Although 2020 was mostly a year to forget, many of us have mastered an unforgettable life skill: how to make bakery-style bread at home. Whether sourdough, baguettes, or fluffy challah bread is more your jam (see what we did there?), one thing’s for sure – if you’ve been baking as much as we have, you probably have a good deal of leftovers on your hands.
Though worry not. Contrary to popular belief, some of the most exciting uses for homemade bread actually come once your creations have gone a bit stale. Not sure what we mean? We’ve enlisted the help of three world-renowned chefs to let us in on their favorite ways to repurpose stale bread.
“Every kitchen I’ve worked in has had a bread recycling program,” says Robert Mendoza, chef at Paris-based Le Saint Sébastien. “Some are as simple as croutons, breadcrumbs, or bread pudding, but my favorite ways to repurpose bread are when it’s done in a clever and unexpected manner, such as bread ice cream, bread miso, or bread sauce.”
First and foremost, Mendoza suggests freezing the bread right away if you don’t have an immediate plan for it. “Breads start to mold within a few days of being baked and sliced, so if you have a plan, wrap it in paper or put it in a bread box, never in plastic wrap,” he advises. Mendoza notes that plastic-wrapping bread traps moisture, which then encourages mold growth. “ You can repurpose your bread up until you see mold. After that it’s too late.”
Chef Robert Mendoza’s Sourdough Bread Sauce Recipe:
(Mendoza suggests serving the sauce with grilled cauliflower or roasted chicken.)
80g old bread cut in small cubes
2 shallots chopped
2 garlic minced
1 fresh bay leaf
Salt and pepper
In a deep pan, melt the butter, then add shallots, garlic and bread. Cook until the bread is golden brown, then add the bay leaf and all of the liquids. Bring to a simmer and gently cook for 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and transfer the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
In Upstate New York, Chef Ryan Tate of Shale Hill Hospitality Group (formerly of Deer Mountain Inn) also makes a version of Bread Sauce that he serves with game birds. “Freezing the bread before it molds is a must. If it’s dehydrated, it’s too old,” he says.
Chef Ryan Tate’s Homemade Bread Sauce
600 ml whole milk
1 onion, peeled and halved
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
5-6 thyme sprigs
120g fresh white breadcrumbs
50 g butter
Sweat onions until translucent, then add herbs, spices, and cover with milk. Bring to a boil and reduce. Simmer with a lid to infuse. Strain out onions, herbs, and spices. Return milk to pan, add breadcrumbs, and simmer for 15 minutes until thick. Add butter, season with salt, and serve.
In New York City, Chef Harold Moore (Harold’s) repurposes stale bread to make bread dumplings, which can simply be made with butter and broth. For an added touch of luxury, Moore likes to add truffle or bone marrow to the recipe. (Note: Moore adds that bread is ready to be frozen after 2-3 days of being left out fresh on the counter, though it shouldn’t be frozen for more than one month.)
Chef Harold Moore’s Truffle Bread Dumplings Poached in Beef Bone Broth (Serves 4)
10 -12 slices of stale bread (baguette or sourdough preferred)
1½ cups of lukewarm whole milk
2 Tbsp. of bone marrow or high quality butter
1 tsp. fine sea salt, plus additional for seasoning
2 shallots, finely diced
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. Preserved Truffle
1 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley, chopped, plus more to garnish
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 quarts of beef bone broth
4 3-inch roasted marrow bones with marrow in tact, to garnish (Optional)
Fresh Truffle, to garnish (Optional)
Cut bread (with crust) into small pieces and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the milk and allow the bread to hydrate for 45 minutes to one hour. Carefully pour off the excess milk and set aside. In a small sauté pan, heat the butter or bone marrow over medium heat and add the shallots. Season with salt and sweat until the shallots are translucent. Add the parsley and pull off the heat. Add the shallot mixture to the bread and stir. Add the preserved truffle and parmesan cheese. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Add the eggs and mix thoroughly.
Form the mixture into dumplings using moistened hands or two wet tablespoons. (Tip: if the mixture is too loose to form into dumplings, add more stale bread until it’s the right consistency to hold its form.) Bring the bone broth to a simmer and drop the dumplings into the bone broth and simmer for about 20 minutes, flipping occasionally. Place one marrow bone into a shallow bowl. Gently ladle the broth around the bone. Add 3-4 dumplings to the bowl and garnish with fresh truffle shavings and/or a sprinkling of parsley.