By The Urban Nanna
This weekend’s bake was a distinct failure of the underproofed variety: despite having proofed for around 48hrs in total outside of the fridge, it’s been so bloomin’ cold in my house, an airy crumb was not forthcoming.
Cue much goopiness and clagginess upon slicing… 😂
I’m not disheartened though, because as you know, I love a bit of “scraptastic” cooking – making use of the bits and pieces that most people would think of as waste. I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve for celebrating bread failures. The first is to add butter, cheese & heat (as below). The second is to make kvass.
Kvass is a fermented drink, known to many these days in the form of Beet Kvass, but it can be made from all sorts of things. Traditionally in eastern European cultures, rye kvass was a pretty common drink. It’s very lightly alcoholic (~1-2%), but is treated like a non-alcoholic beverage and is drunk by adults and children alike.
Made in its most simple form, it’s just stale, toasted/charred rye bread, yeast, raw honey and water, mixed together and allowed to ferment at room temperature for a few days. There are options to add yeast or a bit of active sourdough starter to get fermentation happening quickly, but if you add edible juniper berries, the wild yeasts on their skin is enough to get things pumping.
Earlier this year, I had a batch of light rye sourdough fail as well. It was underproofed inside and burnt outside. So I separated the crusts from the doughy insides and got resourceful with some of these waste hacks…
Bread waste hacks
Whether it’s a failed bake you’ve made yourself, or storebought bread, there are lots of ways to avoid throwing away food that can be used in different ways.
Rehydrate a stale loaf
Firstly, a loaf of (unsliced) stale bread can be revived beautifully by literally dousing the loaf in water, then baking at 180C for 5-7 minutes. You can even manage this trick in the microwave if you don’t have an oven: just wrap the loaf in a damp teatowel and microwave on high in 10 second bursts until it feels springy again.
If sliced bread or rolls have gone really dry or are a bit stale, breadcrumbs is a great way to use them up. For ‘fresh’ breadcrumbs, either crumble bread in a food processor or tear finely with your hands, and then store in the freezer in an airtight container.
For dried breadcrumbs, shred the bread loosely, place on a baking tray, and bake at 100-120C until crispy all the way through. You can also achieve this by putting the tray in the oven as it cools down after cooking (this works best when you use the oven every day) until the bread is thoroughly dried. Then, just crumble the dried bread either by rubbing between your hands or in a food processor, and store in an airtight container in the pantry.
Make fancy crackers
Slice bread very thinly, brush the slices with oil and bake flat on a baking tray at 180C until crispy. You might like to turn them a few times to achieve maximum crisp ones. These became biscuity-crackery things that are delicious with cheese, pâté and dips.
This bit works well with pre-sliced bread as well as whole loaves. Cut bread into smallish cubes and fry in a bit of oil then sprinkle with salt, pepper & garlic powder. These croutons can be used on soup and salads, or as a crunchy snack in their own right.
If you’ve burnt a loaf while baking, slice off the burnt crusts and use those for this recipe. If not, you can simply burn a few bits of toast instead. The burnt bit is important, as it transforms some of the sugars into malty, caramelly flavours, which is what makes this drink so tasty.
Once charred, break the bread into smaller pieces and shove into a large jar. Add a good dollop of raw honey, a handful of juniper berries (or sultanas/raisins if you can’t get juniper), some dried blood orange peel (you could use any citrus peel, and fresh would be fine too), and a sprig of mint before filling the rest of the jar with room temperature water. I’d also suggest adding either a slice of fresh ginger or a good sprinkle of dried ginger powder: you’ll understand why as you read on.
Sit this jar on the bench for 3 days with a cloth over the open lid to prevent beasties from getting in, and a bowl underneath to catch any overflow as fermentation causes the mixture to froth and bubble. Give it a stir a couple of times a day with a clean utensil, and push the bits from the top under the others (so no piece is out in the air for too long).
Once it’s smelling nicely sour, strain the solids out with a sieve and then run the liquid through a coffee filter. Bottle it up in a vessel that’s built to handle carbonation, and pop it in the fridge for a few days. Fermentation will continue, making it build up quite the fizz.
The first time I made this, on first taste, I thought it was nice – a bit like a stout or porter beer. Then my good friend Dell suggested adding some dried ginger, and Bang! It was amazing!! It had just needed something zingy and warming to elevate the flavour. All of a sudden I was tasting caramel, and malty flavours, and interesting bitter notes amongst the deliciously thick, creamy texture. Which is why I now add a bit of ginger to start with. Oh, and fresh ginger has lots of good bacteria and yeasts on its skin too, so that also helps with fermentation.
Seriously good stuff!
So, next time you have a ‘failed’ batch of bread, why not try thinking laterally and seeing how you might be able to repurpose it so you’re not wasting all that time and energy. I bet you’ll be surprised at how tasty the results can be!
Permaculture Principle 1: Observe and interact; 2: Catch and store energy; 3: Obtain a yield; 5: Use and value renewable resources and services; 6: Produce no waste; 8: Integrate rather than segregate; 10: Use and value diversity; 11: Use edges and value the marginal; 12: Creatively use and respond to change.
If you’re interested in trying more fermented foods, why not try one of these: