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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