You had the best intentions for your beautiful, crusty sourdough loaf—mile-high sandwiches and breakfasts slathered with jam. But time and humidity stole that pillowy texture, leaving you with rock-hard, won’t-break bread. But don’t toss it! Stale bread can be as much of a pantry superstar as its former fresh self. Depending on how hard your loaf has become, here are six ways to use those scraps.
One of the fastest ways to use up a past-its-prime loaf is to soak it in eggs and milk, then fry it up to crispy perfection. Cover it in sweet syrup or powdered sugar, or dress it up in an extra layer of cereal for crunch. Want to try savory? Stuff thick slices with seasoned mashed avocado give it the grilled cheese treatment with Mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes.
Pancotto, which literally means “cooked bread” is a traditional dish that appears in some form or another throughout all of Italy. Making this recipe is simple, yet flavorful: Roughly chop the bread into chunks, saute onion, carrot, celery, and garlic with a pinch of salt, then add water and bring to a boil. Once it’s simmering, add the bread and cook until the soup has become thick and creamy, like oatmeal. Add some cheese and it’s ready to eat.
Sticky sweet bread pudding is a tried-and-true dish for using up leftover loaves. Just like French toast, it starts with soaking in an eggy-milky mixture, but this time with bread cubes—make sure to slice uniformly for even absorption and cooking. Mix everything (including spices and nuts and fruit and chocolate) together in a bowl, let it all hang out for 30 minutes, then bake at 350° F until the liquid has evaporated (about 30 to 45 minutes depending on the size).
Strata’s a savory cousin of aforementioned bread pudding, a warm dish of bread-y, custardy eggs dotted with whatever fillings your heart desires, and topped with a puffed, golden crust. Follow the same formula as above, but with savory add-ins instead of sweet.
Crunch and oil and salt and breadiness make everything better, and there’s no better way to add some magic to your meal than breadcrumbs. The easiest (and fastest) way to make your own is to give rough chunks of bread a whiz in the food processor. But if you don’t mind a little bit of elbow grease, you can grate your bread with a box grater. Toast the crumbs in a 350° F oven with a glug of oil and sprinkle of seasoning and you’re golden.
Or, if you want bigger chunks, tear up your stale bread, massage with smashed garlic and olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and broil them until crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.
How do you use up your stale bread? Do you add breadcrumbs to meatloaf? Throw chunks into a wintery panzanella? Share your favorite recipes and tips below!