Recipes for Old Bread
Customers often worry they won't make it through a whole loaf of bread by themselves, and ask if they can freeze the remainder. I’m always slightly baffled by the question—the answer is yes, you can, though I prefer not to freeze rye since it thaws crumbly—because I can easily eat a half a loaf by myself in a day, and surely, if I can eat half a loaf in a day, anyone can eat a whole loaf in a week.
The breads I bake are no baguettes, to stale to rocks in a day or two. They keep well. The acid from sourdough prevents staling, and the extra moisture held in the bran of the whole grain flours keeps the loaves soft enough to cut for well over a week. Even so, the breads change as they age. With time, the crumb sets more firmly and begins to dry out; the flavors mellow. Personally, I like my breads best 4 or 6 days after they’re baked, when they’re firm enough to cut whisper thin for an optimum 1:1 bread:butter ratio. Though they’ll keep for days yet, at around a week I start looking for ways to recycle my old loaves. There are, after all, new loaves piling up, and the old heels can start to look sad, sitting forgotten at the back of the cutting board.
The following are some of my favorite things to do with old (7-12 day) bread:
OLD RYE (Because rye is so dense, it’s more or less impossible to cut once completely dry, so always store your bread with the cut ends covered, and take action before your loaves have fully petrified.)
Croutons: Cube the bread. Toss in a skillet over medium high heat with a generous pour of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Stir frequently, until the sides are seared deep gold. These are excellent on salad, but don’t always last long enought to make it into the bowl.
Crisps: Slice the bread as thin as you can (if you happen to have a meat slicer, this would be an excellent time to use it). Leave dry or toss with oil. Spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet, and toast in the oven on low heat (~300°F) until the slices are lightly browned and completely dry. Eat as crackers, or break up over salad or soup. These will keep in a sealed container for months.
OLD WHEAT (Though not necessary, lightly toasting the bread first will add flavor to any dish.)
General Hot Dish: Use sliced bread in place of noodles in your favorite casseroles. I particularly love old bread lasagna. If you can wrap your mind around the extraordinary amount of butter, try layering old Red & White with Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce, grated Pecorino Romano, and mozzarella. Remember that the bread will absorb more liquid than would cooked noodles. Use a heavy hand with the sauce.
Strata: Mix cubed bread, sauteed or roasted vegetables, chopped herbs, cheese, and perhaps pancetta or sausage in a buttered glass dish. Mix equal parts milk and egg, plus a little salt and pepper, and pour over the dish until the bread is fully submerged when pressed down. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours, or, better yet, overnight. Top with cheese and bake at 350°F until the custard is set in the middle, about 40-60 minutes. This was my grandmother’s favorite addition to Sunday brunch. It’s a great way to use up leftover odds and ends, and in the morning all you need to do is move it from the refrigerator into the oven.
I know it's supposed to drizzle this afternoon, but come to market anyway for a new loaf, and some of these beautiful fruit tarts.
See you soon!
Owner | Baker
TODAY AT MARKET
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No WEDNESDAY MARKET this week
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