The Life Cycle of a Loaf of Bread
Life Stage One: Fresh bread!
It doesn’t matter what type of bread it is, as long as it’s a loaf you love. Around this house, we always have a loaf of classic soft white bread, perfect for peanut butter and jelly sammiches. But I’m also madly in love with dark, hearty, cracked-grain breads, especially when toasted, buttered and heaped with smooshed avocado. That’s my notion of perfection, but I digress. I also enjoy baking sourdough bread. My method is very similar to this: Sourdough Bread from Potato Flake Starter.
Life Stage One Point Five: Why is my bread blue?
If this is happening, our adventure ends right here, alas. This bread is dead. I don’t recommend eating moldy bread EVER. Toss it out, all of it, immediately. Don’t try to be frugal and cut away the mold, as most likely it’s sent tendrils deep into your loaf. Okay, this is ewwww, so let’s stop talking about mold and move on. Hopefully we’ve avoided the blue death, and can proceed.
Life Stage Two: This bread’s okay, but it’s getting stale.
You can be a brave soldier and endure another few days eating of stale bread, but why? Get yourself a fresh loaf and enjoy! Meanwhile, your stale loaf is ready to be re-born into a wonderful new form. You get the best of both worlds. More fresh bread, AND homemade delicious treats as well. Win/Win. You can buy croutons and stuffing mixes at the grocery store, but think about it. You already paid for your stale bread. Why would you willingly pay again for food made from stale bread when you can easily make these items at home?
How To Make CroutonsI linked to some basic instructions, but don’t limit yourself. Be creative. Use herbs you enjoy in any combination you want. Don’t get too fussed at the oil-coating steps. We live in a magical age of spray can oils, and I swear that was invented by a crouton-lover.
Sweet Bonus! You can make dessert croutons if you’re starting with a sweet bread, like apple cinnamon or banana bread. Stale muffins will work too as long as you can cube them, (and if you can’t… oh, let’s experiment with sweet bread crumbs!) Instead of herbs and oil, use butter and toss them with sweet coatings such as white or brown sugar, cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, or whatever you like and bake till at least dry. Bake them all the way to browned if your bread can handle it.
Pop a few dessert croutons on puddings, ice cream, or straight into your mouth. Make a pile of them on a dessert plate and hit it with a dollop of whipped cream. Yum.
How to Make Stuffing
Here’s a mix and match chart to get you going on your own signature stuffing mix. The chart doesn’t mention using croutons, but you totally can. In fact, I prefer to use croutons instead of mushy bread cubes.
Life Stage Three: I made croutons! I’m done, right?
Well, maybe. Do you have leftover bits of bread that are too awkward to make into cubes? Is your bread board covered in crumbs from all that slicing? Want to make that loaf of bread go even further? You can! Here’s How to Make Italian Bread Crumbs. I love adding these (along with an egg for binding and lots of chopped onion for happiness) to ground beef just before forming it into hamburger patties. There’s heaps of uses for herbed bread crumbs. They can be a bit pricey at the store, but again, you already paid for the bread. You’re 90% there already.
Bonus Afterlife Suggestion
So you want to be thrifty, but you just can’t be bothered to make croutons or crumbs, not this week, not with that deadline looming and the oven needing cleaning and shouldn’t you be mowing that lawn? Take a short sanity break, find a park bench, and feed the birds. Again, it’s a Win/Win.
Life Stage Four: Readers Speak Out!
This is a PS to my post. There’s been a flood of bread pudding fans reacting to it on Facebook and Plurk – so let’s GO there. I’ll admit I didn’t grow up on bread pudding, but I’ve enjoyed it on occasion. Since I’m not the expert here, please share your bread pudding recipes in the comments!
And let’s not forget…. FRENCH TOAST, too!
All Pics from MorgueFile
Another thought for those sweet breads – cut them into thin little toasts. Once they’re dried, I bet they would be good topped with sweet cream cheese, cottage cheese, or apple butter.
My local grocery store makes croutons out of their extra French bread, but they flavor them with some sort of barbecue powder. I can’t figure out why. That flavor doesn’t appeal to me on a salad. Do you have any idea?
Barbecue French bread sounds a little bit awful – no clue what they use, it could be one of a thousand seasoning mixes! All the better of a reason to make your own, right? And that’s a nice idea about the sweet bread toasts. Rather like a Melba toast but nicer and less tooth-shattering. If you concoct a nice dessert that way, let us know!