Fresh baked goods bring such joy. So much promise; so much deliciousness. But that happiness fades a few days later when you’re left with a crumbly, hardening crust, a wonky folded slice or a hunk of impossibly hard baguette.
A clever new book by Alex Elliott-Howery and Jaimee Edwards of Sydney’s innovative cafe Cornersmith has solutions for those pesky leftover bits of bread along with suggestions, ideas and more than 230 recipes on how to reduce food waste and be clever with what’s filling your fridge and larder.
Cornersmith has been showing us how to eat with the seasons and making preserving a thing since 2012. So their waste-free focus is unsurprising. The waste hack section in Use It All on bread includes three recipes on using up what they reckon is one of the most wasted foods in households.
“Ingenuity can turn a dry piece of bread into a salad or sauce or pudding. The chewiness and dryness of days-old bread is exactly what you need to soak up milk and eggs for French toast, or to hold its own under a generous slosh of olive oil in panzanella [Tuscan salad with hunks of bread]. Collect the odd ends and freeze them for when they will come in handy. There is no excuse to throw stale bread away,” they say in the book.
Here are their suggestions on resuscitating stale, inedible bread.
What English speakers call French toast, the French call pain perdu (lost bread). This sounds quite melancholic, as if the last hunk of bread is going to be orphaned unless someone rescues it by soaking it in eggs and milk. You must use stale bread for French toast as fresh bread will fall apart when soaked.
How to do it
Cut a hunk of stale bread into 4 slices about 1.5 to 3cm thick. In a large bowl, whisk 3 tablespoons full cream milk and 2 eggs, adding a pinch of ground cinnamon if you like. Soak the bread slices, one at a time, for about 1 minute, turning the slices over now and again. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a frying pan over medium heat and fry for 2 minutes on each side or until the bread is golden brown. Serve with a drizzle of honey or jam or maple syrup. Makes 4.
Save the ends of your bread and store them in the freezer. Once you have enough, make this breadcrumb mix (although you can, of course, halve double or triple the recipe as required). Use it to crumb vegetables and meat or the fish cakes. You can also use it to bind meatballs, burgers or sprinkle it on top of pasta.
How to do it
Preheat the oven to 110°C for 15 minutes. Blitz 250g bread slices into rough breadcrumbs in a food processor, then spread out on a baking tray and dry in the oven for 30 to 60 minutes, depending on how large the breadcrumbs are. Keep checking to ensure that they don’t burn. Allow to cool, then blitz again until you reach your preferred breadcrumb consistency. Transfer to a bowl and mix in 1 tbsp smoked paprika, 1 tbsp dried oregano, 1 tsp mustard powder, 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp cracked black pepper. Store in a glass jar in the freezer (don’t worry, it won’t become solid) for up to six months. Makes about 2 cups.
Another way to use up stale bread is to turn it into crispy, fried croutons for salads, soups and snacks.
How to do it
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium to high heat. Add 3 minced garlic cloves and stir for a few seconds, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn. Throw in 1 to 2 cups bread chunks and a good sprinkling of salt, then stir well to coat the bread in the garlicky salty oil. Once the bread is starting to crisp, transfer to a baking tray and bake for 3 to 5 minutes, until crisp but not hard. Allow to cool completely, then store in an airtight jar or container for 3 days. Makes 1 to 2 cups.
Transform inedible stale bread into the best crackers for cheese and dips.
How to do it
Preheat the oven to 130°C. Combine 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp salt and 2 tsp dried herbs (such as rosemary) in a bowl. Dab 2 to 3 stale bread slices with the oil mixture and place on a baking tray. Dry in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the bread is crisp. Store in an airtight container for 3 days.
Images and text from Use it All by Alex Elliott-Howery and Jaimee Edwards, photography by Cath Muscat. Murdoch Books $39.99.