Bread Pudding is the Best Way to Save Stale Bread + Recipe
Bread pudding is my favorite way to reduce food waste because it gives stale bread a new and delicious life.
PSST: Scroll to the bottom of the post for my favorite bread pudding recipe, or stick around for the whole story – I don’t mind either way!
Part of living a zero waste, or low waste, lifestyle means avoiding breads that come pre-sliced and pre-packaged. These are the breads typically found lining the shelves of a full aisle in the grocery store, in their crisp plastic bags with colorful labels and cute little twist-ties that always seem to get lost as soon as you open the bag… and then you’re left with stale or soggy bread slices that smell like your pantry or taste like your fridge. Or worse, they go moldy before you can finish the whole package. Blech.
I choose not to buy those types of breads anymore and so my options are limited…
…Except they’re not!
Tall Grass Bakery, you have my heart
I’ve talked about my favorite bakery before: Tall Grass Bakery. They are precisely a four blocks’ stroll from my apartment (probably 15 minutes total of walking round-trip) and they serve up the most amazingly fresh bread and baked goods. Crispy salted pretzel or tender buttery brioche buns? Take your pick. Are you feeling like sourdough rye or pumpernickel/rye mix or maybe straight up heavy and rich pumpernickel with a perfectly salted and caramel crust tonight? Yeah, it’s tough to choose.
The smell that permeates the surrounding six or so blocks in all directions is also one that can’t be beat. Just the scent alone will draw you in if you happen to trek nearby. You’ll wonder who’s baking all the bread. And then, if you’re lucky, you’ll stumble upon a tiny little hole-in-the-wall bakery with a friendly person at the counter and some hard-working bakers in the back. The bakers are in full view behind the bakery’s numerous metal racks and perfectly positioned stacks of fresh-baked yeasty morsels. Flour is flying everywhere, and they are manhandling those floury boules as if they’ve been doing it all their lives. Because they probably have.
Tall Grass makes their bread the old-fashioned way, by slowly fermenting flour and water with a yeast culture that breaks down the gluten protein and produces a tangy sour mouthwatering loaf with plenty of airy holes. According to their site, they also stone grind their organic whole grains on a daily basis. They make challah on Fridays only, and sticky buns are only available on Saturdays and Sundays.
Package-free bread is the best type of bread
The best part about Tall Grass is that they don’t bat an eye when I bring in an empty white pillowcase and ask for a few loaves once a week. “Do you want this sliced?” “No thanks” and “Are you sure you want all of these in the same bag?” “Yes, it’s fine” “Do you want a receipt?” “No thanks” are some questions I get occasionally, but mostly I am a regular now and they don’t ask.
By the way, I love that they use Square for payment and ask me if I want a receipt. That should 100% be the norm. It would save businesses so much paper and $$$ if they just asked if people needed receipts before automatically printing them.
But back to the bread. The real best part of Tall Grass is that when I’m buying my share of loaves weekly, no matter what day or what time of day I come by, there are always at least a few options that have just come out of the oven. And I love walking home from the bakery with a pillowcase full of bready sustenance and still warm from the oven.
Once home, I slice each loaf in half and put the majority of the halves back in the pillowcase and then into the freezer they go. I binge eat the portions I’ve left out, because why not? The bread keeps perfectly well in the freezer for at least a week. After two weeks they start tasting like freezer though, so I don’t typically buy that much bread at one time. Each morning we pull out a section or two of a loaf to be eaten throughout the day.
Got stale bread? Make bread pudding!
Sometimes (and this is very rare) we’ll end up with a few forgotten butts or a single leftover slice that gets a bit too hard to gnaw on for fear of breaking our teeth. When that happens, I cut the pieces into small cubes and throw them into a large jar in the freezer. Once I’ve accumulated enough of the sad little stale forgotten cubes, I pour them out into my cast iron skillet and cover them completely with a custard-to-be mixture of milk, eggs, sugar and cinnamon. If I have fresh or dried fruit I’ll add that in too. Sometimes I’ll add a few healthy scoops of jam to liven things up.
This bread pudding cooks up quickly and without fuss in the oven. It’s really, really hard to mess up and lends itself well to substitutions or additions. Especially when you’re starting with a bunch of stale bread that’s previously been frozen. It always comes out beautifully with browned and crispy tips and a creamy custardy center. The toughest part about making bread pudding is waiting for it to cool before you dig in!
This recipe for bread pudding is very basic and a really good staple to keep on hand. I recommend switching up the flavorings depending on what type of jam you have on hand, or throwing in some fresh seasonal fruit if you’ve got that! Don’t have either? Leave them out. Most importantly: make it.
Bread pudding is my favorite way to reduce food waste because it gives stale bread a new and delicious life. This rhubarb bread pudding is a perfect way to use that leftover bread if you've got a surplus of rhubarb! Otherwise, whatever fruit's in season will do.
3-4 cups stale bread, cut into roughly 1" cubes
2 tablespoons butter, melted
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
3/4 cup unrefined cane sugar (or regular white sugar)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1-1 1/2 cups fresh or dried fruit, or a combination (optional) (I used two large stalks of fresh rhubarb, and threw in some chunks of half an overripe banana, too!)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place bread cubes (and fruit, if using) into baking dish (I used a 10.5" cast iron skillet). Drizzle evenly with melted butter.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, sugar, ground cinnamon, vanilla extract and salt until well-blended. Pour over bread. Push bread pieces down with the back of a wooden spoon so they soak up some of the liquid.
Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the top springs back when tapped.
If you cook this in a cast iron skillet, you don't need to worry about it sticking. Also, this keeps really well in the fridge for up to a week + reheats on the stovetop beautifully.