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Burning Question: Why Do Recipes Call For Stale Bread?

Many recipes — from French toast to bread pudding — call for leftover bread. But why would anyone want to cook with old bread that's hard and dry?

Eaten out of hand, day-old bread may taste inferior to its fresh counterpart. But stale bread actually has virtuous characteristics that can make it preferable to cook with. According to food science authority Harold McGee, when freshly baked bread cools, its starches reorganize to form bonds that are even firmer and stronger than they were before. This means that if the bread is soaked in a wet substance — such as eggs for French toast or milk for bread pudding — it will still retain its sponge-like structure rather than falling apart. Bread crumbs are an ideal binding agent in cooking for the same reason: even when wet, they will maintain structure.

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Join The Conversation
bjqueen1943 bjqueen1943 7 years
stale bread v fresh Italian's use stale bread BECAUSE! fresh bread would fall apart,when you cook it, if adding such things on top when baking like, fresh tomatoes,garlic,basil,and olive oil. fresh bread would get mushy and soft, stale bread holes up better.and gets soft after you cook it. try dipping fresh bread,not toasted,in coffee, you will have a mess, stale holds up better and gets soft when you dip.
notoriousmar notoriousmar 8 years
nancita nancita 8 years
Cool! I thought it was just encouraging us to use old bread. Very interesting that it's actually better.
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
I had no idea!
shoneyjoe shoneyjoe 8 years
I think it's a different direction: early recipes didn't call for stale bread because it was a superior ingredient but because it was a thrifty way to make sure you wasted less food. I think those recipes sprang up as a way to utilize an otherwise lost ingredient (like heavy French sauces originally masking the taste of meat gone slightly off). The fact that we can choose stale bread as a superior ingredient today is but a happy coincidence.
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