How to revive stale bread

“Nic się nie może zmarnować” [knee-ts shyeh nyeh moh-zeh zmah-rnow-vatch] were words I heard a lot in my Polish home over the years. It means: “nothing goes to waste”. I’d say it to my new husband when he was chucking leftovers into the trash when I first moved to the U.S. He’d look at me as if I was crazy… what else would you do with two-days-old mashed potatoes? (I write about cooking with leftovers here). 

Poles stretch their ingredients as much as possible, using every little bit of everything. Hearing those words for years and years and seeing how much respect every little bit of food gets, not wasting becomes second nature.

Take bread, for example. I don’t know anyone who’d ever throw bread away in Poland. It is sacred. As a matter of fact, every time you’d cut into a new loaf, a sign of the cross was drawn on it with the knife. This  “custom” faded away a bit since bakeries started selling bread sliced, but I still see it once in a while. The first cut would produce a “piętka” meaning a heel (like a heel on a foot, not on a shoe), a piece that everyone wanted the most (just add butter). Then, you’d slice the bread by holding it against your chest and driving a long knife through the bread towards your chest and producing even, thin slices. This technique looked easy but it takes a steady hand and a bit of practice to get it right. My husband cringes when he sees me do it now. The whole idea of a knife towards your chest freaks him out… I’m a professional Pole though, so I got this… if you’re not, don’t try this at home. 😉

From the time I was born until about the age of 8, my family and I lived in a traditional Polish suburban neighborhood. It was a small apartment in a 5 story building, 3 stairwells in the building, 10 apartments in each stairwell. Every once in a while we’d hear a knock on the door, and an old male voice would ask for bread for his horse. He knew that no one throws bread away. He was right. A small sandwich-sized paper bag full of dry bread was waiting. If he wasn’t there to get it, with a few smashes of a rolling pin dried bread would be turned into bread crumbs because “nic się nie może zmarnować”.

I grew up on eating “crusty” bread. Love me a bread with a hard, crunchy crust and a soft, airy and spongy inside, freshly baked kaiser rolls or perfectly golden brown baguette . Sometimes I get carried away when buying it, which can leave me with a day or two-old bread. I can’t get myself to throw it away, still. Here is what I do to turn a slightly stale bread into straight-from-the-bakery-like one. This works on bread (unsliced), rolls, baguettes, ciabatta bread or even bagels.

How to revive stale bread

  • Prep Time: 5 min
  • Cook Time: 2-7 min

Ingredients

  • Stale bread, rolls, baguette or bagel
  • Water

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 415°F / 210°C

  2. Place bread under a running tap water just enough to make wet. Do not soak.

  3. Place on an oven rack and bake until crust is dry and crunchy. It will only take a few minutes.

  4. Take out and cool before cutting.

Hope you try it!

Enjoy and smacznego!

Anna

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2 Comments

  1. What a great tip! I really LOVE crusty bread! I’m glad to have this trick up my sleeve. But I just can’t wrap my head around how you are describing the way you cut the bread (or why the heck you would want to cut the bread) while holding it at your chest… ??? There has to be more to this story/tradition – do tell!

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