Bread past its prime will ruin your day — or at the very least, your sandwich. Did you know there’s a trick for saving stale bread — and that this cool food hack really works?
Turns out that running a stale loaf under water (no, really) and steaming it off in the oven will make your bread rise again.
The trick seemed too good to be true, so I put it to the test, with two different loaves. The first was a sliced loaf of Italian Five Grain from the Publix bakery, and the second was one of their baguettes. I’m used to saving my stale bread by toasting it, or making stale bread into croutons or breadcrumbs. But some sandwiches require fresh, untoasted bread, so what can you do?
I was skeptical, but this tip really works. Take a look.
How to save stale bread with water
First, run the water
Following Bon Appétit’s simple instructions, I doused the outside of my loaves with water from the tap, covering every bit of crust and trying to avoid the softer centers.
Worried I would overdo it, I turned the water down to a trickle.
Next, put it in the oven
(I’m slightly embarrassed about how dirty my oven is in this photo but given that I’m the sort of person who has stale bread around the house, it’s understandable.)
I set the oven to 300°F then placed the sliced loaf on a baking sheet, and put the baguette directly on the oven rack. (Note: I have a convection oven so it circulates heat. In a regular oven, you wouldn’t want to use both racks at once.)
Bon Appétit recommends warming the bread for 6-7 minutes if you’re saving it from going stale, and longer for a larger loaf (more like 10-12 minutes). I found my loaves were each ready in six minutes, but I went longer on the baguette because I wanted it a little crispier on the outside.
Time to eat!
The bread, believe it or not, actually tastes fresh after baking. I’m pretty floored myself.
In fact, you could do this right before a dinner party to impress your guests with the smell of freshly baked bread. I’ll never give away your secret, promise.
Important tips for saving stale bread with this method
Try to only expose the crust to direct heat.The bits of my sliced loaf that weren’t covered by crust were the slightest bit crispy. That’s fine for many sandwiches, but I had decided to indulge in a southern delicacy: tomato sandwiches. (These are the easiest sandwiches: thick slices of summer-ripe tomatoes, slightly salted, between two slices of sandwich bread slathered in mayo, preferable Duke’s.)
Tomato sandwiches require untoasted bread because one of the best things about them is how the tomato juice soaks into the bread. I should have put the loaf in a bread pan to hold it together.
Serve the bread warm to get that fresh-baked deliciousness. In my opinion, baguettes are primarily a vehicle for butter. A slightly warm slice makes the butter spread smoothly and lets it melt in. Yum.
The steam is actually what saves your stale bread, so try not to overdo it when running the bread under the tap. If you do accidentally soak your bread, I would try to compensate by leaving it in the oven a little longer.
I’m tickled to bits that this works! Being able to save a stale loaf of bread from the garbage makes me feel like a magician, and I love finding smart new ways to reduce food waste.
Have you ever tried this method? Did it work for you? Do you have other tips for saving stale bread? Please share!