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How To Make Stale Bread (fresh to stale)

Do you need stale bread but only have fresh? No problem! This guide covers how to make stale bread fast! Dry, chewy bread is closer than you think.

Sometimes, a fluffy, tender loaf won’t do. The thing is, if that’s all you have, what can you do? Well, turning bread stale isn’t difficult. Usually, this happens naturally after a few days in the breadbox. But what if you need stale bread sooner? Whether you’re looking to make breadcrumbs, croutons, Panzanella salad, or bread pudding, stale bread is a must. The reason? All of them benefit from that dry texture. Let’s explore some easy methods to speed up the process.

How To Make Stale Bread

Why Some Recipes Call For Stale Bread

The reasons some recipes call for stale bread are relatively simple. The main one is structural integrity. Recipes that require stale bread are those where fresh bread will fail by either disintegrating or becoming soggy when exposed to liquid. One example of this is French toast. Slices of fresh bread dipped in custard may fall apart before they hit the pan, whereas stale bread won’t. Secondly, fresh bread can fall short on crunch or texture. Third is flavor; stale bread has a superior ability to hold onto flavors. So whether you add bread to a Panzanella salad where it’s expected to soak up the dressing or toss cubes in oil and seasonings, all those flavors cling tight.

Quick Methods To Stale Bread

The Pale Toast

When you need to transform fresh bread into stale bread fast, and I mean fast, look no further than your toaster. Think back to when you tried to make toast in the morning, and it came out pale because you chose the wrong setting. It had no toast on it; instead, it was just kind of stale, right? For this method, complete the following steps:

  1. Slice the bread. Thickness doesn’t matter.
  2. Place it into a toaster or toaster oven and set it to the lightest setting.
  3. Remove the bread from the toaster and transfer it to a wire rack. The wire rack is essential because it prevents steam from collecting at the bottom of each slice and helps the bread dry out further.
  4. Repeat as needed until you have enough bread for the recipe you intend to make.

Why It Works: The heat exposure will help dry the bread without developing much color on the exterior, making it perfect for anything from homemade breadcrumbs to croutons.

How To Make Stale Bread With Wire Rack

In The Oven It Goes

A low-temperature oven is another way to make stale bread fast; by fast, I mean in 30 minutes or less. Here’s how to make stale bread in the oven:

  1. Preheat the oven to 250°F.
  2. Slice the bread.
  3. Arrange slices directly on the center oven rack or place an oven-safe wire rack over a baking sheet and arrange the slices on that.
  4. Place into the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the bread is dry.
  5. Remove from the oven, set the bread aside to cool, then use as desired. It will dry out further as it cools.

Why It Works: Leaving bread in a low-temperature oven is similar to “the pale toast” mentioned above minus the toaster. The low heat dries the bread without browning it, broadening its uses.

Slower Methods

These are still faster than leaving bread in the kitchen for a few days; however, you can expect to wait a little longer than the methods above.

The Slice and Abandon

If you have plans for the stale bread the next day and can tell immediately that your loaf will need longer than that to dry out, try this option.

  1. Slice the loaf of bread. Cut as thick or thin as you’d like. Slice thickness doesn’t matter.
  2. Arrange the slices onto a wire cooling rack.
  3. Leave the bread on the counter (uncovered) overnight.

Why It Works: Exposing as much of the bread’s surface to air increases moisture loss. The gluten structure also changes during this time.

The Big Chill

To take bread from fresh to stale faster, do the opposite of what is suggested for bread storage. To start, use refrigeration since refrigerated bread gets stale much quicker than bread left on the counter, so if you want to take bread from fresh to stale, refrigeration is a great way to do it. As for how to make stale bread in the refrigerator, follow these steps:

  1. Grab your loaf of bread and slice to speed up the process.
  2. Place into a container or zipper bag, but do not secure the lid on the container or seal the bag. Instead, you want to expose the bread to the cold air.
  3. Leave overnight (8 hours) or up to 24 hours.

Why It Works: The cold temperature of the fridge causes the starches in the bread to recrystallize, which, in turn, will cause a stale taste and texture.

Additional Notes: Although effective, this method works better for homemade bread made without preservatives. Furthermore, use your newly stale bread quickly, as taking bread from a cold, relatively moist environment to a drier, room-temperature one isn’t ideal.

How To Make Stale Bread With The Freezer

The Set It and Forget It

Another way to turn fresh bread stale is by baking a loaf and then leaving it in the oven until it fully cools. This method was discovered accidentally but is quite effective. The process is pretty much the same if working with a store-bought loaf. Heat the oven to 350°F, then turn the oven off and leave the bread in the oven until the oven cools. Of course, the bread should be removed from any packaging and placed on a baking sheet, on a wire rack over the baking sheet, or directly on the oven rack.

Why It Works: The residual heat from the oven continues to draw moisture from the bread.

Additional Notes: This works best on lighter, fluffier bread and is not recommended for bread that is very crusty or prone to getting very hard.

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Monique McArthur
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