The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Using old bread

lakelly's picture

Using old bread

This morning I realized I had a loaf of mixed garden herb sourdough left from last Sunday! Yikes! Week old bread. I remembered a section from the River Cottage Bread Handbook on using old bread and tossed slices in olive oil and baked at 450 for ~20 minutes with a flip halfway through. The results were awesome-crispy crust and crumb with the slightest chew in the centers. My 8 year old son and husband (OK, me too) finished them off throughout an afternoon of yard work, but I wish I had a photo to show the golden brown deliciousness!

Syd's picture

That sounds wonderful. It's amazing what a trip back to the oven can do for stale bread.  Oftentimes, it tastes better than the first time it came out. 


My mom used to cut the crust off stale bread, pop it into the blender to make crumbs out of it, mix it with a tablespoon of butter, mixed herbs, a whole raw egg, some salt and pepper and stuff a chicken with it.  The bird was then roasted.  It would was the easiest, lightest, most fragrant and simply delicious stuffing I have ever tasted.

Patf's picture

Another idea from the previous generation - my Mum would put any left-over pieces of bread onto the bottom of the oven, leave them there until golden, then use a rolling pin to make them into breadcrumbs. She used these for coating fried fish, meat rissoles etc. The rissoles would be made from minced-up leftover bits of meat and mashed potato.

Waste not want not!


Steve H's picture
Steve H

I used some week-old sourdough that was as hard as a rock to make croutons.  First I douced it in water and tossed it in a hot oven to "bring it back" and then I cut it into loose shaggy pieces and broiled them with some olive oil, salt and herbs de provence.  They were a great addition to my turnip green soup.

deblacksmith's picture

I understand that it is common for the Germans to use old bread in new bread.  I would like to know more about how they do it. (Toast it, crums etc.) and the amount that works without being overpowering.

Any of you do this?


ladychef41's picture

Dave, I know this is quite long, but I hope it will give you at least some of the info you are looking for about using old bread!




The origin of flax seed rye bread is due entirely to the lamentable presence of old bread. Sales of organic 100 percent sourdough rye pullman bread were good with a shelf life of seven days. However, at the end of the week, some of the pumpernickel was unsold. Not wanting to discard this bread, I created a formula that would use some of the old bread. While it may sound unusual to recycle old bread into a new batch of dough, it has been a time-honored technique in parts of Europe. German bakers even have machines whose sole function is to render old bread into slurry that is added to new dough batches.

In the current formula, the old bread is soaked in water overnight, which makes it combine easily once added to the final dough. The old bread also provides a good amount of moisture retention to the loaves, which helps increase the bread's keeping quality and adds a deep, rich flavor note to the finished loaves. None of the ingredients are expensive or difficult to procure. Any type of mixer can be used, though I use a spiral mixer. It is best to use a steam-injected deck oven; however, as long as you can bake on a hot hearth, a wood burning oven or even a pizza oven will work. This is a wonderful bread to add to your repertoire, and your customers will agree. The bread goes very well with cheeses, charcuterie and smoked fish.

Flax seed rye bread
Pre-fermented flour = 40%
Overall Formula

Sir Galahad flour 13 3.6 6 kg 60
(artisan bread flour, 11.7% protein)
Whole rye flour* 8 13.1 4 kg 40
Water 17 11.2 8.03 kg 80.3
Salt 7.1 200 g 2
Yeast 4.6 130 g 1.3
Flax seed 2 3.3 1 kg 10
Old bread 1 12.2 800 g 8
Total appr. wt. 44 7.1 20.161 kg 201.6

*Medium rye can be substituted. Reduce water in the sourdough to 80 percent hydration.


Whole rye flour 8 13.1 4 kg 100
Water, cool 7 5.1 3.32 kg 83
Mature culture* 1 1 480 g 12
Total appr. wt. 17 3.2 7.8 kg 195

Method: About 16 hours before the final mix, disperse the mature sourdough culture into the cool water. Add the whole or medium rye flour, and mix until it is incorporated. Sprinkle a layer of rye on top, and cover the bowl with plastic to prevent dehydration. Ripen the sourdough at about 70°F. This step can be done in a mixing bowl or by hand.


Flax seed 2 3.2 1 kg 100
Old bread 1 12.2 800 g 80
Water, cool 6 9.8 3 kg 300
Total appr. wt. 10 9.2 4.8 kg 480

Method: Make the soaker at the same time you make the sourdough. Cut the old bread into cubes, and put it into a bowl along with the flax seed. Add the water and cover overnight.

Final Dough

Sir Galahad flour 13 3.6 6 kg
Water 3 12.3 1.71 kg
Salt 7 200 g
Yeast 4.6 130 g
Sourdough 16 2.2 7.32 kg
Soaker 10 9.3 4.8 kg
Total appr. wt. 44 7 20.161 kg

Method: Calculate the water temperature necessary to achieve a 78°F final dough temperature.* Remove a portion of the ripe sourdough in order to perpetuate the culture, and then add the remaining sourdough and the soaker to the mixing bowl. Add the remaining dough ingredients. Mix on first speed for three minutes to incorporate the ingredients. The dough should be moderately loose. Add a small amount of water or flour if necessary to adjust the consistency. Avoid adding an excess of flour. On second speed, mix for another four minutes to develop the gluten. The combination of 40 percent rye flour, old bread and flax will yield dough that is tacky and has only a moderate degree of gluten development. Transfer the dough to a tub, cover it, and let it bulk ferment for 45 to 60 minutes.

Divide the dough into appropriately sized pieces. The loaves in the photos were scaled at 1.5 lbs. (680 grams). Rolls can be scaled at 3 ozs. to 3.5 ozs. (85 g to 110 g). Pre-shape the loaves, and let them rest on the workbench for five minutes. Give a strong final shaping. For seeded loaves, press the top of the loaf into a damp cloth, then press it into a tray of seeds, such as 45 percent sesame, 45 percent flax and 10 percent caraway. Place the loaves into floured bannetons. If they are seeded, place the seeded side up. Proof the breads at 80°F for 45 to 60 minutes. Transfer the proofed loaves to a loading conveyor or peel. Score them with a serrated knife or baker's lame. Pre-steam the oven, load the bread, and steam again. Bake at 440°F for about 38 minutes, until well baked. Open the vents about one-third of the way through the bake.

*For information on making a sourdough rye culture from scratch or information on calculating water temperature to achieve the required desired final dough temperature, email

deblacksmith's picture

Wendy,  Thank you very much.  This was the kind of information I was looking for before I gave it a try.  I have used a small amount of "Wheat Chex" to good effect in some breads in the past and was thinking about a way to use left over bread.  There are just two of us and when we get to the end of a loaf it may not be at it best anymore.  I have all the dried bread I need stored in the freezer to make stuffing for the church thanks giving dinner (4 birds) and was thinking about other uses over time.


ladychef41's picture

I know what you mean Dave; I'm only 1 person, so I ALWAYS have "older" bread. And like you, I have enough stored in the freezer to feed my son's Marine unit when they all decide to "drop in"!!!!

I've wanted to try using old bread in new for a long time myself... This might just give me a reason to do it now! Let me know if you try it and what results you get.




carrtje's picture

There seems to always be a few odds and ends of leftover bread around the kitchen.  I'll have to try re-working it into new dough, that sounds fun.

What I've always done is tossed it with some seasonings (garlic salt, cayenne, whatever I feel like that day), and enough butter and olive oil to coat.  Then I pop it in the oven spread out on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes at 450F.  

These croutons are delicious on a salad...or more frequently eaten by the kids as a snack.