No one likes to waste incredible bread, especially me and my neighborhood baker Taylor Petrehn. Since he and his brother Reagan opened 1900 Barker in Lawrence, Kansas, last year—dangerously just two blocks down the street—my husband, Sean, and I have been enjoying perfect croissants, meticulously sourced and brewed coffee, and at least a loaf of bread a week. And I find ways to use every crumb.
I make the usual croutons and breadcrumbs, the occasional savory bread pudding or stuffing. This summer we ate lots of panzanella and French toast. I’ve even scrambled torn tidbits with eggs and salsa, chilaquiles style. I recently tried a rye-and-whole-grain savory porridge at Great Northern Food Hall in New York that I’m eager to work into the mix. (I’ll tell you about one of Taylor’s tricks in a minute.)
But my current favorite thing is bread pilaf. Here’s the recipe: Start by pulsing pieces of old bread (including the crust) in the food processor until it’s the size of peas. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a big deep skillet over medium-high heat and cook some chopped garlic (or shallot or onion or leek). Add the bread, some salt and pepper, and cook and stir with a fork until it’s toasted. (The fork will keep the bread from getting too gummy later.) When the bread is crisp and sizzling, spread it out in a single layer and pour in enough water to create some steam—or more if you want a soupier texture. Cover immediately and turn the heat as low as it can go. In 5 minutes or so, the water will be absorbed and the mixture will start to smell toasty again; sprinkle with fresh chopped herbs—I used a mixture of thyme, parsley, rosemary, oregano, chives, and sage from the garden—fluff with a fork, remove from the heat, and eat hot or at room temperature. Bread pilaf will remind you of stuffing, mashed potatoes, couscous, or, well, pilaf, depending on how dry you cook it.
The bread I use is what Taylor calls Buckwheat Miche. (He’s holding one here and that’s Reaganon the left; there’s a close up of the inside of the bread above.) It’s a giant loaf he also sells by the half. Also in Taylor’s repertoire is a hearty sort of classic Danish rye—a dense semi-sprouted 10-grain square loaf perfect for slicing thinly and making sandwiches. Whatever he doesn’t sell of the rye is crumbled, toasted, and ground into flour; then he hydrates it to incorporate into his starter for the miche. To this “pre-ferment” he adds 60% hard red winter wheat flour and a mixture of buckwheat, spelt, and rye flours using as much Kansas-grown grain as he can.
Without the Danish loaf there wouldn’t be the miche and I wouldn’t have this pilaf. Join this circle of leftovers and tell me what you do with old bread.