.
Most people believe that when bread goes stale, it’s because the moisture evaporates. It’s more complex than that: Bread will go stale even in a moist, humid environment (details).
Refrigeration doesn’t help: According to Bread.com, bread goes stale most rapidly at refrigerator temperatures—around 41°F/5°C. So keep bread at room temperature rather than in the fridge. (Refrigeration does delay the growth of mold.)
Toasting is a solution for slightly stale bread, pound cake and other non-iced baked goods. But if the product is more than a little stale, it’s time to bring out the “heavy artillery”:
THE MICROWAVE TECHNIQUE
If the bread is just slightly stale, slice and toss it into the microwave for 10-15 seconds.
If it’s very hard, wrap it in a damp paper towel. We place it right on the microwave turntable—no additional dish needed.
If it’s still hard, repeat for another 15 seconds.
Warning, though: once the bread cools off, it will revert to being hard. So enjoy it while it’s warm.
THE OVEN TECHNIQUE
If you don’t have a microwave but do have an oven, use it to freshen bread, rolls and other baked goods:
1. PREHEAT the oven to 450°F/250°C.
2. WRAP the bread, muffins, pound cake, etc. in foil.
3. HEAT for 5 to 10 minutes.
4. SERVE immediately. Keep the bread wrapped in the foil until ready to eat.
STALE BREAD DISHES
For millennia, cooks have repurposed stale bread, resulting in dishes that are quite wonderful. Popular recipes include:
Bread crumbs—just pulse stele bread in a food processor; add optional seasonings
Bread dumplings, a Middle European dish (recipe)
Bread pudding (recipe)
Bread sauce, a British specialty served with poultry (recipe)
Brotzupa/wodzionka, a Silesian soup made from stale bread, fat, water, bacon, lard and seasonings
Flummadiddle, an Early American baked pudding of stale bread, pork fat, molasses and spices
French toast (recipe)
Garlic bread (recipe)
Turn baguettes or other crusty breads into garlic bread. Photo courtesy Floriole Cafe | Chicago..
Garbure, a French soup or stew of ham with cabbage, root vegetables, cheese and stale bread
Haslet, a British pork meat loaf
Skordalia, a Greek garlic dip (potatoes can be substituted for the stale bread)
In medieval Europe, slices of stale bread, called trenchers, were used instead of plates.
If you have a dish to add to our favorite uses for stale bread, let us know!
CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF BREAD IN OUR BREAD GLOSSARY.