Tuesday, September 11, 2007

You're Not Going To Throw That Away-Are You?

I hope this post isn't so simplistic that anyone finds it insulting. It occurs to me that many people do not put their stale bread to use. To remedy the situation, I'm going to offer a simple tutorial on making croûtons and toasts.

The most common mistake when dealing with stale bread is to assume it is sufficiently dried. If you are able to use a knife to cut it into slices, odds are pretty good it will need additional drying.

Another error is using butter that has not been clarified. There is a difference. Most of the time I use a cheap grade of olive oil (the better ones smoke too easily over heat) to fry the toasts. Keep in mind, croûtons are not garlic bread-you do not want a butter-soaked piece of bread with a bit of crunch in the crust. That said, you will need adequate butter or oil, an amount that at first glance will seem like far too much. Here's where the "trick" comes in-bread that is well dried will not absorb as much oil or butter and will not turn soggy.

Done correctly, there is no better base for cheeses than slices of of bread pan-fried in olive oil. I made some this evening from the end of a wheaten rustic loaf and it was delicious with our cheese dessert course. They also make wonderful teething biscuits if you have a youngster at home (not that my little one would sneer at store-bought zwieback, particularly the variety with cinnamon and sugar).

You Will Need:

Slices of stale bread, crusts removed
Clarified Butter, or olive oil-about 6 tablespoons (yes, that is quite a bit) for 4-5 slices

In a very slow oven (about 200 degrees F. dry the slices of bread (or cubes if making croûtons) for anywhere from 20-40 minutes depending upon the type of bread.

Heat the fat in a pan over moderate heat and cook the toasts until beautifully browned-then turn and do likewise. Should the fat begin to smoke, reduce the heat and continue longer. Cool on racks and serve cold.

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