Croutons Crackers Crumbs

Occasionally, I have baguettes, pretzels, biscuits or raisin bread leftover on my Farmstand baking days. These, once tasty items, can lose their zest quickly because they don’t contain preservatives, or even oils, to help maintain their freshness. Toasting, either in a toaster or in the oven, is a good way to revive day-old bread but what if I have too much to consume? Here’s what I do to make sure that my baking does not become a wasted rock-hard block or get consumed by green-grey mold.

My Salt, or Salt&Pepper, croutons made from day-old rubbery pretzels are a crunchy and welcome item in our food pantry. They are very simple to make and delicious on salads, especially Caesar. I simply cut up the stale pretzels into bite-sized pieces and place them in a large bowl. I add about 1 tsp of vegetable oil (or olive, avocado) per pretzel and toss the pretzel cubes until they are coated. Salt&Pepper pretzels already have a lot of flavour so there is no need to add more seasoning. If I am using bread cubes to make croutons, now is the time that I add salt, pepper, herbs and/or garlic powder. Then I pour the bowl contents onto a large cookie sheet and spread the chunks out evenly. I bake them at 350F until they are completely dry which takes about 10 or 15 minutes. Once croutons are cool, I store them in mason jars.

In our household, croutons are used in soups, especially French Onion soup that can be topped with cheese. They are also used in all different kinds of salads and as pre-seasoned cubes for making poultry stuffing.

Left: Salt&Pepper Croutons Right: A stale Salt Pretzel from yesterday.

I don’t like to purchase plastic-jarred, preservative-laden salad dressings. I make all of our dressings by keeping some key ingredients on hand such as oils, vinegars, citrus, garlic and herbs.

My quick and easy Caesar salad dressing is as follows: In the bottom of my salad bowl I add about 3TB of mayonnaise per large head of romaine lettuce. (Homemade mayonnaise is very tasty and simple to make). To the mayonnaise, I’ll add 1 or 2 cloves of squished garlic, the juice of one lemon (or a splash of my favourite vinegar), salt and pepper. I mix the dressing together in the bottom of my bowl and taste it. If it is intensely flavoured with zip!WOW then it’ll be perfect once tossed with the greens.

I top the Caesar salad dressing with chopped and washed lettuce, a generous amount of grated cheese and a handful, or two, of pretzel croutons. I’ll place the prepped salad on the dinner table and won’t toss it all together until the rest of the meal is served, to keep it fresh and crisp.

With my less-than-prime baguettes, or herb biscuits, I make both crackers and bread crumbs. I find it so much easier to mince up moist bread into crumbs than when it’s large dry, hard chunks.

A stale herb biscuit is sliced in to thin pieces for crackers and the some is roughly chopped into tiny chunks to become bread crumbs.

Thin slices of baked goods make great crackers or crostini. For the biscuit slices, which contain butter, I lay them flat on a cookie sheet and bake both sides for 5-8 minutes at 350F. When I make a baguette into crostini, I slice them thinly, toss them with a bit of vegetable oil and then season before baking. I make sure to slice the bread as thinly as possible, because thick slices that are dried, can be very hard to bite. This is so easy to do and it eliminates our need to purchase store-bought crackers.

For bread crumbs, I bake the little chunks along with the cracker slices if there is room on the cookie sheet. Using a piece of parchment paper on the cookie sheet is a very convenient way to contain the crumbs. Once they are baked, and then cooled, I pour the new amount into my jar of dried crumbs and give it a mix-em-up shake. I don’t mind the assorted sizes of crumbs but if you want a fine bread crumb just give the cooled crumbs a blitz in the blender before storing.

I collect and reuse silica gel packets to help keep moisture out of my jars of dried goods. Typically, I’ll use masking tape to adhere a silica gel packet to the inside of the lid. Having it secured on the jar lid, lets me sprinkle bread crumbs on top of macaroni casseroles, or into meatball recipes, without fear of adding the silica packet to supper.

I save all food silica gel packets that I come across and reuse them to keep dehydrated goods and other items moisture free.

In addition to croutons, crackers and crumbs, other things that we can use day-old bread for are cheese toast, garlic toast, French toast, and a yummy family favourite, cinnamon raisin bread pudding.