It happens in the best families. You go to make a sandwich, and all that’s left of the bread is the ends! Worse, they’re stale and/or moldy. Can you prevent this waste? There are things you can do, and they’re so easy (and obvious), you may wonder why you didn’t think of them before. I like to portion my loaves of bread into 2-slice servings for sandwiches, place them into resealable sandwich bags, and freeze them so I don’t waste the bread. You can freeze most kinds of bread up to 3 months. Frozen bread takes a very short time to thaw at room temperature, an hour at most. The heels are often left over, so I put them into a gallon-sized resealable bag in the freezer. Each time I buy a loaf, the new heels go into the bag with the others. When the bag is full, I do one of the following things:
Croutons: Cut the heels into cubes. Make a mixture with olive oil and your favorite herbs, spices, and aromatics. Gently toss the cubes in the oil mixture with your fingers and place in single layer on 1″ deep baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake at 400 °F. (200 °C.) 6 minutes or until crisp and golden brown, turning every 2 minutes. Transfer to paper towels and let cool. Store in airtight container up to 2 weeks.
Breadcrumbs: Tear up the heels and run them through your food processor to desired texture on pulse, working in batches if necessary. To toast breadcrumbs, bake and stir as above, without coating in herb-oil mixture. Store in airtight container up to 2 weeks. For soft breadcrumbs, do not toast them. Keep them in an airtight container in the freezer up to 3 months.
As a means of soaking up excess oil or fat in soups, broths, or sauces: Take a heel and tear a piece off. Carefully hold the edge of the bread directly on the fat layer and swirl around. Continue with more pieces of bread until most or all of the fat has been soaked up into the bread, being careful to avoid the broth or sauce as much as possible. (Bonus: the bread can be eaten as a before-meal snack!)
As a means of clarifying oil for deep frying: Occasionally when we reuse oil for deep frying, it starts to get cloudy and smell odd or impart off flavors to the foods we fry. A small piece of bread or two, stirred through the hot oil and allowed to fry until crisp, can clarify the oil. It soaks up the impurities and food flavors that can permeate reused deep frying oil over time. Potatoes can be used in this manner as well.
Have any other ideas for using up bread heels that nobody wants to eat otherwise? Let me know!