Revive Stale Bread With One Easy Oven Hack

Most bread products can last for two weeks or longer in the pantry or fridge, but that doesn't mean they're still good to eat. Chances are, your bread will go stale if you leave it out in the open for longer than a day. This food product loses moisture quickly, affecting its flavor and texture. The scientific reason stale bread is so tough is that the water in its composition leaves the starch accumulating in the crust.

Luckily, you can revive stale bread with one easy hack. All you need is an oven and 10 minutes of your time. Plus, there are plenty of ways to use day-old bread and prevent it from drying out. For example, storing it in a plastic bag can reduce moisture loss and keep it fresh for longer. Another option is to freeze the bread and thaw it in the microwave before serving. But if your bread is already stale, use the oven to bring it back to life. 

How to soften stale bread in the oven

The easiest way to soften stale bread is to warm it in the oven. First, run the bread under water or sprinkle it with lukewarm water for 10 seconds or so. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 300 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Wrap the bread in aluminum foil to prevent moisture loss, and then warm it in the oven (about 10 to 15 minutes should do the trick). The bigger the loaf, the longer you should "bake" it.

Poke the bread with a toothpick after 10 minutes. If it's still tough, leave it in the oven for another five minutes or longer. Note that larger or thicker loaves can take up to 30 minutes to soften. When you're done, remove the foil and slice the bread — or put it back in the oven for an extra five minutes to give the crust a crispy texture.

Generally, it's better to use more water for very dry bread. The heat of your oven will turn the water into steam, softening the bread. Some people prefer to skip the aluminum foil, but your bread will be softer if you wrap it in foil while it's cooking. On a similar note, you can cover the loaf with a damp paper towel and microwave it until soft. With this hack, the crust may turn out chewy rather than crispy. 

Turn stale bread into a delicious meal or snack

Dry or stale bread shouldn't go to waste. With some creativity, you can turn it into a delicious snack or dessert and enjoy it over several days. For starters, use it to make seasoned breadcrumbs or croutons for salads, dumplings, and pasta dishes. If you have a sweet tooth, mix it with eggs, milk, sugar, and spices to make bread pudding or French toast.

Craving Italian food? Toast a few slices of stale bread, rub them with garlic and olive oil, and then top with cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, olives, and onions. You can also cut the loaf into cubes and mix them with capers, cucumbers, anchovies, bell peppers, and other ingredients to make a classic Tuscan bread salad. Speaking of Italian cuisine, you might also want to try ribollita or bread soup, a Tuscan recipe that calls for stale bread, beans, cabbage, potatoes, kale, and other veggies.

Day-old bread can also be an excellent addition to stratas, casseroles, dressings, gratins, and turkey stuffing. Another option is to cut it into small pieces, combine it with milk, cinnamon, dried fruits, sugar, cinnamon, and other basic ingredients, and then pour the mixture into muffin cups. Bake it for 30 minutes or so (depending on the ingredients used), and top with ice cream or whipped cream before serving. If you're feeling creative, turn stale bread into brownies, cookies, or even cakes to satisfy your sweet tooth and reduce food waste.