Great Stale Bread Recipe Ideas
The structure, texture and flavour of the artisanal loaf gives it unsurpassed eating qualities when fresh, but also means it ages gracefully to give new pleasures when transformed into a range of dishes from soups, salads and dumplings to mains and light meals, desserts and even "pasta".
Stale Bread In Soups
Stale bread slices, fried in olive oil or further dried in the oven, add a lovely, soft, slightly chewy substance to soups such as the Italian zuppa , French onion soup, and Spanish paprika- and orange- zest spiked tomato soup. In the last, the toasted stale bread is topped with fresh split figs.
Bread-thickened soups, where bread is torn into pieces and combined with other ingredients, are equally common. All of the red, white and green types of Spanish gazpacho call for stale white bread, soaked in water and gently squeezed before being blended with the other ingredients.
The Portuguese açordas ("dry soups") are veritable meals in themselves, consisting of day-old bread torn into chunks with hot liquid poured over, and sometimes topped with eggs. In Açorda de Marisco ("dry" shrimp soup), a concentrated shrimp stock perfumed with onions, garlic, herbs and chilli is oured over the torn bread pieces. Eggs are broken over the top and it is served piping hot with lots of freshly chopped coriander and cooked shrimp.
Stale Bread Salads
Fresh bread is an absolute no-no for bread salads as it becomes soggy too quickly. Three days old is a good starting point. The type of bread used varies according to its cuisine of origin.
In the Italian panzanella , a crusty Tuscan loaf is torn and tossed with ripe tomatoes, garlic, red wine vinegar and basil.
Fattoush, the bread salad of Lebanon and Syria, is made with pita bread which is oven-dried until crisp, then broken over a mixture of crisp radishes, cucumbers, ripe tomatoes, spring onions, parsley, mint, coriander, purslane and sumac.
Stale Bread Sauces
Bread sauce is a classic accompaniment for roast chicken. It's made by cooking fresh bread crumbs with milk, butter, chopped onions and seasonings such as bay leaf, nutmeg or cloves. Fresh bread crumbs are made by whizzing cubes of stale bread in a food processor.
In Portugal's Alentejo region, the substantial Migas à Alentejana (pork and beef with bread and garlic) is popular. Bread chunks - moistened in the deglazing liquid after frying meats - along with fried bacon bits and bacon drippings are blended to a smooth, moist, stuffing consistency and served with browned cubes of pork and beef.
Stale Bread Desserts
White bread isn't the only option for bread-and-butter pudding and summer pudding, the best known of stale bread desserts. Try stale pannetone or brioche for a different flavor and textural dimension. Raisin bread makes a brilliant bread-and-butter pudding.
Stale croissants are not only excellent for bread-and-butter puddings but also make terrific crunchy snacks. Just cut up either plain or almond croissants at the various "joints", dust with icing sugar and bake them in a slow oven until they are dried through.
Stale Bread "Pasta" Dishes
The Italians make "pasta" dishes of stale bread. Passatelli , a dish native to the Romagna region of Emilia, consists of thick strands of a nutmeg-seasoned mixture of egg, parmesan and fine dry breadcrumbs, floating in chicken broth.
There's a whole range of bread "lasagnes" which are terrific as part of an antipasto plate or as a light lunch with salad. Pietro Porcu, owner/chef of the Sardinian restaurant Da Noi in Melbourne, often has one of the various Sardinian regional versions on his antipasto table.
Zuppa Gallurese, from Sassari in the north-west of the island, is an eight to ten layer "lasagne" of bread slices doused with a rich, clear broth (made from a mixture of goat, hogget and beef), layered with grated fresh Sardinian pecorino which has been seasoned with cinnamon and pepper.
Here's the version from Càgliari in the island's south which I learnt from Porcu.
MAZZAMURRU (Bread Lasagne from Càgliari)
The following quantities will yield a 3-5 layer lasagne, depending on the size of your baking dish. The original dish uses fresh Sardinian pecorino. Provolone can be substituted.
1 rustic loaf, cut into 2cm to 2.5cm thick slices and allowed to dry out for about 3-4 days
400ml beef or veal stock
250g thinly sliced pecorino
Tomato Sauce (makes approx 400 ml)
1 kg fresh ripe tomatoes (or 2 cans peeled tomatoes)
1 tbspn olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled & smashed
a few strands saffron soaked in 2 tabpns warm water
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Grease a baking dish with a little olive oil.
- Make the Tomato Sauce: If using fresh tomatoes, peel and deseed the tomatoes. Roughly chop the tomatoes. Heat olive oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan.
Fry garlic until golden. Add tomatoes and saffron along with soaking water. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Remove garlic clove and puree in a food processor. Set aside.
- Bring the stock to a simmer. Quickly dip the bread slices, one at a time, in the simmering stock and place each slice in the oiled baking dish to form a base layer. Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce over, then cover with a thin layer of pecorino slices.
- Repeat the process until you have between 3 to 5 layers. Bake in a preheated 180°C oven for about 30 - 45 minutes or until a light golden crust forms. Allow to stand for about 30 minutes in a warm spot before serving.