Don’t call it stale
Phil illuminates the life cycle of a bread loaf. It’s at first “moist and soft” and then, when it hardens, it becomes a different product. The bread doesn’t initially lose its moisture when it starts to harden. In fact, it’s a “crystallization of starch.” This is not at all, I repeat, not at all, a bad sign. Your bread isn’t destined for the compost once this happens. Instead, a world of culinary opportunities await.
Hot soups, for example, warmly welcome hardening slices of bread. A broth bath softens the bread and turns it into a flavorful sponge. Additionally, cut hard bread slices into cubes and saute them with vegetables instead of rice. Toss them into chili. Just … don’t call them stale. That’s “a crazy concept,” Phil says through a smile. Stale incorrectly connotes bad, and it’s not bad, it’s just becoming a different product.
Venture beyond sandwiches
Bread isn’t only destined for sandwiches, and soft isn’t its only form. It might not even be bread’s best form! Phil encourages us to re-think how we think about bread. This means moving beyond its popular, modern use as soft sandwich bookends.
Go ahead, you have Phil’s permission, purposely leave bread out for a few days to experience it in a new light. French toast and bread pudding is arguably best when it utilizes day old bread. You could make croutons, tossed in garlic and salt. And croutons, Phil suggests, do not have to be dainty accoutrements scattered sheepishly atop greens. They can be “50% of your salad.” The Tuscan dish panzanella is a wheat based salad that features dried bread pieces that have soaked in oil and been tossed with vegetables.
Soften it up
After a colorful conversation of plentiful recipe possibilities for fresh and old bread, Phil shrugs. He still does not instruct me to buy anything special for the purpose of keeping bread softer longer. Instead, he suggests, that if after a few days, you do want a soft slice of bread for sandwich purposes (who can blame you), all you have to do is “warm it up in the oven.”
And that’s that. No linen bags, no bread boxes. To keep bread you just need to learn how to use bread.