Be sure not to throw out your leftover stale bread, as there are plenty of delicious recipes that can revive it.
Good bread keeps getting easier to find. Supermarkets now offer dozens of crusty, toothsome varieties, many baked on the premises, and talented, committed bread bakers are opening shops all across America. But in the summer, especially when the humidity is high, bread seems to go from stale to moldy faster than ever. In most cases, the culprit is humidity rather than temperature. And if it’s been made without preservatives, bread goes stale in a day or two. (In fact, bread experts recommend never storing it in the refrigerator, but either freezing it quickly, or storing it at room temperature, tightly sealed.)
In the name of good bread management, here is a selection of recipes to help you make the most of that good bread a day or two after it comes home with you. If it’s too hot to think about turning on the oven, do the next best thing to save your bread: Cut it into chunks, toss them in your food processor, make crumbs, and freeze them in a tightly sealed plastic bag. Before you make bread crumbs, though, be sure to check this list of household uses for stale bread to see if your leftover bread can help you get some chores done!
Basil Tomato Bruschetta
Restaurants often serve this as crisp as melba toast, but it tastes better if it’s more chewy, so don’t use downright stale, hard bread.
- 4 large slices of good bread, ½ to 1 inch thick
- 1 large clove garlic, cut in half
- olive oil
- 2 ripe tomatoes, sliced
- 8 large, fresh basil leaves, chopped
- salt and pepper
Toast the bread over a hot fire or broil for a few minutes just until warm and slightly toasted. Rub the slices with garlic and brush with olive oil. Top with tomatoes and basil and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serves 4.
If you’re craving some bruschetta with cheese, try using your leftover bread with this caprese bruschetta. Not a huge fan of tomato? Try substituting it for peppers in this delicious brushcetta with roasted bell peppers.
Pita Toasted Cheese Sandwiches
Most bread suffers when exposed to the microwave, but here’s a case where it takes on new life. I have yet to find a child who isn’t crazy about these instant sandwiches.
- 4 slightly stale pita bread halves
- mustard (optional)
- ¼ pound cheddar cheese, sliced
Open the pita halves and spread lightly with mustard, if using; otherwise, leave them plain. Stuff with cheese slices. Heat in the microwave for 1 minute on high—no longer. Serves 4.
If you still have more leftover pita, try out this easy recipe for corn and black-bean pitas.
It may sound odd to put bread into salad, but this combination tastes divine on a hot summer day. Let it sit overnight for the best flavor.
- 2 to 3 slices stale white or whole wheat bread
- ⅓ to ½ cup chopped or whole fresh basil leaves
- 2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
- 2 scallions, sliced
- 1 cucumber, sliced
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 2 to 3 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice
- salt and pepper, to taste
Tear the bread into chunks and soak in cold water for 10 minutes. With your hands, squeeze out the water. Place the bread in a medium-sized bowl and add the basil, tomatoes, scallions, cucumber, and oregano. Mix well. In a small bowl whisk together the oil and vinegar and drizzle over the salad. Season with salt and pepper and toss. Cover with plastic wrap and chill, overnight. Serves 4.
If you loved this, try out another panzanella recipe and see how they compare!
Spinach Bread-Crumb Pie
This is one of the easiest recipes you’ll ever make. Serve it warm or at room temperature. Although there are rarely any leftovers, you can reheat it in the microwave.
- 4 cups cooked, drained spinach (2 packages frozen, 10 ounces each)
- 3 ½ cups fresh or frozen bread crumbs, divided
- 1 large, ripe tomato, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine the spinach, 3 cups of crumbs, the tomato, and the garlic in a 2-quart casserole dish. Toss with the olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Top with the remaining 1⁄2 cup crumbs. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until the top is nicely browned. Serves 6 to 8.
This recipe is on the easier side, so if you’re ready for a challenge with a similar taste, go for this kale harvest pie.
An American cousin of the famed English summer pudding, this version is easier since it relies on only one kind of fruit. Make this for dessert on a day you’ve spent picking berries and don’t have the energy to make a pie.
- 1 quart fresh or frozen blueberries, preferably wild
- ¾ to 1 cup sugar
- 1 piece cinnamon stick
- 1 (2-inch) slice lemon peel
- 1 loaf slightly stale homemade or old-fashioned-type white bread
- 1 pint heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon sugar
In a large saucepan combine the berries with the sugar, cinnamon stick, and lemon peel. Add water to barely cover and simmer over low heat until the berries burst and the mixture turns syrupy, about 15 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat. Discard cinnamon stick and lemon peel.
Cover the bottom of a deep, round bowl or pudding mold with a layer of bread, cut in irregular pieces to fit the dish. Spoon on some of the berries and liquid until the bread is soaked and purple. Add another layer of bread and douse it with berries, and so on, until the dish is filled.
Pour the last liquid over the top and cover with plastic. Set a dish or saucer on top, small enough so it will press down on the pudding. Weight it down with a large, heavy can and refrigerate until lunch or supper the next day.
Whip the cream and sweeten it with the 1 teaspoon sugar. Unmold the pudding onto a serving plate and cover with whipped cream. Serve immediately. Pass any extra cream around the table. Serves 6 to 8.
Peach Pecan Bread Pudding
Lowly bread pudding, comfort food of the centuries, is experiencing a renaissance among upscale cooks, who add chocolate, fruit, and nuts for enhanced flavor. The following recipe is forgiving; tinker with it as you wish.
- 1 small loaf raisin bread, sliced, with crust removed
- 4 to 5 medium peaches, peeled and sliced
- 1 cup whole pecans
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 1 quart half-and-half
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease a covered 2-quart casserole dish. Arrange a layer of sliced bread on the bottom of the dish. Add a layer of sliced peaches and sprinkle with pecans. Repeat the layers, ending with bread on top. In a heavy saucepan, combine the syrup and half-and-half. Heat just to a boil and stir in the vanilla. Slowly pour over the top bread layer, saturating it evenly. Cover and bake for 1 hour. Serves 8 to 10.
Pecan-peach muffins can give you another delicious taste of these flavors.
Cherry Bread Pudding
A favorite in Istanbul, this unbaked dessert is usually made with sour cherries. Paula Wolfert adapted it to use sweet cherries in this recipe from Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean (HarperCollins, 1994). Serve with yogurt or whipped cream.
- 1 ½ cups cherries
- ⅓ cup sugar
- ⅔ cup water
- juice of ½ lemon, or more to taste
- 8 slices trimmed stale bread, each slice about ⅔ inch thick, preferably coarse, country-style bread or dense French bread
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- confectioners sugar
Wash and pit the cherries. Place in a nonreactive saucepan; sprinkle with sugar and allow to stand 30 minutes, stirring often. Add the water to the cherries and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook gently 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat to cool and add the lemon juice. (This can be done early on the day you plan to serve the pudding. Complete the next step at least 4 hours before serving.)
Lightly butter a shallow, flameproof casserole dish. Brush one side of each slice of bread with butter and lay, buttered side up, in the dish, overlapping, in one layer. Set under a broiler to lightly toast the bread. Allow to cool completely. Ladle the cold cherry juices over the cool bread. Scatter the cherries on top and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cover with foil and cook 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool in the pan. Serve at room temperature, sprinkled with confectioners sugar. Serves 4 to 6.
Prefer blueberries to cherries? Use this blueberry bread pudding with your stale bread instead.
Another great recipe for your leftover bread is strata, a favorite in community cookbooks of the 1920s.