Waste not, want not - How to use stale bread

John Yeoman
Friday, 8th February 2013

The permaculture approach begs for us to change our collective approach to food. Certainly after reading this, you will never throw away another loaf of bread...

There’s an Asian superstition (as well as a permaculture mentality) that you must eat up every grain of rice left in the bowl. It also makes sense with breadcrumbs. Never throw away breadcrumbs. Even if they’re past eating, you can make fishing bait, mix them with glue as home-made ‘plastic wood’ filler, or even bag them for bookends. If they’re less than twelve months old, they’ll add bulk, texture and nourishment to make nearly every dish on the family menu go twice as far. But first, is your wilting loaf really fit only for crumbs?

Resurrecting a dead loaf

Sprinkle it with water, or coddle it for half an hour or more in a damp towel. Then wrap tightly in foil – or more cheaply, grease-proof paper or margarine wrappers – and pop in a very hot (Mark 8)(450ºF)(230ºC) oven for 10 minutes. Or put it above water in a pressure cooker for 3 minutes.

If it’s a day old French loaf, do the same but then make garlic bread. Cut the loaf almost through in to 1 inch slices and cover the slices with garlic or onion butter. Or for herb bread, substitute butter and a good sprinkling of any mild fresh herb. Or try cautious combinations of any sweet or curry spices instead.

Using up dry slices

Make gypsy bread by dipping both sides first in to hot milk. Drain, then dip in eggs beaten with seasoning and herbs. Fry in very hot fat. A dessert version of this is delicious. Simply add a little sugar and vanilla essence to the eggs and omit the herbs and seasoning. Sprinkle afterwards with sugar and cinnamon, ginger or nutmeg.

Soak dry slices in milk until soft. Drain. Then fry as fried bread, or toast for French onion soup, or bake as garlic bread, or sprinkle with a sweet liqueur (or sherry) to make a bread and butter pudding that disowns its name. Or crumble them for dumplings, meatballs and stuffings in place of dried breadcrumbs in the recipes below. (This tip has worked miracles for mewith rock hard French loaves over six months old!)

Limp sandwiches with nearly any filling can be dipped in beaten egg, deep-fried and drained. Cut in to bite sized triangles for a party, decorate with lemon slices and parsley, and tell no one they came from yesterday’slunch box.

Cut stale slices in to tiny squares and fry fast in very hot fat. Drain. Store inan air tight tin and use as croutons to add snob appeal to soups. (But if you still have friends who insist on croutons in their soup, you are not trying very hard to economise.)

Bread Also Makes...


Use half as much dried breadcrumbs as fresh, in any recipe, and presoak them an hour in milk, and squeeze dry. To make breadcrumbs, first hold a party and reserve half the French loaves from it. Wait four weeks. Then zip the dried sticks through a hand grater. Or take any very dry bread and bash it in a paper bag, or roll between paper, or even feed it in to a coffee mill. Store in an airtight jar. Toppings Fry breadcrumbs and drain. Store them in a tightly sealed can to scatter ontop of cottage pies, rice puddings, apple crumbles, and open top dishes, with melted butter and suitable sweet or savoury seasonings.


Dip pieces of fish, meat or poultry, partly pre-cooked if necessary, in beaten egg, then fried crumbs, and finish cooking in hot fat. And use crumbs with egg in this way to bind together rissoles, meat balls and patties before frying or grilling

....And even ice cream!

Mix 4oz (113g) breadcrumbs with 1 pint (0.57l) yoghurt and 4tbs honey,and freeze in a freezer or the ice making compartment of a refrigerator turned to its coldest. Stir every two hours until solid. A luxury version of this can be made by adding the ingredients to warm egg custard, enriched with nuts and fruit, and freezing as before. It tastes infinitely better than it sounds, and costs less.


This excerpt was taken from Self Reliance: A Recipe for the New Millenium by John Yeoman, available at a reduced price of £12.70 from www.green-shopping.co.uk or call us on 01730 823 311. 

To sample more from the permaculture world, why not download a free digital copy of permaculture magazine.

Photo Credits: www.thekitchn.com 

Bogman |
Tue, 19/02/2013 - 19:34

All my sliced bread goes mouldy in the wrapper.... Any suggestions for this?

LatiecaLoren |
Fri, 22/02/2013 - 08:53

I think it's much use for me as we always have a lot of left over breads and we don't know what to do with them. Thanks for sharing.