Happy holidays, everyone! With holiday season (and dare I say excessive baking? 🙂 ) in full swing, we may end up with surplus bread, cakes or cookies, which can go stale and turn to waste – which is something I definitely want to prevent.
To avoid throwing away the bread, I like to remind myself that stale bread has multiple applications in cooking/baking.
- Repurposing savory breads
As emphasized by Harold McGee in his classic “On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen,” stale bread is more robust than fresh bread, and as such it is an excellent ingredient in bread salad, bread pudding, and French toast. Moreover, crushed into crumbs, stale bread can serve as binding agent in stuffing and panade (milk & bread mixed into a paste and added to ground meat for tenderizing), and as a coating for frying.
In the same book, McGee advises against refrigerating bread, and cites one study which showed that bread stored in the fridge staled in 1 day as much as bread stored in warm weather outside in 6 days McGee concludes, “If you’re going to use bread in a day or two, then store it at room temperature in a bread box or paper bag (…) If you need to keep bread for several days or more, then wrap it well in plastic or foil and freeze it.”
*If the bread is moldy, it must not be consumed, of course.
- Repurposing sweet baked goods
What about repurposing holiday leftover cakes and/or cookies? Unlike bread, I find dessert repurposing a bit trickier due to the variety of flavors, which may or may not work together well in a single new preparation. As always, I advise exercising caution when it comes to repurposing- the goods must be edible (no mold), and the combination of flavors must be analyzed in advance to avoid a disappointing end result.
My go-to method for repurposing cakes and cookies involves turning them into crumbs and making some sort of “no waste truffles,” adding cocoa powder, dried fruits and nuts, and binding everything together with milk.
A coating of melted chocolate is all that’s needed to finalize this delicious repurposing, imo 🙂
Another option I like is using up crushed cakes or cookies in layered desserts served in glasses or jars, with vanilla pastry cream, fruits, nuts and/or whipped cream.
Closely related to 2, I like to make sweets sandwiches with leftover cookies or cake slices. Vanilla pastry cream as filling is a big favorite of mine for this use.
Whole or crumbled, cakes and cookies can be used with ice cream or as ice cream topping.
Other uses I have found mentioned in various online publications, some of which I have yet to try, are listed below:
- Cake pops
- Cake French toast
- Cake pudding (like bread pudding, but with cake)
- Cookie/cake crumbs used as cheesecake base, in lieu of graham crackers
- Cookie/cake crumbs added to brownie batter
- Cookie/cake crumbs added to shakes
What is your favorite use of stale bread and/or leftover baked sweets? Let me know in the comments 🙂