What to do with old, old bread

Perhaps you have a loaf of old cheddar bread sitting on your counter in a ziplock bag, right next to the economy bag of dog rawhides and the box of coffee-filters-that-are-the-wrong-size (anyone need any size 4 unbleached filters?):

Perhaps you bought this bread on a whim when you tasted a sample in the bakery section of your food co-op or grocery store. Perhaps you promptly forgot about it. And perhaps it now has a consistency rather like this:

What to do with this bread? You already have a place to live, so you don’t actually need to use it to build shelter. But it hasn’t begun to grow fuzz yet, and you spent three whole dollars on it, so you hate to throw it away.

Culinate’s got some ideas about what to do. So does Real Simple. WikiHow tells me that I can turn old bread into flowers, but even after I read the article, I still didn’t understand what in the world they were talking about (a photo, guys. Paste a photo. Without it, you’re talking nonsense). Me? I decided to make a Cheddar Bread Pudding. Not a desserty bread pudding, mind you. An entree. A one-dish dinner sort of entree.

Here’s what I did:

Stale cheddar bread, about half a smallish loaf
Bunch of vegetables (in my case, broccoli and chard), chopped
2 cups milk or milk alternative (I did half whole cows milk, half rice milk)
6 eggs
Quarter tablespoon dried thyme
Few shakes o’ dill
Kosher sea salt
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (if you’re making this with plain-old bread, not cheddar bread, I’d add a quarter-cup more).

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a baking pan. Cut the crust off of your loaf of bread so that it looks naked and you feel slightly embarassed for it:

Chop bread into chunks, about this much:

(that’s a 2-cup pyrex measuring cup, filled to the tippy top, at least 2.5 cups worth, possibly more).

Set aside the remaining bread for bread crumbs, or freeze it for the next time you make this meal. Or, if you’re like me, you can forget about it until the bread does start growing fuzzy things, at which point you throw it out.

Meanwhile, stir up the eggs:

And steam your veggies (what quantity of veggies, you ask? About this many):

Add your two 2 cups of milk, plus your 1 cup of grated cheese to the eggs, then mix in your steamed-but-not-dripping veggies, as well as your bread crumbs, and your spices. Stir it all up, until the bread is all wet:

Pour into your baking pan, and bake until you can insert a fork into the middle and it comes out clean. For me, this was about 23 minutes:

Isn’t it pretty? But more important: doesn’t placing it on that plaid dishtowel just make it look like I’m a farm wife of sorts? Like I’ve got it all together in a modern-day Ma Ingalls kind of way? Don’t you just want to come over and sit on my front porch rocker and watch my kids play merrily in the yard? Don’t I just seem like I’d serve you homemade lemonade on a tray? And that I’d already have casually placed fresh flowers from the garden on that tray?

Ah, what a dishtowel can do.

Because when you arrive at the door, I might just answer looking something like this:

Perhaps not, but you never know.

But how does this recipe taste? Overall, it was a hit. Very quiche-like, but with a lighter, more souffle-like consistency. Tasty, though I hadn’t added enough salt before baking, so we all had to sprinkle some more on the actual meal. Blair especially loved it. Which is funny, because he actually doesn’t care for quiche (I’ll refrain from the Real Man jokes at this point). After we added all the extra salt (and yes, we use Kosher sea salt, because it brings out happy flavors way more than table salt does I swear it does), he volunteered “Hey, this is really good.” And the kids ate the vegetables without comment. And it was very Waste-Not, so it allowed me to feel both frugal and morally superior to the Me That Might Have Thrown That Same Loaf of Bread Away. That is, until I had to throw out the remaining half-loaf. But never mind that.

And for just a few moments, through the lens of my camera, I got to feel like a really good, Caroline Ingalls-worthy farm wife. That alone is worth it, friends. That alone is worth it.

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13 Responses to “What to do with old, old bread”

  1. 1 Kristen April 9, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    Oh, thank god you posted this. Now I have somethign to do with the second loaf of what I am calling James Beard Can Go Suck A Wang Because This Bread Sucks.

    Also, I emailed you directly a couple of days ago — did you get it?

  2. 2 cleanerplateclub April 9, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Kristen, I love that you got the word “suck” twice into a single comment. That does not suck at all. (look! I did it, too!).

    Just did a gmail search and didn’t find anything from you, not even in my spam folder. Try again: cleanerplateclub, gmail.

  3. 3 Kai April 9, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    Genius! As a single girl I can never eat the bread up fast enough…practically I know I should freeze 1/2 but I never do. Now I know exactly what to do with it!

  4. 4 MamaBird/SurelyYouNest April 9, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    Love strata! Looks like a great recipe and in fact I do have some cough stale bread in my kitchen. I also save baguettes-sourdough-french bread for stuffing for Italian stuffed peppers…mmmm…that’s what I am hanging onto my brick for. Thanks for sharing. Love the shades…

  5. 5 Bonnie April 9, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    Good lord, what a fabulous picture! Although with that hairstyle, I expect you to be having martinis during a bridge game while the children play in the next room.

  6. 6 Behan April 9, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    This is familiar to me from my grandmother’s house! She (thrifty woman) also used this pudding as a foil for all manner of leftovers or extra garden abundance veggies.

    My grandmother’s recipe has one key difference…I hesitate to tell you, because although it’s soooooo good, it’s sooo bad! Well sort of. Basically- she slathers the bread (which is more sliced than chunked) with softened butter. Lots of it. On both sides. It surely adds untold calories but Oh My God it is just so delicious!

    Do with that knowledge what you will… BUWAHAHAHA!

    PS sunglass stylins’ would fit will with her too…

  7. 7 Pamela April 10, 2008 at 3:33 am

    You, my friend, are brilliant! I don’t have any old bread right now, mainly because I have 5 carb addicts in the house besides myself, so I’m gonna go out first thing tomorrow and buy some bread. Then I’m going to let it sit on the counter and allow no one to touch it until it’s perfectly stale. Then, I will amaze my family with your quiche/strata thing and say, “Now, you may eat the bread.”

    It’s a plan!

  8. 8 Ali B. April 10, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    And guys? If you’re not afraid of butter, Behan’s smothered-in-butter way would truly take it to new heights.

    (and Bonnie, martinis while the kids play in the next room actually sounds divine right about now…).

  9. 9 Vikki April 10, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    Wow, that looks great! AND, I would pay big bucks for you to deliver it to my door in your faux ‘fro.

  10. 10 Kristen April 10, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Okay, I’ll try again. I’m writing an article on food bloggers and I was hoping to ask you some questions.

    I just emailed you again — if you don’t get it in a couple of hours, could you email me instead? admin {AT} gezellig-girl.com

  11. 12 Jennifer (ponderosa) April 11, 2008 at 6:57 am

    My sister-in-law made something like this but with loads of fresh mushrooms — it was fabulous. But her bread was store-bought, not even stale yet, which is cheating!

    I’m thinking breadcrumbs made with cheese bread could make an interesting addition to a dish. Did you save any?

  12. 13 Yarntangler June 29, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    Great recipe! Fun Blog! I just referenced you on my own blog today. Please come visit sometime.

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