According to Judy

Crumbs tra-la: the forgotten loaf

by Judy Schultz

Judy Schultz

Thought for the day: When times get tough, the tough get cooking, especially if your job just evaporated.

It was after a similar small setback that I learned to bake my own bread. It involved much kicking of oven doors and swearing at my faithful Kitchen Aid, a beast of a machine that does most of the work.

A friend who has written several cookbooks, including one about bread, finally agreed to supply a recipe even I couldn’t screw up: Fast Foolproof Dutch Oven Bread for Dummies. It takes two minutes to put together, and sits around overnight, rising.

Bonus: I have a constant supply of leftover bits and pieces for croutons, plus a whopping bag of breadcrumbs.

Reducing odds and ends of bread to croutons or crumbs is the work of seconds, and the options are amazing.

Her Dutch Oven Bread. In a big bowl, mix 3 cups white flour, 1¼ cup whole wheat flour, 2 tsp salt, 2 cups cold water, ½ tsp instant yeast. Stir briefly to form a sticky dough. Now cover tightly with plastic and stash the bowl in a warm spot overnight. Sometime the next day, turn the dough into a greased Dutch oven or stoneware casserole. Cover and let rise until almost doubled. (Takes about an hour.)

Lid on, pot into a cold oven. Set to 425°F and bake about 40 minutes. Uncover and bake another 10 minutes, or until the centre registers 205°F on an instant-read thermometer. Makes one big, delicious loaf.

Really Good Crumbs: Tear leftover bread into chunks and bake at 300°F until dry and crispish, turning the chunks with a spatula after five minutes. Let them cool, and pulse them in a processor until you have coarse, fluffy crumbs. Bag ’em and tag ’em. To use, fry crumbs in a bit of olive oil, butter or bacon fat. Season with chopped bacon, garlic or chopped herbs. As a finishing touch on casseroles, soups or salads, they’re terrific. Leave some plain to use in desserts.

Roasted Romaine with Crumbs: Halve romaine hearts, brush with Caesar dressing. Sprinkle with toasted bread crumbs (garlic or bacon crumbs work well here) and a wisp of grated Asiago or Pecorino. Run under the broiler until they brown a bit and smell good. (Watch them like a hawk!) Serve with grilled lemon wedges.

Apple Bread Pudding, inspired by Richard Olney’s recipe. If you like bread pud, you’ll love this. In a big ovenproof casserole, stir together 2 cups milk, 2 apples coarsely grated, 3 eggs, 4 cups unseasoned bread chunks, ⅓ cup sugar, ¼ teaspoon each nutmeg and cardamom, wisp of cinnamon, with a handful raisins or dry cranberries. Big splash vanilla, pinch of salt. Stir well and dot the top with pinches of butter. Put a lid on, settle the dish into a pan of hot water, and bake at 325°F for about an hour. Test for doneness with a knife. Let pudding cool out of the oven for 15 minutes so the custard will set. Yum.

Judy Schultz is a food and travel writer who makes terrific bread.