A week in the life of a loaf

You’ve handmade your beautiful, delicious loaf and although it may seem obvious what to do with it, I’ve written a week’s guide to what to do with your bread to get the most of it and to waste as little as possible (and hopefully nothing at all).

This post was started long before there was any thought of a pandemic that would keep us socially isolating and having to be very frugal with food. I’ve returned to this draft to finish it and ensure it is in keeping with the needs of lockdown cooking.

pane bianco - copyright image Lynn Clark - inksugarspice

Day one – eat a slice with a simple, extra quick curried soup – Veggie

This is a great store cupboard soup (although as I’ve chatted about in other recent posts, it sort of depends on how you stock your cupboards – not everyone keeps the same sort of things).

Finely chop a small red onion and fry off in some oil in a saucepan. Empty a tin of chopped (good quality) tomatoes in and add a tablespoon of curry paste (of your choice/preference such as balti, korma, tandoori etc). Stir until warmed through. Taste and add salt and pepper if required or a little more curry paste. Place in a bowl and add a dollop of Greek yogurt or creme fraiche and a handful of chopped coriander leaves (or parsley if you’re not a coriander fan). Eat with a slice of that bread, with or without butter

Day two – sandwiches or a Ploughman’s

My ideal* Ploughman’s platter: extra thick, ‘door stop’ slices of springy bread slathered in good butter, with: a chunk of mature Cheddar and a wedge of Double Gloucester cheeses; sliverskin pickled onions, a strong apple (something like a Russet or James Greave ideally, but a Granny Smith will do); slices of ham or Prosciutto/Bresaola; mouth-pukeringly-strong salt and vinegar crisps; a dollop of homemade tomato chutney; a few grapes; maybe some olives and some watercress. Oh and a pint of IPA, ideally.

*OK, so a Ploughman’s lunch originally would probably have been a chunk of plain bread, and just the cheese and apple. A Ploughman’s is a great frugal meal, not only is it a British/English poor man’s meal it lends itself to using up whatever you have in the fridge or cupboard. Use whatever cheese you have, what cured meats or hams, make your own chutneys to preserve your fruit and veg etc.

See my posts on preserves: https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/category/preserves-creams/

white sourdough with random slashing - Nine top tips for bread slashing art www.inksugarspice.wordpress.com #recipe #baking #breadart @inksugarspice
White sourdough, with a minimal prove

Day three – ‘more than’ cheese on toast

Toast thick slices of your bread under a grill (ideally a sourdough but work with what you have!). For each slice, weigh out about 45-50g of grated extra strong or mature cheddar and mash together with a cheese triangle or a tablespoon of cream cheese. Chop up two large slices of peppered salami and a teeny drop of English mustard, though you can omit the mustard if you’re not fond. Mix together and spread onto the toasted slice of bread and grill under just browning at the edges. Obviously scale this up for however many slices you’re making.

Day four – bruschetta – Vegan

Toast mid-thick slices of bread on both sides. Chop up a handful of baby plum tomatoes, sprinkle with a little salt. Place them in a sieve and let this drain over a bowl. Once drained, tip the tomatoes into that bowl. Season the tomatoes with pepper and a little balsamic vinegar and mix it all together. Taste to see if the salt level is OK and add a little more if needed. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on the toast and rub a peeled clove of garlic over the bread. Spoon the tomato mix onto the slices of toast and serve.

Image of bruschetta, in this case tomatoes on toasted sourdough

Day five – Melba toast – Vegan/Veggie (depending on what’s in the bread you’ve made)

Sounds very posh, but it isn’t and very easy to make… Cut off about 8mm thick slices of bread. Cut off the crusts (and you can square off the toasts if you prefer). Toast the slices on both sides to a mid brown colour: don’t toast them too dark or they will not be easy to cut further without them shattering. While still warm, I lay a chopping board over the slices and weight it down with a bag or two of rice/sugar to flatten the toasts. When cool, retrieve the toasts and lay them flat, with a sharp serrated knife cut down the toast to create two slices – each of these slices will have a toasted side and an ‘internal’ side. I leave my Melba toasts like this but you can then toast this side too if you prefer. Also, some people don’t flatten the bread, I just think it makes them easier to slice. You can then cut them down into triangles or little rectangles/soldiers.

A lovely alternative to crackers or biscuits with cheese or dips, or as a side to soups or tapas. You can use sourdough for this – it entirely depends whether you mind having honey Melba toasts or not. Frankly I like sourdough Melba toast.

Day six – croutons – Vegan

Slice up 3-4 slices of sourdough into 1 cm cubes. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and test the oil temperature by chucking in a small piece of sourdough – it should start sizzling if it’s hot enough. Tip in all the sourdough pieces and keep them moving as they fry (use two wooden spoons to ‘flip’ the croutons). When the croutons are nicely browned and crisp, take them off the heat and tip them into a bowl lined with a sheet of kitchen paper to catch the excess oil. Remove the kitchen paper and grind a teaspoon each of salt and pepper over them. Now toss the croutons with a teaspoon each of onion granules, garlic granules and sprinkle on a little chopped parsley.

Day seven – breadcrumbs: for savoury dishes such as gratin, escalope, buttermilk coated chicken, making sausages etc – or for sweet treats like treacle tarts (as below)

Other ideas for bread

Romesco sauce – this Spanish sauce is just intense and goes great with tapas, over potatoes or meats

Panzanella – a classic northern Italian ‘salad’ dish

Cinnamon toast – such a breakfast staple – children in particular love it

Birdfood – when all else fails, don’t put it in the bin, at least the birds will eat it. And, despite some publicity saying people shouldn’t feed bread to birds there has been a backlash on this: some birds are in danger of starving where they’ve relied on being fed bread and now that food supply has stopped. Also, unless it’s a) very rubbish bread and b) the only thing they eat it’s better to feed them than not.

Note: if you’ve made your bread yourself, especially bread with inclusions (seeds, nuts cheese, fruit, veggies etc), enriched bread (such as brioche or sticky buns – these are a particularly good option) or a sourdough it’s going to be infinitely better for them than a packaged, sliced loaf with little to nutritional value – that’s one of the reasons why you make your own for yourself isn’t it!?

Break the bread into small pieces, especially when feed smaller birds and when there are chicks. Slightly larger pieces are OK for ducks, geese swans etc. If the bread is very dry, wet it a little. If it’s plain bread ideally add in some other foods too – suet, nuts, seeds, chopped dried fruit etc. even cold scrambled egg, chopped cooked bits of bacon fat, even grated cheese.

Here’s what the RSPB has to say:

All types of bread can be digested by birds, but ideally it should only be just one component in a varied diet. Bread does not contain the necessary protein and fat birds need from their diet, and so it can act as an empty filler. Although bread isn’t harmful to birds, try not to offer it in large quantities, since its nutritional value is relatively low. A bird that is on a diet of predominantly, or only bread, can suffer from serious vitamin deficiencies, or starve.

Food left on the ground overnight can attract rats. Soaked bread is more easily ingested than stale dry bread, and brown bread is better than white. Crumbled bread is suitable in small quantities, but moisten if it is very dry. During the breeding season, make sure bread is crumbled into tiny pieces so that it is safer to eat. Dry chunks of bread will choke baby birds, and a chick on a diet of bread may not develop into a healthy fledgling.

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