Best Thing since Sliced Bread

Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

Don’t toss those leftover bread ends and slightly stale loaves! Here’s how to put bread to some serious sweet and savory uses in your kitchen.

Bread is a staple in most houses, and a perennial item on your shopping list. So you always have it—but sometimes you have too much of it, or too much left over. You probably already know you can make bread crumbs (whir stale and/or lightly toasted leftover bread in a food processor or blender; use the crumbs immediately or freeze them for later), but what else can you do with bread after its usefulness for sandwiches and morning toast is nearing its end?

Lots, it turns out. Whether used for sweet or savory recipes, as a main dish or side, your leftover bread can be reincarnated in ways you may have not even heard or thought about.

Use it for salad topping. Once you’ve made your own croutons, you won’t buy the packaged kind again. Simply cube stale bread, toss the pieces with your favorite herbs and a little bit of oil, butter, or a combination of the two, and either sauté them or bake them in the oven till crisp. Voilà…a tasty homemade topper for salad or soup.

Turn it into crackers. Yes, really, says Panera Bread® chef Tom Gumpel: “I’ve made crackers many times. Just roll bread till it’s paper thin, season it, brush it with oil, maybe add some Asiago cheese, and then bake it.” Bonus points for turning cracker making into an assembly-line-style family activity, with cookie cutters for fun shapes.

Pile it up for pudding. Bread pudding—sometimes sweet, sometimes savory—is popular in cultures across the world, Tom says. Probably because it’s so simple: Just combine any kind of bread—wheat, white, croissants, herbed—with a custard base of eggs, milk, and heavy cream. Bake the mixture in a casserole dish. A savory bread like Asiago, baked with the custard in ramekins, can make individual cheesy appetizers that are to die for. For a go-to dessert, sweeten the custard base, and drizzle the result with caramel or chocolate sauce.

Layer it in a strata. Fancy up your bread pudding by constructing a savory strata, a specialty Tom has demonstrated for audiences multiple times, check out this video for Asiago Strata. Instead of simply tossing the bread together, slice it very thin and layer it with grilled veggies or cheese before resting the mixture in custard and baking it. “If you build the strata inside a soufflé dish—I’ve done 12, 14 layers—and flip it upside down when it’s done, it’s gorgeous,” he says.

Put it in stuffing. “Something as simple as homemade bread crumbs adds a whole new dimension to your stuffing,” he says, especially when you’re using bread infused with great herb and cheese flavors. The crust also lends superb texture.

Make a “raft” for soup. A small toasted bread slice, in pro-kitchen speak, is a “raft,” and it makes soup a little more special. “Slice some bread, cut the slices into shapes, top them with some cheese, and melt that in your toaster oven,” Tom says. Another way bread is a friend of soup: as a thickener. Blend stale bread into gazpacho or other tomato-based soups to add body and a creamy texture.