earth friendly frugality

Save Bread to Save Bread.

Hmmm, a bit repetitive, but you probably catch my drift.
Larger families usually won’t have this problem, but if you are a couple, or living on your own, you have probably noticed a pattern:  A loaf of bread lasts longer than it’s freshness or good flavor/texture does. If it’s not moldy it’s still safe to eat, but- hard stale bread is not pleasant. What to do?

First, I should point out that there is a simple strategy to using your loaf more efficiently. Divide it into 2, 3, or even 4 portions, bag it up (in bread bags you’ve saved from previous loaves, of course!) and freeze it. Toast made from frozen bread is just as “toasty” as fresh, and if placed in the fridge and thawed in the bag, it will usually pass muster for use in making sandwiches too.

If it’s already gone stale, save it in a bag in the freezer because there are an abundance of uses for stale bread. You can make Croutons, Bread-crumbs, Bread sauce, Bread Pudding, or my absolute favorite- Cheese Strata.

For Croutons, some serious crunch-ability is an asset, and you may want to spread each slice with a seasoned butter or herbed oil before toasting under your broiler. (Don’t toast bread prepared in this way in your toaster, because you might set your kitchen on fire! Use your broiler or toaster-oven.) Spread your slices with the mixture you’ve concocted, toast it well, and then cut it up into bite sized chunks. Wait for them to cool, and then store them in a zip-lock bag in the refrigerator, because the added moisture could encourage mold.


If you can make toast, you can make Croutons

Bread pudding and Cheese Strata are variations of the same idea- only one is sweet, and the other savory.
The key to success in either one of these is making sure the bread gets soaked really well in your milk/egg mixture, and getting a nice crusty top without burning it or under cooking the middle.

You also don’t want to have your heat too high, because then the custard that holds everything together will “weep” and your Pudding/Strata will be soggy in the middle. Not good!

Somewhere around 350 degrees should do the trick nicely, if your oven is accurate.
When making your Bread Pudding, you can use any leftover jam, raisins or other dried fruit, frozen or fresh berries, nuts, the tail-ends of a box of cereal, broken cookies, leftover cooked cereal, stale cake, syrup, honey, applesauce, bananas that are getting a bit too ripe, yogurt- flavored or unflavored, any sort of milk, (including soured milk that hasn’t gone too far), cream or even melted ice cream that you despaired of salvaging.

Beat the eggs together with the milk or other liquid, and add your sweetening agent at this step. (It’s nice to reserve a bit of the honey, syrup or sugar for sprinkling on top, but be aware that this also encourages browning- so stay alert and don’t let it burn.) Tear up your bread into medium sized chunks, and soak in the milk/egg mixture for awhile. In the meanwhile- make sure your baking pan or dish is well buttered, and preheat your oven.

If your bread soaks up all the liquid, just add a bit more. Toss in your fruit/nuts, whatever, and load it into your pan. If you have reserved sweetening for the top, now is the time to sprinkle it on. I like to also add a bit of granola to give the top crust a nice crunch.


A simple and thrifty desert

Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of your pudding. It’s done when it doesn’t wiggle in the center.

If you are trying to cut down on dairy products, you can replace at least part of your milk content with cider or juice, and it will still make a delicious pudding.

Incidentally, by using leftover cake, pancakes or waffles instead of bread, layering your fruit and other contents in a more organized fashion,  drenching the finished pudding with fruit syrup or other sweet sauce, and then serving with whipped cream, you have just converted your Bread Pudding into a baked version of “Trifle”.


A more orderly take on Bread Pudding


To make a cheese strata, you basically do the exact same thing, only instead of fruit/nuts/sweetening, you use cheese and savory seasonings. The cheese can be cubed, grated, shaved or otherwise divided into manageable, melt-able bits.

A great way to use up leftover cheeses and vegetables

You can add  basil, chives, dill, or any other savory herb, diced onions, garlic, shredded spinach, chopped asparagus, mushrooms, sour cream, plain yogurt, buttermilk, boursin or some other seasoned cheese spread, dairy based onion dip, or basically anything that seems compatible with the cheese you’re using- which can be any kind you’ve got, and in practically any combination. This is a great way to use up leftover vegetables.


Cheese souffle is basically a more refined version of Cheese Strata

Incidentally, if you go very light on the bread content and reduce the bread you DO use into crumbs, then go heavy on the cheese and the egg/milk mixture, what you will be making is a version of cheese souffle. The bread content will keep it from deflating quite so easily as the more traditional versions.
I’ve made an almost endless variety of variations on these three recipes, and never failed to get a great result.
Save “Bread” by saving your bread! Reduce waste, and save also by not having to buy prepared croutons, bread-crumbs, etc.



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