Bread

How to Make Stale Bread (Yes, on Purpose!)

For bread puddings, stuffings, croutons, and more.

July 23, 2020
Photo by James Ransom

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. Today: Forgot to stale the bread? Not to worry—stay calm, follow these easy-peasy steps, and carry on.

So you think your days of emergency bread-staling are over, do you? The stuffing's behind you? There are bread puddings and breadcrumbs and croutons in your future yet. And amidst your adept holiday meal-planning, you might (just might) let staling the bread slip.

When that happens, don't scrap the bread pudding. (Never scrap the bread pudding.) Here is what to do.  

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If you remember with a day to go, slice your loaf.

The more of the bread's surface area you expose to air, the faster it will stale; slice it, and you're giving yourself a leg up on the whole process. (If you'll eventually be cubing your bread, be careful to cut it into slices with the same thickness you'd like your cubes to have.) Lay the slices on a cooling rack you'd normally use for cookies, let the air circulate, and watch your bread go gloriously brittle. Tomorrow it will be ready to turn into breadcrumbs or put into that pudding

If you truly have no time, turn to your oven. 

Giving your bread a quick bake in a 350ºF oven will starve it of its moisture—which is exactly what you're looking for. Cut your loaf into evenly sized cubes or slices (depending on what you're making), and toast them, dry, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Proceed with your recipe. (Please save us some.)

How to Stale Bread from Food52

A Few Recipe Ideas for All That Stale Bread 

Pappa al Pomodoro (Tuscan Bread Soup with a Sage Oil Drizzle)

This Tuscan bread soup takes just five simple ingredients (think: tomatoes, garlic, and stale bread) and magically turns them into a spectacular dish.  

Albóndigas al Chipotle

"For our first dinner in the new house, my mom made a staple of Mexican home cooking, albóndigas (meatballs in a tomato sauce)," writes Isabel Torrealba in her My Family Recipe

Crispy Salt & Pepper French Toast

French toast goes the savory route in this extra-crispy version with a healthy kick of salt and freshly ground pepper. Maple syrup gets swapped for ketchup, or if you're feeling like something spicy, Sriracha. 

Strata with Sausage & Greens

This "kitchen-sink" dish works for almost anything you've got lying around the fridge (from soon-to-be-wilty greens to leftover sausage), yet looks impressive on a dinner table. 

French Onion Soup, the Scorched Way

We'll admit it: Our favorite part of French onion soup is the melty-crispy cheese on top. But those hunks of crisp, stale bread give the soup its classic, comforting heartiness. 

How do you stale bread in a hurry? Tell us in the comments! 

Photos by James Ransom

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Kenzi Wilbur

Written by: Kenzi Wilbur

I have a thing for most foods topped with a fried egg, a strange disdain for overly soupy tomato sauce, and I can never make it home without ripping off the end of a newly-bought baguette. I like spoons very much.

6 Comments

improbability August 7, 2020
Can I make decent stale bread for making a strata out of wonder bread? (I know, I know, it's the grossest, but it's on hand and it's got to be used up.)
 
caroljay86 October 24, 2017
I don't care for stale bread; I prefer to dry out bread cubes in the oven, as described in the article. I use a lower oven temperature (300 degrees) and I cut the bread into cubes.
 
bobby November 27, 2016
FYI bread is not the same like with most processed foods nothing but chemicals being added and the good stuuf extracted .. leathal isn't even close
 
Anthony J. May 27, 2016
Microwave it 2 mins at a time until stale - Satling is a physio-chemical process so to accelerate it just heat but not too hot or it will just dry and not stale - there is a difference!
 
softenbrownsugar May 21, 2015
Oh, I did love this comment, Barbara. In Calgary it's the same thing, although when I grew up in Seattle, you could leave a piece of bread on the counter for nearly days, and it would still be moist.
 
Barbara Z. March 10, 2015
Or if you live in Colorado, just leave out on the counter for 20 minutes--it will be STALE enough to use in any recipe. Leave out overnight, and it will become a lethal weapon. Thanks for reminding me that in some universes, you actually have to think about how to make a baked product stale.