The Best Way to Use Up Leftover Bread

brushing olive oil

I’ve been on a bread-making bender lately, experimenting with various types of loaves. While testing recipes makes me learn a lot about how things work (and what doesn’t!), I’ve been facing an onslaught of bread. Since I’m having guests over tonight, and I just made a few trays, I thought I’d share my favorite way to use up leftover bread.

This isn’t great for using up leftover white bread, or anything fine-textured. But for country-style loaves, sourdough, or baguettes, it can’t be beat. Grainy breads work well, too.

olive oil - bread

To begin with, your bread should still be slightly soft, not hard, since you won’t be able to slice it. If the bread has become too firm, stick it in a plastic bag and fleck a bit of water in it with your fingers, then close the bag up. Within a few hours or later in the day, the bread will be soft enough to slice.

Slice the bread into pieces no larger than 1/2-inch (1 cm). Lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet, then brush each one with a moderate amount of olive oil. (You can chop a very small amount of thyme into the oil, if you wish.)

bread and garlic garlic breads

Bake the slices of bread in a 350ºF (180ºC) oven for about 5 minutes, until the bread is slightly toasted and browned. Remove from the oven and when cool enough to handle (but while still warm), rub each piece of bread with garlic from a peeled clove as firmly as you can without breaking the bread, to get little pieces of garlic melded to the bread.

Let the bread cool, and serve. If you’d like to save them for later, once cool, wrap them in an air-tight container. But they should be served the same day they’re made.

bread

Serve with a favorite dip, such as hummus, eggplant caviar, baba ganoush, or baked goat cheese. You can also toss them in a mixed green salad, or use them as crostini, underneath the topping of your choice.

58 comments

  • I skip the garlic and use with pâté.

  • Totally agree. And it looks so pretty too!

  • Bruschetta! None of this drippy tomato salad on toast…

  • I can’t tell you how many times my own bread experiments have flopped. This might be a way of making the best of a bad loaf, and it might have saved that Provencal olive oil experiment I tried a few years back.

  • Love the trick of making slightly firm bread soft again. Thank you David!

  • This looks absolutely tasty! A lot of times, I mix up some olive oil with spices and dip hard, crusty bread in that. Mmm! Can’t wait to try bread smeared with garlic!

  • Thanks for the inspiration. I’ve been stuck on making croutons for potage St. Germain which are not very useful at this time of year in Chicago. But there is always something to dip into with these yummy-looking treats.

  • My first thought when I saw the title of this post was “What the hell is leftover bread:)”
    I’ve been on a bit of a bread-making bender myself lately, and coincidentally enough did the toasted-baguette-spread-with-hummus for dinner last night. Bread and hummus both were made from scratch, and it was so delicious I woke up this morning thinking about doing it again, and wondering if I needed to go out and pick up some fresh goat cheese to change things up a little.

  • I have one word for you in July and August – panzanella!

  • Love this idea!! The bread you used looks super delish!!

  • As usual David a great idea, which of course could be the start of lots of ideas.
    I have been making a batch of 4 800gm loaves a week for the last 12 years or so. If I have a knob end, then I look on it as a cooks perk, slaver it with butter and enjoy. I do have a jar of ends which I must have been too full to indulge myself in and they are used for ribolita or other beany stews, especially in winter. (funny how how made bread never goes mouldy).
    Also works as pudding – break them up, and pour custard, aka creme anglais and bake. You can put some dried fruit in there too, in case you feel the need for a bit of indulgence.
    If I need croutons or am going to do the bruschetta thing, I usually have to make an extra batch.
    If folks are coming, I knock up more fancy stuff like epi, fougasse and foccachia. I douse it in olive oil straight out the oven so the lovely coarse sel gris sticks to it, yum. That tends to get picked at through the afternoon, so rarely any left.
    Goes with out saying, the bought bread were I live is not nice.

  • In Spain, you’d take a halved beefsteak tomato and smoosh it all over the garlic-smeared bread. Sprinkle with a little salt and olive oil — pan con tomate. You can eat it with serrano ham or manchego if you want, but it’s great just as it is, for breakfast or with drinks as an appetiser..

  • You are experimenting and a few posts ago hinted at a new book. Hoping!

  • What about freezing the leftovers? And, what kind of bread is in the pictures?

  • This is a trigger food for sure.

  • Perfect for tonight!

  • Those crisps in the picture look sensational! Thanks for the tips.

  • Like Veronica, I instantly thought of pan con tomate! Sometimes I purposely eat but half a loaf so I can make some with the other half for breakfast the next morning :)

  • David, what bread recipe did you use for the lovely crisps? The bread itself looks so interesting! I doubt there would be any leftovers…

  • I make this all the time; great use for bread that has seen it’s prime. Just did some last week and topped it with mozzarella and cherry tomato halves for lunch and again yesterday with goat cheese and a mixed olive tapenade. This is my own version of vegetarian…I’m happy eating nothing else for dinner!

  • Sounds like a great idea for overlooked bread. Why is there ALWAYS leftover bread in the cupboard?

    Another approach to resuscitating slightly stale bread:
    Very lightly, sprinkle bread with a few DROPS of water. Place bread in a microwave on the lowest (bread) setting for 5 -15 seconds to revive it. Proceed with recipe.

  • I always love the quick and easy solutions! And I love the ingenious ways people come up with on how to use up leftover bread. The Tuscans are especially adept at this and I love their bread soups, ribollita and papa al pomodoro and of course their bread salad panzanella. But just toasting up some slices of good quality bread and slathering them with hummus or olive tapenade sounds so good, especially with the requisite glass of wine in hand!

  • I love your stuff. This is an excellent idea to use with the glee clearifed butter, with added garlic or basil/parsley. Bread does not have that many cal vs meat. and, if you eat it i like it with lots of fiber, This type of bread is costly and I hate to throw it out, because good bread does go moldy faster that reg.

  • If I’m eating alone (which is often) I use my panini press instead of the oven. The toasts are my favorite vehicle for steak tartare- ground beef, a little sea salt, some olive oil, and cracked pepper. Or tapenade. Actually, just about anything.

  • Yummy, and yes what is that bread ? Also, would putting the garlic in the olive oil beforehand give the same result ?
    Thank you.

  • These ideas are always appreciated… My roommate brings home loads of bread from the restaurant where he works, so I’m always in a scramble to make ribollitas, panzanellas, and grilled cheeses. I think these will do for dips and fresh peach salsas.

  • Left over bread? Are you kidding?

  • A great yummy idea, thanks !

  • I agree with Veronica too – pan con tomate. In any case after the garlic rubbing, add some grains of fleur de sel too. Wonderful for an apero – so much better than peanuts.

  • Good to have the bread softening trick. Thanks, David.

  • I love your photos, your esthetics, and first of all philosophy of cooking. I watch your blog carefully, my favourite blog. I’d love to take part in some workshop run by you, if you do run workshops at all. maja from Poland

  • I rarely have leftover bread so I’m either

    a) too fat from eating it all

    b) don’t bake enough bread

    and I’m not telling.

  • I don’t add the oil until the bread is toasted. Then the rub, rub of garlic, then the oil then the sea salt…..ready, se,t go!!!

    Most Italians do it that way. The oil tends to clog the holes and they don’t toast correctly. You need the rough texture to correctly grate the garlic clove.
    Other than that, great idea, looks wonderful.

  • mm i reckon i’d add some parmesan cheese before baking the bread slices yum

  • One can never have too much bread…I know it’s not cool to freeze bread, but then what were they thinking when they made up that rule? Old bread has saved me more than once.

    Thanks for the idea of freshening up a slice. Sure beats microwaving and ruining beyond all hope.

  • Love it! Baked goat cheese or an olive tapenade make great toppings for crostini.

  • thank you ! love you!

  • I do get tired of always making a strata with stale bread, so am excited to give this a go!

  • A friend who happens to be a marvelous bread baker always bakes at least two loaves at a time and freezes the spare(s). The trick to this is wrapping tightly – no air, as that creates ice crystals – and then doublewrapped over that. The rest of the trick is to totally defrost the bread in the freezer packaging. Totally.

    Using a little water to revive tired bread products has been part of our family lore for years. I remember my late Mother’s slightly moistening a brown paper bag and putting dinner rolls inside to heat in the oven. Good as new.

    I moisten a tiny piece of paper towel and put it in the cookie jar when soft cookies begin to crisp up. Some put in an apple slice, but I don’t want to introduce another flavor – or fruit to mold.

    The microwave idea has problems because microwaved bread (restaurants often warm their bread that way before sending it to the table) becomes very tough very soon. In these crisps it might not matter, but it’s worth considering.

    We buy a sour rye bread that we like a lot but somehow never make it to the end of the loaf for sandwiches. David, your idea is terrific!

  • Absolutely perfect crostini. Yum.

  • Mmmmm….crostini (or bruschetta). The perfect palette for dips, spreads, and toppings. I totally agree, crispy little garlic toasts are indeed the best way to use leftover bread, and also represent my go-to for parties and entertaining. Viva la Toast!

  • @Will My first thought when I saw the title of this post was “What the hell is leftover bread:)”

    Exactly! Just like the phrase “leftover wine,” it’s a foreign language.

  • Your bread here with the seeds in it looks so good!

  • What a perfect use for leftovers!

  • Your bread is beautiful – I just love a small dish filled with good olive oil and topped with grated Parmesan cheese. Dip the bread in the oil and scoop a little cheese in each bite. I could have that for dinner anytime :)

  • I just finished taking a bread baking course, so I’m on the bread baking band wagon, and quickly ending up with too much. Thanks for this idea – much better than tossing it!

  • When i read your title i thought ‘bread pudding’! But this is so much more sophisticated :)

  • These look yummy. My favourite use for leftover bread is for an Elizabeth David recipe for mushroom soup — just mushrooms, herbs, good chicken stock, a little garlic and the bread is used as a thickener. I usually use a wholemeal sourdough and it’s brilliant.

    I also love bread pudding.

  • MMMMMMMMMMMMM!

  • oooh! Yum! I wish I didn’t love bread so much! I am a carb lover! :)

    Delicious!

  • Like many people I generally make crutons but I saw a method on Martha Stewart once — slice your stale bread very thin then lightly coat with olive oil. Right before or after baking give a light dusting of parmesan cheese. Tastes like lovely thin homemade crackers. Somethings I “refresh” stale rolls or bagettes by sticking them in a brown bag, (you must use a paper bag!) splashing the bag with a little water then into the oven. Tada, fresh rolls.

  • Carol Field has a whole chapter in her book “The Italian Baker” on using leftover bread.
    There are both sweet and savory recipes and all are excellent.

  • I wholeheartedly agree. I could gobble a basket of these right this very moment. No excuse needed ;)

  • Hi
    I am only now checking my mail and came across your post. Here is another thing we do in Portugal with bread leftovers:

    -Break the bread in small pieces (the size of a small plum)
    -Boil whater and soak the bread (just covering it)
    -In a pan, fry garlic cloves and olive oil (2 or 3 spoonfuls)
    -Sqeeze the bread and fry it in the olive oil untill it has a mushy consistency and it is ready.
    -Sprinkle with lots (or not) of fresh coriander leaves.
    -We use this açorda as a side for pork or fish.

    You can also make shrimp açorda by soaking the bread in the water used to boil the shrimp. In this case we mix thje shrimp in the açorda and add an egg after removing the pan from the fire. Mix itall together, season to taste (I allways add some chilli) and that’s it.

  • Just perfect with a little bit of goat cheese, fresh figs and a glass of …..

  • Also good when the bread is spread with butter instead of olive oil. I have this frequently with soup.

  • I love the look of this blog.