Fresh bread, stale bread…

DSC_4281About once a week we stock up on fresh bread at Magie di Pane in San Ermete.

Two loaves of their masterfully baked ciabatta and a good chunk of their oily schiacciata* keeps us carb-happy for the week.

DSC_4286Obviously the best way to eat bread is fresh. Unfortunately, modern-day living doesn’t seem to want to cooperate, so we turn to our good friend: the freezer.

Best bread conservation tip:

Cut your fresh bread into single meal servings before you throw them into the deepest corner of your freezer. This keeps you from having to defrost the whole loaf and ending up with leftover bread that could potentially go stale.

Bread conservation tip number 2:

If you tend to buy sliced bread, save the first end slice for last so that you can use it to protect the rest of the loaf from too much exposure to air and moisture from the outside world. It keeps your sliced bread tasting a bit fresher for a bit longer. Though I still recommend (and prefer) the hard crusted loaves from the bakery, but to each his/her own.

If, whatever reason, you do happen to end up with leftover bread that inevitably will go stale, fear not! There is a delicious and simple recipe that will sort your stale bread situation right out. Pappa al pomodoro to the rescue!

DSC_4278Pappa al Pomodoro

ingredients:

  • 1 loaf of stale bread (broken into small chunks or cut into slices)
  • 1 tin of chopped tomato
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 2 small onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • a pinch of chilli pepper (optional)
  • 700mL of broth
  • handful of fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Parmigiano Reggiano (optional)
Serves 4 (as a first course) or many (as shot glass-sized amuse-bouches)
Preparation time: 45 minutes to 1 hour
  1. Toast your stale bread in the oven (to save time on this first step, I suggest toasting old bread as you accumulate it.†) Once cool enough to handle, rub some fresh garlic on each piece of bread for flavour.
  2. Dice up the onions and sauté them in a heated and oiled pan. Mince some garlic and throw it in the pan to brown with the onions. If you are adventurous and favour a bit of heat, add some chilli pepper, too.
  3. Once everything is turning golden brown, put in your toasted bread. Give it a swirl around in the onion/garlic mixture and add the broth so that the dry bread can begin its re-softening process.
  4. When the broth looks like it has been more or less soaked up by the bread, add the tin of tomato and give it another good mix. Chop up a tomato and throw it in as well for some flavour and texture.
  5. Use a wooden spoon to mash up the chunks of bread that refuse to break down and sprinkle in some chopped basil. Once everything in the pan is consistently soft, serve with some grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Buon appetito!

* Schiacciata gets its name from the Italian verb schiacciare, which means “to mash” or “to press”, which is exactly what the baker does before putting this bread into the oven, hence the dents on the top of the loaf after baking. This bread is gloriously seasoned with olive oil (what could be more Italian?) and salt.

† Bread tip number 3:

Before the stale bread gets too hard, break or slice it into small chunks and store in a paper bag to allow it to continue to dry without molding. Alternatively, you can stick the chunks/slices into the oven to toast a bit, thus removing any excess moisture and reducing the chances of ending up with moldy bread. You can store the toasted/dry bread at room temperature or put it in the freezer until you are ready to use it.

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