With two of The Takeout’s editors on a sourdough bread baking kick, there are a lot of carbs—and crumbs—in our lives. So many carbs, in fact, that we sometimes feel up to our eyeballs in bread of varying stages of freshness. It seems a pity to waste even part of a loaf we spent so much time and attention on, so we turned to chefs to ask their fresh uses for stale bread. Fellow gluten lovers, we want to hear your suggestions, too.
Probably the most interesting use from my perspective is in the few sauces that call for bread directly, like Romesco, a Spanish sauce that’s a blend of roasted red peppers, nuts, bread and olive oil. Typically you will see this served with grilled foods such as steak.
—Ryan Brosseau, chef at Le Sud (opening this summer), Chicago
Grilled cheese balls
We created our famous “grilled cheese balls” after realizing we had a lot of leftover bread they didn’t want to waste. They’re made with leftover bread and four different types of cheese, all rolled into a ball and plopped over a house made tomato-basil soup. So you take day-old bread and cut it into chunks; then make it sort of doughy with milk, cream, soft butter and an egg. Then grate a bunch of cheese into it, form balls, and bake them at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for a few minutes.
—Daniel Sharp, executive chef, The Meatball Shop, NYC
New bread with old dough
If you are a bread baker with extra bread laying around, a pretty cool way to incorporate some flavor is to mix old bread into new bread dough. I take old rye loaves and toast them, then grind them in a food processor and mix the powder—about 20 percent of what I need for a recipe—into a new batch of bread. It’s like bread inception!
—Greg Wade, head baker, Publican Quality Bread, Chicago
We have an open-source homebrew recipe that uses bread that would otherwise go to waste. It makes a beer similar to a pale ale, and it’s been accessed over 30,000 times. We hear about home brews fighting food waste with our recipe all the time.
—Joanna Ehrenreich, general manager, Toast Ale USA
Crusts and butt ends are a great flavor booster when making stock. Treat them like bouquet garni and just strain them out of the final stock. Although it’s getting warmer and you probably don’t want to think about making soup any time soon. If you do, this recipe (it’s not mine) is excellent.
—Jacqueline Eng, head baker, Vaucluse, NYC
One of the easiest thing you do with leftover bread is to make your own croutons. But don’t make them boring; you can flavor with many different options like fresh garlic and rosemary and parsley; curry mix; or bacon fat and black pepper.
—Jacques Qualin, chef de cuisine, J&G Steakhouse at The Phoenician, Scottsdale, Arizona
Day old bread is great for pizza bread or garlic butter bread. My personal favorite: taking Gorgonzola cheese or Brie and putting it on day-old bread with sautéed onions caramelized in butter and red wine. After you caramelize the onions, place them on top of bread and cheese, and let the natural heat from the onions melt the cheese.
—Hans Aeschbacher, executive chef, III Forks, Chicago
Creamy Cheesy Greens are a Woodberry Kitchen favorite, made with leftover bread as the base layer. Layer leftover bread in the bottom of a casserole dish, then get a ton of greens together—collards, chard, kale, spinach, etc. Mix them with a mixture of hot milk, eggs, and white cheddar, then spread the greens over the bread. Top with more cheese and bake!
—Spike Gjerde, chef/partner of Woodberry Kitchen, Baltimore
I like making pain perdu, a french toast variation that uses staler bread soaked for a longer time (3-4 minutes) in a mixture of eggs and milk. Any bread words, but I really like to use brioche, challah or a pain au lait. A few tips: Using half-and-half mixed with a tablespoon of plain yogurt instead of milk will make your pain perdu richer. And if you want a more savory dish, cook your pain perdu in bacon fat instead of butter and throw in a pinch of smoked sea salt.
—Ramon Siewert, chef, Doors Open, San Francisco
Whenever I have leftover, dry bread, I made this recipe from East France/Germany. Just add the dry bread into boiling water. It will become like a sponge. Then remove all the excess water, and add very thinly sliced onions, a lot of parsley, chervil, egg, salt and white pepper. Roll into balls and set aside. Boil some salted water, then turn down the heat and carefully place the bread balls into the water and cook slowly for about 10-15 minutes (depending on the size). Serve this with mushroom gravy! It’s delicious, and no waste.
—Antoine Westermann, chef/owner, Le Coq Rico, NYC
We save our leftover cornbread and puree it with hot butter to create cornbread butter. We serve the cornbread butter on top of fresh, grilled corn on the cob and add some popcorn on top.
—Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth, chefs, Root & Bone, NYC