At this time of year, I don’t know about you, but I seem to gravitate towards bread sticks and French baguettes. They scream lazy SUMMER lunches or light evening meals; last minute picnics and no dip platter is complete without a few lightly toasted crostini or sticks. Whether neatly sliced or stuffed with fresh produce, they are the perfect accompaniment to many a summer meal.
But what to do with the leftovers? I somehow end up with ends, slices or whole loves where I’ve perhaps bought a bit too much and because they only stay fresh for about 24 hours, quite a lot can go to waste.
As I can’t be the only one faced with this dilemma, I’ve decided to share a few of my ideas about what to do with the leftovers.
Assuming you have sufficient freezer space, it’s always an option to pack them straight into the freezer and deal with them later, but once thawed, you do need to use them all in one go as they can’t be re-frozen. If you have the time, I would suggest dealing with them before you freeze them as that way, they’re already prepared and you have a selection to choose from when you really need them.
Slice and chop the bread into little squares, about 1 – 2 cm square. Place them into a plastic bag that seals, taking care to remove as much of the air as possible and pop them into the freezer. When you want to use them, leave them to defrost on the bench top.To “cook”: switch on the oven grill and prepare an oven tray and spread the croutons out. Season them with salt and freshly ground pepper plus a little fresh herbs or spice to add some “zing”. Sprinkle with a little olive oil so coated but not wet/soggy. Place the tray into the oven and watch it like a hawk! Do not move or they will burn in the split second you turn away. When lightly golden, remove the tray from the oven and turn the croutons using a spatula. Return the tray to the oven for a few second more to colour the other side. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Add to salads as a crunchy garnish.
Probably the easiest idea is to chop or tear into bits and place into a food processor for a few seconds, reducing the bread to find crumbs. This can also be frozen in an air-tight container or bag and defrosted on the bench-top. Use to coat chicken or fish or add to meat balls or fish cakes for some extra bulk.
Slice into thick-ish slices and freeze. Slices can be removed individually as needed and are great for making light meals like oven toasted cheese. Get adventurous and add tomato, garlic, ham or chocolate and grill in the oven – a favourite in our home. They also work well on soups like French Onion or as side accompaniments – a little bit fancier than ordinary everyday slices!
- Bread and Butter Pudding:
An old favourite and very out of vogue at the moment, but kids love it and it takes only minutes to prepare. Once defrosted, lather the slices in the jam of your choice, I love using Apricot or Raspberry. Nutella chocolate spread also works a treat! Sprinkle a few raisins or blueberries throughout or leave them out completely, do what works for you. Pour over a little full cream, sufficient to soak most of the bread, or use milk if concerned about your weight, but cream is by far the best I think. Drizzle a little honey over the top or sift over icing sugar or brown sugar – makes a semi-crunchy crust and bake in the oven at about 180°C until cooked through, most of the sauce has been absorbed and the top is golden and a little crunchy. Enjoy with a dollop of custard – who knew stale bread could taste so good?
- Garlic bread:
Keep the bread loaf whole and slice thickly, taking care NOT to slice all the way through. You want to have one complete loaf that can be wrapped up at the end but it isn’t a huge problem if you’ve been a bit too enthusiastic and sliced it into bits. Soften butter until easily spreadable and add a little chopped garlic and fresh herbs. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and spread thickly between the slices. Wrap the loaf in tin foil and either pop straight into the oven to heat up or warm on the braai grid. Or, put the wrapped loaf into the freezer to be used at a later date. No need to thaw fully before reheating, just leave it in the oven a few minutes longer until soft to the touch – be careful not to burn on the hot tin foil.
- Feed the ducks:
OK, so you need to have or be close to ducks or geese in order to make this one work, but we’re lucky enough to live a few hundred metres away from a lake which is home to Pukekos, Seagulls, Swans and Ducks – oh, and don’t forget the Eels! It’s always fun to sit on the bank and break the bread into small pieces and feed the local population. They don’t care if it’s stale as they squawk, flap and splash to get to the treats. A great family activity which costs nothing.
I’m sure there are hundreds of other uses, but these are my favourites. Never throw left over bread away again. Feel free to share your ideas and I’ll look forward to trying them too.
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