Sunday, January 22, 2006

A good use for heels (of bread that is)

It has been a strange weekend around our house. Normally, MBH and I go at full tilt all weekend. Mornings spent at one of the coffee shops in Harvard Square we frequent, followed by a trip to the grocery or gourmet food store, a book store or two, and then home where he promptly dives back into his programming and I normally busy myself in the kitchen baking bread.

This weekend however, I've been doing my best to stave off a cold in hopes of not having to leave on a business trip in the middle of next week with a stuffed head and achy body. This has meant that with the exception of a brief trip out yesterday morning for an engagement neither of us could change, I've been huddled in bed with the cat at my feet, a pot of coffee and oj at my side and a stack of week old New York Times to read. Because I haven't been cooking as much as normal or for that matter really been up to eating all that much, I find that I have one half boule of sourdough bread and one half loaf of white bread that should be used fairly quickly before they go stale. So, this afternoon I will endeavor to crawl out from under my favourite ratty blanket and make good use of both.

Normally when we have these types of left over bread I make croutons for soups and salads, welsh rabbit, and grilled cheese sandwiches. I have also been known to freeze the ends for future use as stuffing when we have the semi-regular turkey dinner of which MBH and the cat are so fond. But, recently, I have been making our own Melba Toast with the more savory breads like hearty wheat and sourdough. ArdentEden also reminded me not too long ago that small chunks of almost stale bread make excellent bread pudding, which I normally bake a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread to make.

So I think this afternoon in the interest of not letting two really excellent loaves of bread go to waste, I will make some melba toast from the sourdough for MBH to munch on while he codes away in his study and a bit of bread pudding from the white loaf for myself; which, according to my 1945 American Woman's cookbook is "quite palatable for the sick room".

Did I mention that I also consider this good therapy for my sanity?

Simple Melba Toast

1/2 loaf of almost stale bread (any type but hearty breads like wheat, rye, and sourdough work best)
2 Tablespoons olive oil or soft butter melted
1/2 teaspoon each garlic powder, dry parsley, dry sage (optional)
1/4 teaspoon each salt (optional)

Preheat oven at 350 degrees.

Mix spices together and put aside. Slice the bread very, very thin (1/8 inch or so) and cut into 2" x 4" pieces. Brush one side with olive oil or butter. Sprinkle very modestly on the buttered/oil side the spice mix. Place on lightly greased cookie tray butter/oiled side up and bake in oven until golden brown on one side (4-7 minutes). Flip toast over and bake until other side golden brown (3-5 minutes). Remove and let cool on cookie rack. Toast will be very crispy. Can be stored in air tight container or baggie for up to 1 week.

Old Fashioned Bread Pudding

1/2 loaf of almost stale bread cubed to equal about 6-8 cups of bread cubes
4 Tablespoon butter (cubed)
3 Cups milk
3/4 Cup of paked brown sugar
1 Cup raisins
3 Large eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla
dash of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 1 quart baking dish with butter. Bring milk to scalding and add butter. Remove from heat and let butter melt and let cool. Beat eggs and add sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and salt and set aside. In large bowl, combine bread cubes with egg mixture. Add raisins and then slowly add cooled milk/butter mixture to bowl. Stir in to combine completely and pour into prepared quart baking dish. Place baking dish into a roasting pan and fill roasting pan with water so water is half way up baking dish and place in oven. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream and sprinkle cinnamon on top.