Night of the Living Bread: How to Make Stale Bread Fresh Again

Stale Bread Let's face it, when it comes to kitchen related how-to, the trick for bringing stale, dead bread back to life is not quite as pressing as it once was. Few of us don't have easy access to fresh...

Stale Bread
Stale Bread

Let's face it, when it comes to kitchen related how-to, the trick for bringing stale, dead bread back to life is not quite as pressing as it once was. Few of us don't have easy access to fresh bread nearly around the clock. Still, it must be admitted that there are certainly occasions in every cook's life when stale bread has been the bane of meal preparation.

First things first. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Resurrecting bread that has gone stale is no job for a microwave! While the oven is climbing its way toward 350 degrees, you need to locate a paper bag. Obviously, plastic won't do and while you don't need a plain brown paper bag, you do need to find some kind of paper that is equitable to a thickness and texture of a brown paper bag. Although, in a pinch, really any kind of paper you can find in which you can tightly enclose the entire piece of bread will do.  Just make sure to keep it snugly confined.

Next up is the sink. Run some water from the faucet and then move the bag full of bread quickly under the stream so that the entire bag is dampened, but not soaked. It is important to make sure that every last inch of the surrounding the bread gets wet, but it's equally important not to be left with what looks like a bag full of soggy bread. This step is one of those trial and error things you just love about the art of cooking. Best bet: leave some bread out to stale for practice before you find yourself actually needing to know just to pull off this step.

Put the moistened paper bag on a cookie sheet and shove the cookie sheet into the oven once the beep informs you that the interior has reached 350 degrees. Now comes another step that you will be more than used to if you fancy yourself a culinary artist: waiting.

Not just waiting, mind you, but waiting around. Bringing a stale piece of bread back to edible freshness is not a task to hand over to your handy-dandy oven timer. You have to stay in the kitchen and be prepared for some hands-on checking of your work.

Depending on the level of staleness, your night of the living bread could take anywhere from five minutes to as much long as half an hour. Keep in mind that you are trying to make stale bread soft and chewy again, not make croutons. If you wait too long and the sweet spot at which the bread becomes soft once more passes, your best bet is to remove the cookie sheet and replace it with a bread stone, leaving the bag behind and baking long enough to get those croutons.

In addition to regularly checking the bread to see if it has become fresh and chewy again, you also want to ensure that bag doesn't burn. Even worse than heating too long so that the bread comes out hard and crispy is pulling out a burned bag full of burnt bread.

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