What can be done with that once beautiful fresh loaf of bread is now a little tough or down right rock hard?
I am happy to say, unless the mold has set in, you don’t have to throw it to the birds. Whether if biting into it the left over loaf feels like a dog going after a raw-hide bone or cutting into it just results in crumbles, you have many options.
The below are some basic ideas and can be used for any type of bread: french bread, Italian bread, sandwich bread, hamburger/hot dog buns (more sweet), sour dough, pumpernickel, etc.. (you can also use any of the below with fresh bread, just reduce the heat to 300 and bake longer). If you are not sure what seasonings go with which bread, dip a piece of bread in the seasoning first, then taste. If you like it – then its good!
Some of the below combinations can also be used to season popcorn (tossed with butter of course!) or potatoes.
Note: When I say Olive Oil, I mean Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It has the best flavor. Of course, you can use whatever oil you prefer.
Use the below to top off salads, soups, spreads or use as a snack with tea or for the kids on a road trip.
Preheat oven to 320 degrees.
Cut the bread into cubes (if you the bread just crumbles, you may have to move on to breadcrumbs); Spray with flavored oil (Pam olive oil sprays work well for this); Spread out on a baking sheet and bake for 25 – 40 minutes until croutons are crunchy and all moisture is gone. If there still is a little moisture, then bake a little longer.
Add More Flavor (amounts are assuming you have 2 – 3 cups of cubed bread):
- Italian seasoning: In a bowl mix 1 TBS dried parsley, 1 TBS oregano, 1 tsp ground thyme (or 2TBS dried thyme leaves), 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp fresh ground pepper, 2 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder. Add 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil, mix well. Toss in bread cubes untill all are coated; then spread out on baking sheet and bake 25 – 40 minutes.
- Butter & Garlic: Buttered cooking spray (or butter spray), granulated garlic, salt. Spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet, Spray all sides with the cooking spray, then sprinkle with the garlic and sprinkle with a little salt. Toss together on the baking sheet to make sure all sides have seasoning; bake 25 – 40 minutes.
- Kicked up a notch: In a bowl mix .5 TBS Paprika, 1 tsp Cayenne pepper, 2 tsp Chili powder, .5 TBS garlic powder (or granulated garlic), 2 tsp onion powder, salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Add 2 TBS olive oil, stir to combine and then toss in the bread cubes. Spread on a baking sheet and bake 25 – 40 minutes.
- Rosemary & Garlic: Combine 2 TBS chopped Rosemary, pinch of salt, fresh ground pepper, 2 TBS olive oil, toss in cubed bread.; bake 25 – 40 minutes.
For all of the above, taste before you toss in the bread. Adjust oil, salt and pepper or other seasonings as needed.
The above are just a few ideas. The supermarkets are brimming with options in the spice section. Use anyone that you like and if needed add a little salt, fresh ground pepper and either toss with olive oil or spray the bread cubes with a buttered or olive oil type cooking spray.
This is very similar to the croutons, except you slice the bread into thin slices. You can season using the above crouton preparations, instead of tossing in the mixture, use a pastry brush to lightly brush on the slices. Below are some additional choices. These are great for bruchetta/crustini, spreads, soups, etc..
Pre-heat oven to 300. When baking these, it should take about 10 – 15 minutes (be sure all moisture is gone, if not, bake longer). They are thin, that is why the temperature is lower than with crouton, as they will dry out faster. Keep an eye on them, as ovens differ.
Garlic: 4 garlic cloves, sliced thin. 2 – 3 TBS of olive oil. Over med-low to low heat, add the garlic and oil. lightly saute for 5 – 7 minutes (be very careful not to “Fry” or burn the garlic. If it looks like it’s getting too hot, turn the head down). The goal is to release the garlic into the oil. Once the garlic is soft or mushy, take off heat. Using a pastry brush, brush lightly on the slices and bake for 10 – 15 minutes. Keep and eye on these as they could burn fast.
Parmesan: Spread the slices on a baking sheet, spray with your favorite cooking spray. Top with grated parmesan cheese (not too much or you won’t get the real crisp result) and fresh ground pepper. Bake as described above.
You can also just spray with your favorite flavor of cooking spray and bake.
Time to break the kids away from the video games, computer or TV.. this can be a fun task for kids.
To make breadcrumbs, you need fully dried bread. You can take any of the preparations above for croutons or toasted rounds, and make breadcrumbs.
Over a bowl, break up the hard bread (rounds or whatever) in to small chunks. There are a couple of different ways to go from here:
- Put into a food processor, and pulse until you have fine breadcrumbs.
- Break out a large cutting board and the rolling-pin. In batches, roll over the larger chunks to break up into crumbs.
- Pull out the large chunks, put into a plastic bag, and “smash” with a rolling-pin, meat tenderizer, rock, fist or whatever (this is a fun way to get the kids involved)
You have breadcrumbs. If they are plain and you wish to add seasoning, you can use any of the dry seasoning combinations mentioned above and toss with the crumbs (OMIT the oil, butter or spray).
As I mentioned above, you can get many ideas for seasoning by browsing the pre-packaged herb and spice blends in the spice isle in the supermarket.
Any of the suggestions on this page will keep for a couple of weeks in an air tights container, given they are completely cooled and dried out. Any moisture left in the bread, can invite mold and/or cause sogginess, staleness.
Have fun and Enjoy!